Wednesday, November 10, 2010
A Fox on Both Your Houses
So this is kind of entertaining.
Last night I got an e-mail that was cc'd to about 50 or so indiscriminate addresses; it seemed to be trying to find its way into the hands of, among others, Glenn Beck, Rachel Maddow, Matt Drudge, Eric Boehlert of Media Matters, O'Reilly's little Renfield-like producer Jesse Watters, Dana Milbank at the Post, and, yes, Keith Olbermann. What it contained was a link to a blog post currently running over at Newsbusters -- the right-wing media watchdog site created by professional uptight pencil-dick Brent Bozell -- which claimed that a Huffington Post contributor had inadvertently pulled back the curtain on MSNBC's prime time operation and admitted the ugly truth about it.
Can you figure out where this is going?
Yeah -- that Huffington Post contributor was me.
The post was written by Jack Coleman, whom I've never met and who may be a decent-enough guy for all I know, and it essentially used one line from the piece I put together on Olbermann's suspension last week to make a point I guess he felt needed to be made -- one which, not surprisingly, confirms what I have to assume are his own firmly-held biases.
Here's what he wrote:
"Wow, how'd that one slip through?
Writing about Keith Olbermann's 'indefinite suspension'/extended weekend away from MSNBC, Huffington Post blogger Chez Pazienza provided a rare moment of illumination at the left-wing site when he wrote this in a post titled 'Playing for Keith' --
'NBC's dilemma has always been how to draw the line between the outspoken free-for-all on MS and the supposedly dignified proceedings at NBC News proper. Maybe this will be the event that finally forces the NBC suits to fess up and admit what everybody already knows: MSNBC prime time isn't a news block; it's opinion. (emphasis added) And there's nothing really wrong with that.'"
Coleman goes on to make the claim -- and I feel like he really has to reach for it -- that the above quote somehow refutes Rachel Maddow's entire argument that MSNBC is, at its core, a news operation which traffics in facts (as opposed to Fox News, which she says is almost strictly a tool for partisan propaganda). Apparently, my willingness to state pretty categorically that MSNBC's prime time eschews traditional objective newscasting in favor of editorializing -- and that this fact should be fairly obvious to anyone with a set of ears and two brain cells to rub together -- makes me akin to Joshua's trumpet, bringing down the walls of Jericho.
This of course is horseshit.
I won't dare say I was misquoted or that my comment was taken out of context because each of those is a tired conceit, but thankfully I don't really have to bother going that route; any idiot can see the point I was making. Just because something or someone traffics largely in opinion doesn't mean that the opinions being expressed aren't based on actual facts. Maddow's argument in response to Olbermann's suspension was a good one -- that the system of checks and balances in place at NBC News was designed to ensure that those who worked for the network adhered to the highest journalistic standards. Yes, a new generation and a new paradigm now bends and even breaks those rules -- and that's a good thing -- but the fact that they exist at all proves that NBC ostensibly gives a crap about being fair. I have no doubt that Fox News also has some set of standards in place, and that perhaps at one time it even mattered. But if the network brass used to be able to make the argument that, yes, Fox's prime time could occasionally be an editorial Thunderdome but its daytime programming was always straight down the middle -- "fair and balanced," as it were -- that time has long since passed; Fox's blatant and oppressive partisan bias infects so much of what it does on a daily, hourly basis that it's simply impossible to take seriously as a responsible news network anymore.
While Keith Olbermann managed to get himself in trouble for making private campaign contributions to a couple of political candidates he happens to agree with -- Fox News employs as contributors and gives a public forum day after day after day to the political candidates and prospective political candidates it happens to agree with. It not only funds the campaigns of those running for office under the Republican and Tea Party banner (to say nothing of helping to foment the Tea Party movement by promoting and sponsoring its rallies); it reaps a financial reward of its own -- via ratings-based ad revenue -- from putting these people on the air, creating an Ouroboros in which politics and the media are interchangeable head and tail.
MSNBC is a news operation that features a well-defined block of advocacy and opinion, which means that news is still at the core of what it does.
Fox is a non-stop engine of advocacy and opinion that occasionally sprinkles in some actual news, which means that bias is always at the core of what it does.
Both have their share of booming partisan voices, but there is a damn huge difference.