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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/2/10

On the Neuroticism of Fox News Viewers

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Christopher Nolan had it wrong, inception is pretty easy

Let's face it. Fox News isn't a news source, per se. It's a network that is, by design, set up to propagate a specific political view point, that of the American political right wing. Fox is neither fair nor balanced, and oftentimes "facts" conveyed on the network are demonstrably false. Yet fans of the network swear by it as the only source for news that they trust. The following is an analysis of Fox's tactics of manipulation and the defenses employed by their viewers.

First, it is important to assume that the average Fox News viewer is intelligent, capable of reasoning, and is rational. Many are well educated and successful in their respective comminutes. So, what is it that allows them to be blinded from the obvious reality that Fox News manipulates them, and in some cases out and out lies to them?

Us vs. Them

There are many levels of conditioning involved. The most prominent one employed by Fox is the "us vs. them" mentality. Although Fox News is very much a part of the mainstream media, being owned and operated by News Corp. and having the largest market share of cable news, Fox positions itself as an outsider and paints the rest of the mainstream media is evil and biased.

Cleverly, this position insulates Fox from and criticism in the mind of their viewers. If, for example, CNN runs a story that refutes all or part of a Fox News report, it's irrelevant because that's the "Communist News Network." If NPR, The New York Times, Washington Post, or any other reputable news agency contradicts a story run by Fox, it's incredulous because they're liberal and socialist. The "other" news outlets have a supposed agenda which instantly makes them illegitimate.

In some cases, as with MSNBC or The Nation there is a clear, and often acknowledged, liberal slant. However the vast majority of reporting by mainstream news outlets is not biased.

As evidence of bias Fox News will often ask rhetorical questions, such as, "If the mainstream media isn't biased, why didn't they break the John Edwards affair scandal?" Well, why didn't the conservative members of the mainstream media break it, such as The Wall Street Journal, or Fox News themselves? Quite simply, they all got scooped, which is by no means evidence of a vast liberal conspiracy in the media.

Another example of such rhetoric is, "Why isn't the mainstream media covering such and such story? Clearly they're biased." In fact, when Fox News makes these claims it's really an exemplification of their own bias. The story that they're highlighting has usually been covered in the rest of the media, but just not given the prominence that Fox as elevated it to. As a recent example, Fox devoted days of coverage to criticizing President Obama for appearing on the daytime talk show, The View. NBC, ABC, CNN, and print media all gave the event appropriate coverage. Fox News, however, exposes their own bias against the President by using the issue to attack him personally and tie it into a grand theory of a vast socialist conspiracy, which it's not. Really, it's just the President going on a TV show.

In yet other cases, the story that Fox is promoting simply isn't true. For example, the repeated assertation that the Obama tax plan gives refunds to Americans who don't pay income taxes, or that it ends all of the Bush tax cuts, when in reality it only ends some. In these cases, the rest of the media didn't provide coverage because the stories aren't true, not because they are in sinister league with the Obama White House.

Unfortunately, Fox News fans don't know that such stories are, for lack of a better word, lies. By lying to their viewers Fox enforces the world view that they're propagating. By demonizing other forms of media Fox has conditioned its viewers not believe only what they say.

Fair and Balanced

The concept of equality is one that the United States is founded upon, and therefore the idea of fairness is one that is easily sold to, and accepted by Americans. Fox News doesn't have to actually be fair to market this point of view. Like a magician, they only have to convince the audience that what they're witnessing is fair, though it's simply an elaborate illusion.

It is irrefutable that Fox News' biggest personalities, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly are partisan and have their own political agenda. A number of arguments are used to justify this fact.

Fox's hosts bring people in from both sides of a position, so it's fair and balanced, and they leave it for the viewer to decide.

It is true that on several shows guests are invited to speak on behalf of both sides of an argument, but that is irrelevant. When the host spends the lead-in advocating one position, spends the discussion criticizing one party, and then follows it with mockery, there is nothing fair or balanced about the media presentation. The audience is being led to the conclusion that the network has preordained.

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Founder of "The Rev. Rob Times," ( Rev. Robert A. Vinciguerra has been a longtime student of journalism. From Phoenix, Arizona.
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