Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Am I wrong?

A year or so ago, a neutral media watch group did an analysis of Fox News and found that their news coverage is actually pretty bias-free, which surprised a lot of people who assumed that there was a conservative bias. I paid attention to that and stopped making snarky comments, even sharing the results of the study with others.

But what about lately? Well, first there was the commentator (white, female) who was talking about the Clinton's unfortunate comment implying that Obama might be assassinated before the election. This pundit then says that "some want to 'knock off Osama . . . Obama . . . (laughing) well, both, if we could." I don't remember which Fox personality said that he didn't want to "go on a lynching party" against Michelle Obama, then added, "unless (unless??) there's hard evidence" that she holds what he would consider anti-American views. Then there was the referral by a Fox News anchor to the Obamas' "terrorist fist jab"--what?! A banner headline at the bottom of the page refers to Michelle Obama as "Obama's baby mama"--that one can't even be attributed to an accidental gaffe since someone actually wrote it down and thought it would be okay. And don't even get me started about Ann Coulter.

I guess what bothers me most is that this is the most popular cable news source in the country and that there just doesn't seem to be much outrage on the part of its viewers. Sean Hannity defends some of his more outrageous comments by saying that he received no negative mail about them. Is that because the kinds of people who watch Fox News aren't offended by these things? Am I too sensitive because I am? Don Imus's comment about the Rutgers' womens' basketball team was not substantially more racist or sexist than the idea that Michelle Obama--an accomplished attorney and businesswoman--can be reduced to "Obama's baby mama." He lost his job, his show, and his reputation. People at least pretended to be outraged. I just don't get it.

I make it a point to make sure I'm getting my news and opinions from a variety of sources, including those that don't typically reflect my views, which means that I occasionally listen to a particular talk show that makes me want to shoot my radio--it's good practice in self-differentiation and I do actually learn something from time to time. I worry about people who only go to the news channels and websites that support their views (something you couldn't really do when your only options were the national ten o'clock news and your local daily paper) and I worry about the culture they form.


Rob said...

Every election you hear more and more about how the country is becoming polarized. There's nobody left in the middle, all red or blue. That sounds dangerous to me, so I try to listen a bit to the other side (although we might quibble about which side that is). Turns out when you listen long enough "they" make more sense that "we" thought. Radical idea.

Have you read a book called Empire by Orson Scott Card? Not profound, but a story of the logical conclusion to this kind of polarity.

Matt said...

On the subject of Fox News, I wonder if you were aware of this 2003 University of Maryland study that found that "Those who primarily watch Fox News are significantly more likely to have misperceptions, while those who primarily listen to NPR or watch PBS are significantly less likely."

Of course, as a political junkie, I feel pretty strongly about this subject; if the citizens of our country can't agree on what the facts actually are, how can we have a meaningful debate on what action to take in light of those facts?

I am hopeful that the tactic of "let's energize voters with wedge issues" is losing ground to the "let's energize people by giving them ownership in the process"

We'll see.