Saturday, October 9, 2010

Change The Channel

I don't trust Fox News.

I'm not stating some big revelation here. Years ago, before my TV had a cable box hooked up, it had an 'add/delete' feature where you could set it to automatically skip past certain channels when channel-surfing; you would have to actively punch in the channel number in order to see it. So if you never wanted to see, for instance, the Home Shopping Network again, you could delete that channel number. Which I did, along with the usual assortment of garbage channels- QVC, Hallmark, CMT, the channel devoted to advertising the cable provider, the televangelist channels.

I also used it on Fox News.

My channel-surfing mechanism may have changed over the years, but the sentiment remains; my only substantial interaction with the network since has been second-hand or through their online content. But the quality of the news, if anything, has gotten even worse since then, to the point where they have become little more than a 24-hour-a-day campaign headquarters for the Republican Party.

Exhibit A: A number of Republican candidates for office are using Fox News as basically their sole and only interview partner. Media Matters, on September 27, showed five names in the 2012 Presidential mix- Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, John Bolton, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum- appearing on Fox News a combined 269 times in 2010 through September 18, as opposed to a combined six times on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC and CBS, all six by Gingrich. MSNBC and CBS did not get any appearances at all. Palin and Huckabee in particular are employed by the network; Huckabee with his own show, Palin as a contributor.

Exhibit B: A few weeks ago, President Obama told Rolling Stone how he compared Fox News to the media empire of William Randolph Hearst. Looking back on the history of the Hearst papers, I like that comparison. Hearst pulled the same kind of tactics, most notably against Upton Sinclair in the 1934 race for California governor, a race largely credited with- or more to the point, blamed for- inventing modern media-driven politics as we know it today.

Exhibit C: The $1 million that parent company NewsCorp just up and gave to the pro-Republican Chamber of Commerce, which has been responsible for a lot of the campaigning this season, as well as an equal amount to the Republican Governors Association, which needs no further explanation. This is as opposed to the other media empires, which have done smaller donations that have been split between the parties.

Today, for me, came the straw that broke the camel's back, which we'll call Exhibit D: this piece about the 2010 Senate staffer edition of an annual health fair held throughout the federal government. Nothing big about that; lots of places do something similar. My workplace has signs up in the back room advertising flu shots for employees and family members. But no, apparently this has to be turned into an over-the-top wild-eyed outrage. Let's start at the very beginning of the piece:

As millions of hardworking Americans struggle to make ends meet, Senate staffers will participate next week in a two-day orgy of back massages, organic food tastings and milk mustache photos.

It's all part of a health fair for the staffers, who enjoy some of the best health care in the country.

Not only will they get health screenings, they'll also find out if their iPods are too loud.

It doesn't even matter what comes after these three paragraphs. It could be the word "Triscuit" repeated over and over. The emotional response from the reader has already been predetermined. You can just feel the piece straining to cram every last bit of anger down your throat as it possibly can. You can see from a mile away all the loaded unnecessary language and the responses it's designed to elicit:

'Yeah! I'm a HARDWORKING AMERICAN, dammit! They just sit around and screw me all day!'
'An orgy! They're having an orgy! For two whole days!' (Why else would that word even find its way in there if not to invoke that mental image?)
'The BEST HEALTH CARE IN THE COUNTRY and look at what I'm going through!'
'Ohh, LA DE DA with the fancy iPod and the prissy little organic food!'

The fourth paragraph tosses in a reference to taxpayers and the cost to same (answer: uncertain; translation: 'potentially eighty gazillion dollars of YOUR OWN PERSONAL MONEY'), as well as a reference to two sources, the Senate Education and Training Office and the Senate sergeant-at-arms, declining to state who the vendors are (translation: 'JUST WHO ARE YOU ALL ON THE TAKE FROM, I WANT ANSWERS'). I didn't even read on after that.

I can't take it anymore. If this kind of shameless dog-whistling is going to be inserted into everything, then I have little choice but to discard everything.

That is why I am officially stating that it will, from this day on, be official blog policy to regard Fox News as inherently untrustworthy. They will be treated not as news, but as propaganda. Anything they report officially does not count. If they are the only source available for a story, we'll just disregard the story. This was really done informally in the past, but now it is stated, official policy. If we were to do a future 'real news vs. random news' competition, like we did recently, neither Fox News nor any other Fox network will be included. (This includes Shepard Smith, whom normally would be left alone, because he's okay, but if this is to have any real punch, unfortunately, he has to take the hit along with everybody else.)

Yeah. I know. 20 hits a day over here. I'm a gnat. Big loss. But hey, one has to start somewhere.

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