Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Revolutionary Goad: Fear Factor

"Is there any doubt that Fox News is playing an increasingly erratic and dangerous game by embracing the type of paranoid insurrection rhetoric that people like Poplawski are now acting on? By stoking dark fears about the ominous ruins that await an Obama America, by ratcheting up irresponsible back-to-the-wall scenarios, Fox News has waded into a territory that no other news organization has ever dared to exploit."

-- Eric Boehlert

Media Matters: "The Rise of the Fox News Media Militia" by Eric Boehlert/4.7.09


Anonymous said...

Effin' scary, but spot on.

Heather said...

What I don't understand is why, at the point where this has become such a dangerous situation, no one is stepping in and putting a stop to it? Where is the FCC or any of the others that could shut this down? I know, they're too busy worrying about if that was really a flash of ass you saw on CSI Miami at 10.

I'm all about free speech, having been a student of journalism myself at one point, but there comes a time where a line needs to be drawn and the source shut off. It's one thing if it's some random guy in his basement doing a pirate radio show and spewing this nonsense; but this is a nationally syndicated news network that reaches millions. It's irresponsible and incendiary at best, criminal at worst. They've stopped reporting fact and have started shoving out conspiracy theory as truth. When that happens, they need to have the plug pulled.

That's my opinion at least.

Deborah said...

I read the entire article...horrifying. Like so many others, I believe in free speech, but...this, I don't think, is "speech". I would like to ask Glenn Beck, et al., one question: If America weren't so free - if, indeed, Obama were a Fascist/Marxist/pick-your-pejorative - why are YOU (Glenn, et al) still around? Why aren't YOU in a government facility, or in prison, or in an institution...or in Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago? Could you spout your nonsense in, say...Iraq? In what other country is there the freedom to speak so vituperatively about the elected leader? I would think that they are disproving their own point just because they ARE. What assholes. What SCARY assholes.

DragonIV said...

See, that's the thing that free speech protects: passing off opinion as fact. You are pretty much allowed to make up what you want, so long as you don't slander someone (other than politicians, from what I gather).

According the to rule of the Supreme Court, only speech that is directly inciting immediate lawless action can be restricted. Can you imagine the creation of an agency whose job it was to monitor the media and censor those who it believed was crossing that fine line? That's pretty much the way we'd have to clamp down on Fox News.

You almost would think they're trying to provoke this kind of reaction, so they can say "Look! See! We told you Obama is a tyrant! He's coming for you next!"

Deborah said...

Thought of one other thing, and then saw something that bears on this. First, the FEMA-concentration-camp "theory" that Beck was floating: Unless I'm wrong - and someone please correct me if I am - I believe that the highest-profile deployment of that agency was UNDER THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - and they failed, MISERABLY, at their mandate. Under BUSH. And, on the front page of today's Wheeling, WV Intelligencer: "Are Legal Firearms a License to Kill?" This article isn't about Poplawski, but rather the Binghamton, NY shooting. Still.

Chez said...

Dragon -- I've thought about that. Generally, we rely on humanity, decency and responsibility in broadcasting, so that unmitigated, dangerous nonsense isn't passed off as fact. But you're right -- when an entity like Fox exhibits none of those characteristics and essentially thumbs its nose at the responsible use of its forum, what do you do? If any move is made to even try to get them to comply to some kind of standards, they'll just hold it up as proof of their point.

Deborah said...

At the risk of monopolizing...this is from today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The city is, at this moment, preparing for services for the 3 police officers.

DragonIV said...

It's manipulation of human nature over civility. Those that play on civility's side *always* lose to the lowest-common-denominator emotion-appealing acolytes of irrationality. It has happened time and again in human history, because we just can't seem to smarten up enough as a species. I *really* hope I'm wrong about that, for my kids' sake.

So, what do we do? We have to confront them, head on, and not sit idly by. Blogs like this one do an excellent job of this--we just have to continue to broadcast critical analysis of the Irrational Right and show their ideas exposed to the full light of day.

Jeremy said...

Is there any way we can, you know... isolate Fox to one of those fenced in "free speech zone" type places that they thought were plenty fair for folks who wanted to protest the RNC, etc.?

Just curious.

B8ovin said...

DragonIV said:"Those that play on civility's side *always* lose to the lowest-common-denominator..."

What, you mean like the last election? Seriously, if you spend too much time playing the Bill O'Reilly Ego Game, that is, elevating the importance of FOX News and it's pundits, you're denigrating the VAST majority of decent thoughtful people. While FOX News has the greatest percentage of CABLE viewers of any NEWS network, they still have a minuscule percentage of viewers. And of those viewers, how many watch just to have their pre-existing beliefs confirmed? It is important to remember that one can come to the beliefs espoused by Beck, Hannity or Bachman without ever knowing anything about them or what the believe.

There is a website called, Newshounds, that focuses only on the distortions, lies and manipulation of facts of FOX News. I used to read it daily and become infuriated, until I realized that such focus elevates the importance and ubiquity of FOX News opinions. While I am still amazed that FOX has the number of viewers it has, I am dismayed to see that "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars" has any viewers at all. The fact that those "competition" shows have audiences that dwarf Fox News might be of some small comfort, however.

"Free Speech" is not a separate entity or ideal from "Freedom" in my estimation. It is filthy, barbarous and thorny in its most important form, and Beck is no different from Mahr or Stewart in his right to speak to what he perceives as "truth". He has just as much inherent freedom to be wrong as those we agree with have to be "right". The fact that people might act in inappropriate ways to what he says should not stymie his decision to speak his mind, anymore that the programmer of a video game should be stymied by the thought violent prone teenagers when designing his video game, or a director should self-censor out of respect for the religiously pious. It is a shame that people might not have the critical thinking skills to deconstruct the logic of Beck's inane warnings, or that they might be sociopathic enough to act on them, but it is important to remember that even something as horrible as murder is almost always a symptom of some more basic insidious disease.

I'm sorry this is so long but I have been reading many blogs that have been discussing this topic and this is one of the few that I feel comfortable enough to express the culmination of my thoughts on. Last thought: polls show that the majority of Americans are getting more and more thoughtful on issues that require thought. This is hopeful. Focusing on FOX is an exercise in despair.

Chez said...

That's a good point, and one I've brought up before.

People in the media make a huge deal out of the Fox News numbers because, relative to the other cable news networks, they're so big. But that's relative to the other cable news networks. In reality, more people are probably watching WNBC's 11pm newscast in New York City on any given night than are watching Bill O'Reilly across the country. The broadcast networks -- the ones that so many are often ringing the death knell of -- still score infinitely higher ratings, reaching a far greater number of people. Fox pulls in its numbers through exactly the means you said: They appeal to one particular crowd (the ultimate in "narrowcasting") and feed it exactly what it wants to hear. Not news -- Fox News. Which is why they keep coming back. But the truth is that much of the cacophony that comes from Fox is a result of the surrounding media echo chamber that perpetuates and amplifies it.

kanye said...




There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root. ~Thoreau

Weaponry, opiates, religion, media, Beck et. al.: these things, these people are neither cause nor effect; they're asymptomatic. They are salves applied to wounded psyches; talismans guarding against malevolent spirits; night lights to stave off the things that go bump.

Ignore the cause, amplify the effect. Amplify the effect, aggravate the symptom. Aggravate the symptom, increase dependence on the salve.

Treat the cause, negate the effect. Negate the effect, ameliorate the symptom. Ameliorate the symptom and the the salve becomes unnecessary.

Connection does not equal causality. Beck is a branch: prune him back, another will replace him. Strike the root.

Chez said...

Who are you, the Merovingian?

kanye said...

Heh. God no...I don't believe in predestination. But I can cuss in French.

Smack, Cracker, and Punk said...

The Merovingian....priceless man...I almost lost a stool from that one.

celery said...

adding mandatory courses in formal logic to the public school system would greatly help to address this problem.

i used to teach a first year logic course at an american university (also at a canadian one) and you would be amazed - totally mind blown - at the inability of incoming freshmen to construct, let alone recognize, a valid argument. after even half a term of instruction, many of them go home for the winter holidays and, for the first time, seriously question their parents/religious leaders/media personalities, etc...
every january i would get emails from former students relaying such stories.

there's even a book that explains all the fallacies of formal logic by using actual quotes from rush limbaugh.

whether students lean toward the left, the right or are completely confused, learning how to reason and how to dissect arguments are tools that should be taught alongside math, english and biology.

i don't claim that the power of reason, in itself, would solve the ails of nations, but the first crucial step is to allow citizens to evaluate the state of things and potential solutions. there are many examples in history where governments or regimes have purposefully derailed reason and rationality to make it possible for people (military or not) into act merely from irrational fear and hatred and commit atrocities.

there's actually a great book by jonathan glover called, "HUMANITY: A MORAL HISTORY OF THE 20th CENTURY" that argues this persuasively. it's strange to recognize these same tactics in the american mass media.

there are some places in europe where logic is part of the curriculum. the cynic in me thinks that it's not a coincidence that most governments (and the institutions and corporations that support them) don't want to rear a nation of logical thinkers, but i still hope it's merely an oversight that will one day be corrected.

people shouldn't be so damn easy to trick. it's only easy to believe things because they suit one's agenda, if one's mind hasn't been trained to automatically be suspicious of what's false or illogical.

the long-term solution is not censor irresponsible, hateful rhetoric; rather, it's to empower the masses such that they'll be able to detect, refute and dismiss it.

but until that happens, i don't have a huge problem with just shutting those fuckers up.

then again, i'm canadian and we have anti-hate speech laws.

marija said...

The only reason loud-mouthed hate-spreaders such as Ann Coulter or Beck can ever get any audience is IGNORANCE. For example, I would bet my left leg that the majority of the crazy bible-thumpers doesn't have the slightest idea of the ideas and ideals behind the American Constitution or the sort of people who wrote it. The same thing applies to the knowledge of world history. Only an idiot like Beck can compare a person both to a fascist and a communist. And only a complete idiot can hear that and take it at face value. I second Celery's proposal of introducing logic into official curriculums (I had it in high school and it's a great thing) but I would also recommend a more detailed instruction in world history - a modicum of perspective is never a bad thing...

Deacon Blue said...

Marija, it's worse than bible thumpers not knowing the Constitution.

Because, frankly, most crazy Bible thumpers probably don't have the slightest idea about the message of the gospel they profess to preach.

And the right-wing political types who harp on socialism and the right to bear arms don't generally have the slightest idea what the Constitution means, especially the right-wingers who are actually in political office.