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Fox Hunting, As Usual

January 8, 2010

Jonathan Chait posted something today about Fox News (that he later recanted) that reminded me of something else that Sullivan had posted before (that he also had to recant).

We’re all aware that everybody is looking for that one damning piece of evidence that will forever disgrace the newsworthiness of anything on Fox (and those same people would probably contend that it has already happened), but shouldn’t these guys look just a little bit dumber when something like this happens?  The idea that Fox is evaluated with such fervor while the rest of the news groups are essentially left to their own devices is evidence of one of two things: a) everybody else is just jealous due to Fox’s domination in the ratings department or b) Fox News haters, such as the President of the United States, think that the channel is just an arm of the Republican Party and it pisses them off that they are treated as a non-biased news organization.

It’s pretty obvious that most people who don’t work for MSNBC or CNN belong to category b).  It doesn’t bother me that these people hate Fox–I happen to loathe CNN myself (not because of any kind of bias, just because they happen to engage in horrendous reporting).  However, why do guys like Chait and Sullivan really hate Fox?  My suspicion is that they can’t stand the guys who make the most money for Fox–i.e. O’Reilly, Beck, and Hannity.  What I think people tend to forget, though, is that their shows aren’t news shows, they are just opinion shows which largely consist of the expression of the hosts’ and the hosts’ guests’ opinions.  I doubt these guys really have serious contempt for Shepard Smith or Bret Baier.

So why the nitpicking?  What drives people to this, I think, is the hope that they will once and for all catch Fox’s right-wing bias red-handed on something less trivial than substituting interesting footage for its boring alternative (with absolutely no consequence to the content), whether it’s changing the RNC Chairman’s words to make him seem less racist or derogatorily naming images that have the President in them.  And then maybe Fox will cease to be cable’s top news organization, and right-wing filth will quit being spread amongst the populace like the bubonic plague.  A question though:  do any of these guys actually watch Fox News?  I personally don’t–I couldn’t say on any level of solidarity whether their news was closer to that of the Drudge Report or that of The Huffington Post.  I know Beck is libertarian, Hannity is an unabashed Republican, and O’Reilly pretends to be an independent, but what does that say about their actual news?  Nothing.

Not that I would care even if they were biased in the Right’s favor.  The mantra “Fair and Balanced” is pretty stupid.  We all know that there is bias in media based on the views of the people creating that media, it will almost never be absent certain background information, and its importance will always be discerned by those running the particular show.  If Fox presents biased material, they should be criticized for it, just as the others should be criticized for their own biased material.  But people could spend their time discussing more useful things if they just accepted that Fox News wasn’t some grand conspiracy to get people to believe that right-wing talking points is news.  I know it seems like a good way to alienate a significant portion of the country from any policy debate, but if they’re so stupid, shouldn’t it be easy enough to do that anyway?

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