Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bonus Quote of the Day

"Greg frequently gets in with a group of people that have really radical ideas and that are not consistent with myself or the rest of the family, which gets him into problems. I say Fox News, or all of those that are really radical, and he, that's where he comes from."

-- 83-year-old Eleanor Giusti, whose son, Gregory, was recently arrested for threatening Nancy Pelosi

I've said it before but it bears repeating: No, you can't hold a person or organization responsible for the occasional unhinged nutjob who misinterprets -- or simply filters through the voices in his own head -- a particular message, even a controversial one. But when you spout inflammatory, dog-whistle rhetoric through a bullhorn 24/7, and you do it knowing full well that there is in fact a segment of your audience that might be prone to take matters into their own hands in the most extremely prejudicial way possible, if you get my drift, there's no way in hell you should be able to hide behind the First Amendment or a claim of innocent ignorance. Although it's never a good idea to allow the potential misbehavior of the lowest common denominator to curb the right to free speech, it's equally inadvisable, not to mention irresponsible, to act as though you're operating in a vacuum -- as if what you say can't possibly have a negative impact, despite its incendiary nature.

Fox News and the far-right constantly beat the drum of an America that's vanishing right before the eyes of patriotic, often well-armed citizens; sorry, but they don't get to act shocked when somebody actually listens carefully and responds accordingly.

That said, it's gonna be a hoot to hear the Fox talking heads take the traditionally liberal stance of shifting the blame from TV to the parents. Can't you already hear Hannity shrieking, "And where were you when your son was making 48 threatening phone calls to Pelosi's office, Mrs. Giusti? Well?"

Related: DXM: Revolutionary Goad/4.7.09


Felix Helix said...

Since you don't think Fox-style inflammatory rhetoricians should be allowed to "hide behind" the First Amendment, I'm curious as to what you think should be done about the problem -- other than make a blog post about how bad it is. I'm not trying to be flip, here, I'm actually curious.

I agree that there's a problem and that it's bad, and I also agree that the the words of Person (or Cable Channel) X should not be considered responsible for the actions of Person Y, whatever the particular words or actions might be. So what's to be done? Should there oughtta be a law, and if so, what?

Chez said...

You know, I've actually mentioned that before -- that we're in really uncharted territory here because as a country we've never had members of the media behave so shockingly irresponsibly. There was always a gentlemen's agreement that the power of the press wouldn't be abused (for the most part), but that's just been thrown out the window lately. Whether you like Fox or hate it, it's impossible to deny that the place is run like a frat house full of jocks. They arrogantly say and do whatever the hell they want and if you dare try to call them on it, they laugh at you and give you a metaphoric wedgie in the form of a press release that basically assassinates your character. It's Nixonian dirty tricks as company policy.

Short answer: I don't have the slightest fucking idea what can be done -- how do you get the best of a bully? -- but something definitely needs to.

VOTAR said...

I think it's this simple, Felix: There should be mature, professional, and ethical restraint, on the part of so-called journalists and pundits.

There was a time when the news was just the news; facts were reported, objective information was disseminated, and occasionally the editor-in-chief of the network would come on for a few minutes and read an op-ed about some relevant topic.

Instead, now, we have Beck and Hannity and Limbaugh, and there have been times while watching these clowns when I've actually muttered out loud, "this is criminally irresponsible."

In schools, universities, and other institutions of learning, there are many layers of tradition and protocol in place so that these institutions are able to police themselves, and ensure that the messages they create and distribute are as responsible and accurate, even while allowing for provocation and dissent. I would like to think that there was a time when journalism had these same ethical boundaries in place, but sadly it looks like those days are gone. Now it just looks like a schoolyard full of entitled bullies who know they will not be punished for yelling obscenities at the rest of the kids. Eventually one of them is going to pick up a rock and start throwing, because he was told to by his loudmouthed buddies, and what then?

Edit I typed all that before Chez posted his version of the same response. Creepy huh?

Capt Aclow said...

I think Fox "News" should be stripped of their "news" status in their station ID. They should be "Fox II" or something, and known to have several hours of news programming on the network in addition to pundit/talk shows.

Advertisers can't run an ad in a magazine that's made to look like an article unless they put ==Advertisement== at the top.

Why shouldn't Fox have to do the same?

Chez said...

Those who know the two of us wouldn't be surprised at all, Votar. We really are like House and Wilson after all these years.

VOTAR said...

I'm thinking it's more Statler and Waldorf.

Eric said...

I don't know that it's a change in kind as much as degree. Go back to the Yellow Journalism from around the turn of the 20th Century and it's not hard to find some pretty vile and inflammatory rhetoric that wouldn't be out of place on Malkin's blog or Hannity's show. Except a lot of it was confined to local and regional markets instead of being readily available everywhere on demand all the time. The nearest thing you had to Fox News up until the rise of nationally syndicated radio was probably the Hearst Syndicate, and newspaper doesn't disseminate itself nearly instantaneously.

Nor did you have anything approaching the pressure cooker situation that instant communication creates--I mean that some whackjob who read a turn of the 20th Century newspaper obviously couldn't get on the internet and amplify his psychosis by hanging out with a scattered menagerie of similar whackaloons; he was an isolated weirdo somewhere and limited in the harm he could do. Not neutered and harmless, necessary, but still constrained by time and space in ways that people just aren't in an era of instant electronic communications and cheap airfare.

As for what to do, I have no freaking idea. I'm not sure there's anything we can do except adapt and evolve, and I'm not sure into what. A big part of the problem is that we have a lot of wonderful technology combined with ethics and attitudes that were valid thirty or sixty or a hundred years ago but haven't caught up to the new environment.

CNNfan said...

Well Votar, one restraint by the Government is called DTV, Digital Television Broadcasting Technology.

You may have heard of it. It's new, free, and is transforming TV. Especially during a recession.

Perhaps that is related to why they seem to be desparately scrambling for ratings on cable TV?


To all old friends on this blog:

Don't forget there are new friends here too!

Che Grovera said...

...and Votar points out brilliantly that there is never a wrong time for a muppet reference!

Tabi said...

I think it's time for DXM-TV. Start your own revolution. You have the connections. You have the brains. Go get 'em. The best way to beat a bully is to kick his ass.

Steven D Skelton said...

So they cant be held responsible, yet shouldn't be able to hide behind the first amendment?

So is Fox News responsible or not? If they can't be held responsible, why would they need to hide behind the first amendment?

Jester said...

You guys are looking at this the wrong way. Every time this happens, it's another right wing nutjob losing his right to vote in 2012.

The more this happens, the happier I am.

Alanna said...

Ethical Journalism? Ha.
It's all "reality TV" programming, folks.