Strong opinions, weakly held

The White House’s problem with Fox News

The brilliant John Scalzi offers his opinion on why the White House is publicly feuding with Fox News, but I don’t think he’s got it quite right. Here’s what he says:

Which makes it a low-risk ideological foil for the White House. Follow: The White House says Fox News is not a real news organization and is the propaganda arm of the GOP, Fox News throws a very public shit fit about it, which gives it higher ratings and an impetus to skew even more to the right in its presentation, and go out of its way to criticize Obama even further. Meanwhile the noise is all covered by multiple other news outlets, which in aggregate reach a much larger audience, which show Fox News anchors and personalities in the middle of ideological conniptions, confirming to the general population the proposition that, indeed, Fox News is more interested in politics than news, and reinforcing the impression that Fox News and the GOP are reading off the same page. Which makes the GOP look unreasonable in an era in which its popularity isn’t, shall we say, spectacular to begin with. To what end? Well, you might have heard there’s a health care debate going on.

I do think this is why the White House picked a fight with Rush Limbaugh earlier in the year, but I think there’s something else going on. Fox News’ purpose is to produce propaganda that reinforces the views of its audience. Lately they have taken to not only selectively reporting news to suit their agenda, but also creating news. They have gone all in on the tea party spectacle, for example. They worked with “protesters” who disrupted the August town halls and gave them massive exposure. Then something started happening — a lot of other media outlets started asking whether they were out of touch with the “angry White American” movement and needed to give it more attention. All of the media outlets started giving a disproportionate amount of attention to the town hall idiocy, even though there were town halls going on all over the country that didn’t include hecklers.

So I think what the White House wants is to remind everyone, especially everyone else in the press, that the crap Fox News flings is not real news. They don’t need to cover stories just because Fox News is covering them, and certainly they don’t need to cover stories that Fox News is ginning up. That’s the reason behind the White House is calling Fox News out — they can afford for Fox News to be what it is, but they don’t want the New York Times or CNN to factor the priorities of Fox News into their own editorial judgement.


  1. The more people who realize that FOX news is out on the far edge of CrazyLand, the better. Most of the educated people I know realize FOX News for what it is, but unfortunately those people are a very small percentage of the population.

    The biggest problem is that FOX news deliberately skewing their “news” in a way that makes it entertaining, and thereby interesting, to the majority of their viewers. FOX News is a for-profit “news” machine, so the more viewers they can get the more money they can make. They pick up more viewers because their “news” is deliberately one-sided, deliberately sensationalistic, and deliberately controversial. For the majority of the FOX News viewers, this is far more interesting to them than say, the local news or whatever high-brow world news drivel is on BBC.

    Do not forget that FOX News came about because of Rupert Murdoch’s brilliance in recognizing that that tabloid-style new sold more newspapers. The more sensationalistic, controversial and entertaining the better — from the for-profit business perspective.

    If I didn’t care about the impact FOX News is having on the population of this country, I would applaud them for figuring out how to make more money than their competitors, but it sickens me when I go back to the Midwest where I am from and have to listen to the COMPLETE AND UTTER BULLSHIT coming out of the mouths of my high school classmates (now in their mid-30s). They do not realize they are repeating COMPLETE BULLSHIT. From their point of view, Glenn Beck is a genius and is going to save this country from that evil, socialist, communist, Hitler-Obama-Who-Eats-Babies.

  2. I find the frantic “It’s not news! It’s not news!” tantrum of the left amusing. Not news? Debate it on the merits. Don’t like it? Stop watching. But shut it down? There’s that darned first amendment, although Obama and crew will take a run at that soon.

    What frustrates the left is that people have stopped listening to them. The only two news outlets in the US that are growing and profitable are Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. The other top 24 newspapers all fell in circulation, many by 10% or more in a year. The market speaks: conservative views actually make money, even in a bad economy. Liberal views? Waiting for a bailout, I guess.

    I love watching the New York Times shrink into a tiny house organ for big city liberals. And the local News & Observer? The entire paper is now smaller than the Sunday advertising insert from five years ago.

    As the papers shrink, they collapse into their core: house organs for the left. During the August health care protests (again, completely fabricated and created by a few rabid right wingers, nothing to see here, move along) the N&O ran pro-health-care editorials above the fold on page A-1. News? Really? But Fox airs an opinion piece opposing The One and liberals blow latte out their nose and demand that Fox be shut down.

    I do applaud the other four networks for sticking up for Fox when the White House tried to cut them out of the coverage pool. A free press is crucial to our nation, especially the parts of the press that that say things you don’t like. I think that NYT, CNN, et al are hopelessly in the tank for The One. I choose not to watch them. I don’t call for their marginalization and ask that they be shunned.

    Obama looks petty and petulant when he does this kind of stuff. He needs to grow a pair and move on. What a whiner.

  3. Tell the truth, Chuck, you like latte too.

  4. I never watch any cable news channels, but MSNBC (not Fox for once!) was on while I was at the gym today. The content may not be as clearly politically slanted as Fox, but Good God, during the 45 minutes I was there, there was absolutely NO journalism taking place: they 1.) interviewed an author of a book, 2.) held up the Washington Times (Good God again!)headline about Obama and then let Michael Steele prattle on about Obama for several minutes, and then 3.) had some entertainment-related stuff that I don’t even remember.

    That took zero preparation, research, actual reporting, etc.

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