(Cross-posted at Daily Kos.)
I was hired a few weeks ago as a freelance writer/blogger commenting on entertainment and television. “Write whatever you want about,” they said. And in that time, I’ve written about a lot of things, including politics. Not a lot — it’s a TV writing gig — but just enough to make me realize what I am: the token liberal.
The other bloggers they’ve hired are mostly conservative and the audience doesn’t want to be bothered by politics. Here’s a typical comment from a reader:
“Lynne writes —
It just kills me to watch the news banner rolling across the TV screen reporting deaths in Iraq, murders in Los Angeles, child molestations, etc. etc. Meanwhile -Charles and Diane are wearing formal evening wear and yucking it up with Wolfgang Puck who is making post Oscar pancakes on GMA. Does anyone at the networks actually watch these programs? Do they really think we need an update on the number of people killed that day every five minutes?”
And now I’ve gone and gotten myself into an argument with one of my fellow TV bloggers. More on the flip.
Yesterday, he posted a defense of Fox News titled FOX News Channel: Not Fair and Balanced? Get over it people! that I found so breathtakingly stupid that I began typing up a response in the comments box before even considering if it was worth it. My response, with quotations from his post (because his post is long and rambling, and I’m loathe to give him page hits):
Your post has so many logical fallacies that it’s hard to know exactly where to start, so I’ll take it piece by piece.
You say: “Critics continue to scream that FOX has violated journalistic principles, but has it? Is FOX far worse than other network [sic] out there? I think not.”
Journalistic principles, like laws, are there regardless of what other networks do. Your argument implies essentially that we should ignore such principles and instead play a game of compare and contrast — if one network reports inaccurate information, that’s fine as long as its competitors do so as well. This kind of mentality is what leads to the media equivalent of a race to the bottom, with viewers the inevitable losers. Integrity shouldn’t be measured on a sliding scale; we should demand more.
You say: “Well, conservatives believe that there is an inherent liberal bias in media- that most networks tend to lean a little left.”
You make an allegation here that CNN leans “a little left” without providing any evidence. While that may be an acceptable form of reporting at Fox News, I think you’ll find that most people do indeed expect more evidence than that in order to listen to you with any seriousness.
You say: “So to FOX, and to conservatives, it’s taken far too long for a network to offer right-wingers television news tailored to their needs, beliefs and wants. In the scheme of things, FOX is doing this for the first time, therefore making the entire media world a little more fair and balanced. Make sense? Probably not, if you’re a liberal.”
I’m a liberal and it does make sense; it is the perfect embodiment of everything that is wrong with the modern conservative movement. You want news “tailored” to your “needs, beliefs, and wants.” News shouldn’t be “tailored” to anything but the truth — not one’s “need” to be right, one’s preconceived “beliefs” about the world, nor what one “wants” to believe is true.
You say: “Yesterday morning I rose early to watch CNN’s early show, “Day Break.” I instantly picked up on some interesting things. First, the anchor was talking about Iraq, stating that leaders have painted a picture of perfection in the region. She then said, “And the picture ain’t so rosy.” Interesting…I believe there may be a little opinion mixed in there (gasp, not CNN).”
Actually, if you’d taken the time to research this topic at all (once again, not a practice of Fox News), you’d know that CNN is constantly derided from people on both sides of the aisle for being biased and offering too little hard news. I direct you to mediamatters.org, where you will find countless examples of conservative bias on CNN. If you’d like, I can provide further examples for you by email; they far are too numerous to list here.
You say: “While this is so, stating that conditions in Iraq are “not so rosy,” the reporter overlooked the positive things being done (i.e.: schools being rebuilt, an election in which over 70% of the population participated and efforts to root out terrorists). Seems to me CNN is painting a picture for millions that “ain’t so rosy.” Is [sic] also “ain’t” so balanced.”
Like many conservatives, you also seem to have elevated the idea of “balance” to an almost fetishistic height. You seem to argue that every “negative” story on Iraq should have its counterbalanced opposite; one school opening for every car bombing, perhaps. This kind of thinking would have required the radio operator on board the Titanic to mention the ship was sinking and then move on to a description of how wonderfully the band was playing. Furthermore, sometimes there can be no “balance.” If I say 2 + 2 = 4 and CNN reports it, must they also have on a conservative who says that 2 + 2 equals 5? To do so would render journalism itself pointless — subjective reality not being subject to actual fact-checking.
You say: “Instead of presenting both sides, she spoke with a Democratic representative who explained that outlawing the burning of the flag infringed on free speech, etc. etc. My question: “Where do we draw the line?” That’s like saying it’s okay for me to burn someone’s home down. Hey, I’d only be using my free speech to protest! And burning a flag is no more of a vocal statement than beating someone to get a point across is. Wake up (okay, so it may be a little more extreme, but neither use vocal capabilities to get a point across).”
Burning a flag in protest and burning someone’s house down are not at all alike, and you engage in the worst fallacy of all by pretending that the law cannot “draw a line” between a symbolic act of destruction of one’s own private property and the criminal destruction of someone else’s. Furthermore, the fact that you are ignorant of non-vocal acts of speech as affirmed by the United States Supreme Court [Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist., 393 U.S. 503, (1969)] proves to me that you don’t know enough about this topic to speak intelligently. You are free to speak about it, as many anchors on Fox News do, without facts — that’s your right. I do feel it’s my obligation, however, as one friend to another, to tell you that you sound like an idiot when you do so.
You say: “CNN refused to show any Republicans, or sensible Democrats for that matter, voicing the opposite perspective. Just the liberal representative who insisted Americans should be allowed to do whatever they please.”
I take it that “sensible Democrats” means “Democrats who agree with Republicans” — which makes me wonder what you call Sen. Chuck Hagel (R – Nebraska) who agrees with Democrats that the “White House is completely disconnected from reality” on Iraq . Is he a “crazy” Republican? If so, I hope it’s catching. Nevertheless, I wish you would mention who the “liberal representative” was and what exactly he or she was advocating. I take it that, contrary to what you wrote, he or she wasn’t for Americans doing “whatever they please” since we know those scary “liberals” are against guns, prayer, and NASCAR. I hope you’ll also grant that he or she was against terrorism and murder, though perhaps you find it hard to draw the line between those that disagree with you and traitors? In that case, may I suggest you find another country in which to reside — say, a nice totalitarian one with far less troublesome dissent.
Since all comments at the site have to be authored by the blogger, I know my comment will never appear. Nevertheless, it did feel good to get it off my chest here…