Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We Distort, You Abide


I'll make this really quick.

Rachel Maddow mentioned this last night on her show, and it's a really great point to make and hammer home: Fox News bears much more of the blame in the Shirley Sherrod debacle than Andrew Breitbart does. Breitbart's a showman, a professional provocateur; it's expected that he'll chomp on a potentially incendiary item like a bass, without taking the time to consider things like context, ramifications, etc. He's in the business of throwing raw meat to the dogs and has made it clear that he's not willing to play by the rules (which can be translated into: he's not willing to be the least bit responsible and fuck you if you ask him to).

But Fox? Despite what we all know about Fox News, it still bills itself as a reputable news organization, one with an enormous microphone and a hell of a large cable audience. It not only tips its hand to the fact that it accepts that it's expected to be a respectable outlet by constantly hyping how "fair and balanced" it supposedly is -- it also pushes its willingness to break and perpetuate stories other networks haven't as proof of its responsibility to the public. After it aired what from the onset appeared to be a conspicuously misleading clip of Sherrod spouting racist rhetoric, it took Bill O'Reilly less than eight hours to declare openly that the "scoop" was proof of Fox's television news dominance. But it wasn't. Fox now has egg on its face -- egg that it wouldn't be scraping off today if it had behaved the way any responsible news outlet is expected to behave. If it hadn't put the rabid drive to claim a partisan scalp and score political points above being fucking journalists.

As Maddow said, this is why the White House was right when it argued months ago that Fox News shouldn't be treated like a normal news organization. Because it's obviously anything but.

25 comments:

Nathan said...

I'm not giving Breitbart or Fox a pass on this, but I think I might be even madder at the White House on this one. They took the word of some hack with a blog and the word of a "news" organization that they've publicly called out for lack of standards. For some reason, they felt the need to react so quickly that Sherrod had to pull over to the side of the road and resign, by Blackberry, immediately!

I don't think anyone is coming out of this one smelling like roses.

motheralex said...

For once, I actually use the "ban" feature on my cable box, because I have enough shit to deal with without listening to pencil-dicked idiots. Leverage, Dexter, Castle, yep. I tape those. Fox Family Guy? Yes. Fox News? Go piss on somebody else's mind.

Chez said...

Completely agree, Nathan. The idea that the government of the United States allowed itself to fall victim to a partisan stunt -- pulled off by people whose reputation for hackery was well documented -- is just mind-boggling.

VOTAR said...

I've deprogrammed Fox from my living room tv and I'm at the point now that I don't think I could tolerate even being in the same room as someone who might say they get their news from that outlet.

This was not journalism, this was a crime spree.

Fred said...

Chez, I agree but can you imagine how much the teabaggers (I'll always call them that) and other organizations would cry foul if the government got involved at the level required to silence or discipline Fox? I'm in no way defending those hacks and the moron majority that follows them but merely pointing it out.

Chez said...

Oh I've made the point before that Fox News really is the ultimate bully. It puts a fist into your chest and taunts, "What are you gonna do about it -- huh?"

So what do you do when a media outlet behaves irresponsibly -- violating every single rule of respectable journalism? We've never really had a problem like that on this level; there was always an unspoken agreement that news outlets were, for the most part, responsible.

CNNfan said...

indcendiary ?

Chez, I have to refudiate your criticism of Palin, now that you just wee-wee’d up English as a living language with the use of words that don't actually exist. Perhaps, you shouldn't be so quick to misunderestimate Sarah.




_____________________________________________
It should be: incendiary … ☻ ☺

Chez said...

Typo, Tom -- thanks for the catch.

Tabi said...

I wonder if we are seeing the beginning of a new genre.

Seeing how Fox news is about as trustworthy and responsible as Entertainment Tonight or some other gossip rag, maybe they will morph into the nation's first official Pundit Channel. They could openly acknowledge that their talking heads are simply conversing about current events and offering personal insight, rather than doing the same thing and calling it news.

People would still watch, and sadly, most of their current audience would most likely still take their word as fact, because they aren't capable of listening and forming their own understanding of a situation.

drater said...

You know, when I voted for Obama, I had no idea I was electing Fox News to run the frickin' country.

Anonymous said...

The thing the right is having trouble with today is the concept that it's both wrong for the right wrong media to race bait AND its wrong for the White House to take the bait. Both can be true. I worry that as Brietbart spins there is a tendency to exploit the left's legitimate anger with Obama on this to put less pressure on the instigator. Can't we do both?

Anonymous said...

Christ, from Time's Swampland -

"But the real story may be how and why the White House allowed itself to be manipulated."

Brietbart will get away with this and his next "scoop" will still be repeated endlessly.

Obama really needs to take the proper blame and pivot this back on the ones that are trying every dog whistle and race baiting trick in the book before the election, unless he wants to lose his own base in order to not piss off the people who would never vote for him anyway.

Anonymous said...

That should be "right wing media" above. Though "right wrong media" is probably more correct.

MJG said...

Any Lawyers out there who can comment on whether this is covered under Libel or Slander Laws?

Any left leaning organization out there with deep enough pockets to sue these bastards off the media landscape?

Think Kucinich will get some more co-sponsors of his Fairness doctrine bill?

Sheriff Bart said...

Heh! http://twitter.com/daveweigel/statuses/19037903612

B8ovin said...

More angry at the WHITE HOUSE than Fox? Really? Let's examine that. Yesterday Obama was pushing for a historic Finance Reform bill and extension of unemployment benefits. He probably heard about this but to think he pushed for Sherrod's resignation is a stretch. He has in the past been a vocal critic of FOX News. Sherrod herself has said she was contacted by the Department of Agriculture but not by the WH. Vilsack has taken full responsibility for the pressure on Sherrod to resign.

There is no doubt that Vilsack is part of the Obama administration and that the White House has to take responsibility for for his actions, but when you consider the speed at which this all took place it is not beyond the imagination to think Vilsack acted on his own before the White House could consider what action to take.

In any event, welcome to the summer of Racism. I miss the sharks.

Chez said...

"Welcome to the summer of Racism. I miss the sharks."

Comment of the week, right there.

Alanna said...

Seriously, the best comment.

LiteraryAlchemist said...

This situation is, all in one place, a fascinating indictment of the media, zero-tolerance policies and the kangaroo court of public opinion.

Her dismissal was, apparently, based in as much fact and diligence as "Iraq's weapons of mass destruction."

I would hope we learn much, from this situation, but we won't. And people like Breitbart will be winning again in three weeks.

Nathan said...

More angry at the WHITE HOUSE than Fox? Really? Uh..yeah.

From a CBS report yesterday:

Shirley Sherrod, the USDA's former director of rural development in Georgia, said USDA deputy undersecretary Cheryl Cook called her Monday and said the White House wanted her to resign, the Associated Press reports.

"They called me twice," Sherrod told the AP, noting that she was driving when she received the calls. "The last time they asked me to pull over the side of the road and submit my resignation on my Blackberry, and that's what I did."


Fox is a known entity. We know they play fast and loose with the truth We know they have an agenda. For this administration to stand by and let Fox dictate what the truth is in any matter is shameful.

99% of the time, ignoring Fox is the appropriate response. 1% of the time, calling them out for lying is the appropriate response. Calling for someone to be fired based on their reporting without checking its veracity is never appropriate.

And, for the record, I wasn't all that pleased when the Administration tried to "clear things up" by calling rumors of "Death Panels" a "mischaracterization". Those "rumors" were vicious, opportunistic lies designed to scare a bunch of old people...and everyone knew exactly who started them and kept repeating them. There's nothing unPresidential about calling a lie a lie.

The Obama Administration has a lot to be proud of. This episode isn't one of them.

Benoît from Ottawa said...

Re 12:38 and 12:40:

Maybe indecendiary?

Too long I suppose.

B8ovin said...

Nathan, I'm not arguing that Cook said the White House was pressuring her, but is it beyond the scope of possibility that she said that without it actually being the case?

Look at this:
“I did not think before I acted, and for that reason, this poor woman has gone through a difficult time,” Vilsack said, as quoted at The Hill. “There was no pressure from the White House, I want to make sure everyone understands this was my decision, and I regret having made it in haste."

Of course that could be political as well. The point is no one from the White House called Sherrod.

I am painfully aware of Obama's failings. From closing Gitmo, to prosecuting crimes of the previous administration, to pursuing convictions of legal marijuana dealers in California I know of several issues he has failed my understandings of his campaign stance.

But it is rank cowardice to shrug at FOX News' culpability. Why should we hold a "news" network to some journalistic standard? Well, why should we ever not? Sarah Palin has adopted the term, "lamestream" media now, feeding the idea that there are, wink wink, only a few real outlets for real news. I don't accept the idea that we should ignore FOX because we know what they are and what they do, because their game has had a much greater impact on real life than I would ever imagine (ask ACORN employees, I mean, ex-ACORN employees).

Anonymous said...

Since I am living with, and financially on, my elderly parents while I wait for a divorce, I see a lot of Fox News (they are very intelligent, just old). And in Fox's defense, they did do a lot of egg scraping today. The only part of the day that I will stay in the room is the roundtable with Charles Krauthammer on it. He comes off as erudite and thoughtful. Otherwise, I go in another room and get my news online.

Nathan said...

But it is rank cowardice to shrug at FOX News' culpability.

B8oven,

Maybe I didn't say it as well as I meant to. I'm not shrugging off Fox's culpability, I'm just saying I don't expect anything more of them. I do expect more of the Administration. And, as I said, I'd hope they'd choose their battles wisely.

Most of the crap on Fox deserves to be ignored at the White House's level. This instance may have called for direct refutation (Hah!) after a little more research was done. But under no circumstances should anyone have taken action based solely on reporting from such shoddy sources.

(And I'll concede that this may not have come directly from the White House, but if Vilsack really did act on his own, I really hope he's been properly slapped down behind the scenes. I'm not looking for him to be fired, but somehow, his public "Mea Culpa" doesn't seem quite enough.)

Anonymous said...

Shirley Sherrod placed the blame for her ouster at Fox
News's feet. Fox's first call for a resignation made by Bill O'Reilly just before 9:00 pm on Monday, came roughly an hour Sherrod had actually resigned.
Fox News exerted no meaningful pressure on the administration
to take any specific actions with regard to Sherrod before the administration
took those actions on its own accord.