A few days ago I had a conversation with a reader. Although we mostly talked across each other, I’d characterize it as civil and respectful. We even joked a little, and I kept thinking I’d probably like the guy if I met him. But while nothing else was accomplished, I was quickly disabused of a bleeding-heart fantasy I’d had on election night, while looking in on Fox “news.”
Why was that night different from all other nights? Because, as the anchors melted down while the predictions of every one of their pundits proved false, it gave Fox followers a chance to see how far astray they’d been led, to watch the effects of bamboozlement play out in real time, and, if they so chose, to consider whether they’d been misled in other ways on other days.
My phone buddy expressed disappointment with my implication that Fox “news” is less than a credible source. So much for my November hopes, dashed like West Seattle homes in the recent record high tides. (No climate change, says Fox.)
When that liberal rag, The New York Times, decided it wanted its readers to have the most accurate polling data possible, they hired Nate Silver, who, in the previous year had been the best reader of political tea bags out there. Fox “news,” on the other hand, dipped its followers in Dick Morris who, unlike the proverbial stopped clock, has never been right about anything. And they didn’t stop there: for weeks, all across their programming, their talkers continually mocked Silver, right up to the time he was shown to be perfect. That should tell us something significant.
Fox transgressions against fact are too many to list here: even as a thorough and tough investigation of Benghazi was being done, Fox cried cover-up. They claim Barack Obama, a political centrist who’s ticked off the left as much as the right is a far-left socialist. They march out mind-readers who claim our duly re-elected president hates America. Who can forget their “terrorist fist-bump” claim? And just the other day their leader, Roger Ailes, told the network not to discuss gun control after the horror in Connecticut. Fair? Balanced? Their latest brewed ha-ha: Hillary Clinton faked a concussion.
MSNBC is just as bad, you say? Well, I don’t much disagree, and I hardly watch them either. But there are significant differences, not the least of which, since liberals don’t seem to need their beliefs constantly reinforced, is that MSNBC has a piddling viewership compared to Fox. It stays within screaming distance of the truth; it doesn’t deliberately edit videos to make them appear to say the opposite of what was said. For a list of countless times Fox has, googlebing the Internet: It’s bulging with them. When MSNBC has misquoted or mischaracterized, it’s corrected itself. Fired a guy. It doesn’t employ a raft of would-be presidential candidates, and it devotes prime morning hours to a show headed by a proud conservative. Yes, they have their partisans. But if MSNBC disappeared, who’d notice? If Fox went bully up, the Republican party would wander the desert for 40 fears.
Like everyone, I have a beef with our media. Mine, though, is that they’ve become lazy, too financially connected to the status quo, too afraid to take it on. And, unlike Fox “news,” they’re too concerned with pretending that there are two equal sides to every story. Fox folk, in lockstep, unabashedly hand down their message like the Decalogue.
Because of its dishonest and non-stop propagandizing, I consider Fox “news” the most destructive force in America, if you don’t count carbon emissions, reality TV, or the New York Yankees. And here’s the thing: Roger Ailes doesn’t even hide it. He admits their purpose is to push the Republican agenda, while his viewers pretend they don’t. Like the Wizard of Oz, they’ve convinced their listeners there’s no need to look behind their curtain, which is pretty darn remarkable. I won’t deny Fox “news” is brilliant, and more persuasive than any media source in history.
My dialogue partner told me he has some liberal friends, and, boy, it’s impossible to convince them of anything. I asked if he thought they might think the same of him. Well, I suppose maybe they do, he said. So there we were.
Sid Schwab lives in Everett. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org