Saturday, November 5, 2016

Fox News: Bias, Distortion, and Untruths. What, Me Worry?

 Fox News anchor Bret Baier apologized for reporting that federal investigators had determined that Hillary Clinton’s private email server had been hacked and that an investigation would lead to an indictment of Clinton after the election.
In fact, Baier said, after checking with his sources, there is no evidence at this time for either statement.

Baier said he relied on a single anonymous source within the FBI for his report about an alleged hack of the server: “I was quoting from one source about his certainty that the server had been hacked by five foreign intelligence agencies. . . . As of today there still are no digital fingerprints of a breach, no matter what the working assumption is within the bureau.”

No problem? A mistake and an apology? It seems harmless enough.

To the contrary ...

Since the founding of Fox News in 1996, it has been a biased tool of the Republican party. Most of us realize this predisposition and question its prejudice. That given, the most disturbing feature of the network is this: Not only does Fox slant the news, but it operates more like a populist, tabloid source than a credible conservative news network. 

Most problematic, it seems viewers of the network cannot readily distinguish between fact, opinion, and outright incorrect reporting such as the Baier email coverage. And, almost all of the time, faithful Fox viewers accept every report as gospel.

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism completed a study of content of the leading cable-news providers and found Fox News was 55 percent commentary and opinion and 45 percent factual reporting. In addition, the finding doesn’t mean that the network’s coverage, in total, is impartial because the study did not take into account the biased topic or tone of the coverage or the story selection. Even Bill O'Reilly, long time Fox political commentator, agreed with the Pew assessment.

Fox has a long history of faux pas and denigrating commentary.

Fox reporter Glenn Beck, afternoon host, stated in 2009 that he believed President Obama was “a racist” and had “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

(Chris Ariens. “Glenn Beck's 'Racist' Comment Sends Advertisers Elsewhere.” TVNewser. July 28, 2009.)

Fox political contributor Liz Trotta stated this about the presidential election on May 25, 2008:

"And now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama, uh Obama. Well, both, if we could."

She then laughed. She apologized for the remark on-air on Fox News the next day, saying, "I am so sorry about what happened yesterday and the lame attempt at humor."

(Michael Calderone. “Fox analyst apologizes for Obama assassination joke. Politico. May 26, 2008.)

Rupert Murdoch, Australian-born mogul, is the chairman and CEO of 21st Century Fox, the owner of Fox News Channel. He has been a subject of controversy and criticism as a result of his substantial influence in both the print and broadcast media. Accusations against Murdoch include the "dumbing down" of news, introducing "mindless vulgarity" in place of genuine journalism, and having his own outlets produce news that serve his own political and financial agendas.

(Judd Legum and Christy Harvey. “Who Is Rupert Murdoch?” Center for American Progress. July 16, 2004.)

Then there is Fox‘s founder and CEO, Roger Ailes. He resigned in July 2016 over sexual harassment allegations. On September 6, 2016, 21st Century Fox announced it had settled a lawsuit with Carlson over her allegations of harassment against Ailes; someone briefed on the settlement said it was for $20 million. Fox was also reported to have made separate settlements with at least two other women who made complaints about Ailes.

(Michael M. Grynbaum. “Fox Settles With Grethcen Carlson Over Roger Ailes Sex Harassment Claims.” The New York Times. September 06, 2016.)

Ailes had also been a media consultant for Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush as well as for Rudy Giuliani's first mayoral campaign.

Ailes is credited with the "Orchestra Pit Theory" regarding sensationalist political coverage in the news media, which originated with his quip:
"If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, 'I have a solution to the Middle East problem,' and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?"
This theory aptly describes his own Fox News coverage. Ailes manipulated the media network to cover what sells instead of what was factually important. Whether the issue is beneficial or detrimental, this brand of media covers whatever most catches the eye. Why worry about authenticity when yellow journalism pays the bills?
Ailes is also said to have once referred to Jewish critics of his as "left-wing rabbis."And, in 2011, Ailes was criticized for referring to executives of the public radio network NPR as “Nazis” for firing a news analyst, Juan Williams, after Williams had made remarks considered by NPR to be offensive.
Ailes apologized to a Jewish group, but not to NPR, for using the expression, writing to the Anti-Defamation League: "I was of course ad-libbing and should not have chosen that word, but I was angry at the time because of NPR's willingness to censor Juan Williams for not being liberal enough.... My now considered opinion 'nasty, inflexible bigot' would have worked better."
(Howard Kurtz. “Fox News Chief Blasts NPR 'Nazis.'” The Daily Beast. November 17, 2010.)
All of this deceit makes no matter to the Fox News faithful. Whether Fox reports false beliefs about the invasion of Iraq, President Obama’s citizenship, or Hillary Clinton's emails, the right-leaning sheep accept the reports without question as they routinely use the slant to bolster personal prejudices and steadfastly refuse to seek unbiased sources. Instead of questioning and seeking the truth, Fox devotees simply load another round of opinionated accusations into their attack mentality to be used as sacred ammunition against “libtards” and “pussy liberals.”
Today, so many people listen to the news they want to hear, not the news free of editorial bias. It is a stretch to call a network that presents 55 percent commentary and opinion a “reliable” source of information. Of course, if you like less than 50-50 odds of accuracy, you don't care about the truth, only about the slant. Open wide, voracious, assumptive consumers … the junk-food of news networks is primed to satiate your appetite.
“Today, reports of the day’s events are conveyed to the viewing public by way of alternate universes, The Fox News cable channel conveys its version of reality, while at the other end of the ideological spectrum MSNBC presents its version. They and their many counterparts on radio are more the result of an economic dynamic than a political one.
“Dispatching journalists into the field to gather information costs money; hiring a glib bloviator is relatively cheap, and inviting opinionated guests to vent on the air is entirely cost-free. It wouldn’t work if it weren’t popular, and audiences, it turns out, are endlessly absorbed by hearing amplified echoes of their own biases. It’s divisive and damaging to the healthy functioning of our political system, but it’s also indisputably inexpensive and, therefore, good business.”
--Ted Koppel, award-winning broadcast journalist.

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