DISCLAIMER: I do not attempt to be polite or partisan in my articles, merely truthful. If you are a partisan and believe that the letter after the name of a politician is more important then their policies, I suggest that you stop reading and leave this site immediately--there is nothing here for you.

Modern American politics are corrupt, hyper-partisan, and gridlocked, yet the mainstream media has failed to cover this as anything but politics as usual. This blog allows me to post my views, analysis and criticisms which are too confrontational for posting in mainstream outlets.

I am your host, Josh Sager--a progressive activist, political writer and occupier--and I welcome you to SarcasticLiberal.blogspot.com

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Media / Fox News

When I refer to the media I am talking about mainstream press outlets both in print and A/V mediums. At the beginning of my commentary I need to clarify that I am not referring to Fox news when I refer to the news media. I have separated my commentary on the news media and Fox news because I don't believe that fox news is a news media outlet but rather a the PR wing of the Republican party.

The news media is a very important component to any healthy democracy, providing information to the population which is necessary for making informed decisions. The theory behind voting is that individuals take in information from their surroundings, parse it for relevant facts to their life, and then vote rationally in their own self interests. In order for voters to vote rationally, accurate information must reach them either through the media or through interpersonal contacts. As the mass news media is the most effective way to distribute information to the entire population, they have the huge responsibility to report the news accurately or they can lead people to act contrary to their own self interests. Since the invention of the printing press and until just recently, journalism in the mass media has been fueled by reporting the facts, and not caring for balance.  Unfortunately, more recently the mass media has been concerned with balance rather than accuracy of the facts. 

One recent disturbing trend in the mass news media has been that there has been a greater focus on balanced reporting than on reporting the truth. The media reports the talking points of both sides (Democrat and Republican) without actually looking at the supporting facts to see whether both sides are valid. When one side is simply truthful while the other side is false but the media reports both sides as valid is referred to as a false equivalency problem. One example of such balanced but nonfactual reporting is on the recent debt ceiling, where both sides are seen as arguing evenly. Democrats and Republicans are both saying threat the other side refuses to deal but the actual facts show that the Democrats will give the Republicans more than they originally asked for but still cannot get a deal. A balanced but non fact checked story is potentially damaging in that the public doesn't get the information necessary to assign credit or blame. I am uncertain as to the actual cause of the recent shift away from the facts but hope that it is simply a short term issue.

In the past political parties have been confined by the facts because the media would attack them if they stated something truly false. With the prevalence of balanced reporting in the current media, the right wing has constructed its own set of facts to fit their world view. An ideology which seems to be the bastard child of Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan has swept across the republicans and infected them with the belief in "voodoo economics". The trickle down economics theory has be so thoroughly debunked that politicians should see it as the economic equivalent to the Iraqi WMDs and stop using it to justify policy. In the No-Facts environment where balance rules, trickle down economic theory can still be used to give the rich tax breaks under false pretenses. If the media finally did its job and debunked failed policy we might actually be able to get some fiscal sanity and stop the regressive policies of the Republicans. There is no point to balance where only one party is bound by the facts and the other is using completely imaginary premise for their policy. A clown can say that the sky is neon pink but that does not mean that you put him next to a meteorologist and give them equal weight.

A secondary but much less significant issue in current media is that they inaccurately balance coverage towards extreme and interesting policy. Sarah Palin is strange and the political equivalent to a car wreck on the side of the road; nobody likes it and it is hard to look at, but people still slow down to watch disrupting the normal flow of traffic. The extreme right wing gets a disproportionately large amount of coverage compared to liberals because they are very loud and often clownish, thus drawing attention. The effect of the focus on the right wing is not only that they get more coverage than the left, but they are not fact checked and thus their delusions are displayed as fact.

Fox News

The first thing that you need to know about Fox News is that it is not a news station. Starting over a decade ago, Fox made a conscious choice to become the media wing of the Republican party and distribute propaganda. The difference between news and propaganda is that news must be based in fact and shouldn't be designed to support one side or the other. Fox not only makes up news to support Republicans, but also donated $1 million to the RGA and employs a majority of the 2012 Republican presidential contenders. How can a news outlet even pretend to be unbiased in the face of all of the evidence to the contrary? The rest of the media lets them. The bias towards the Republicans was actually the initial purpose of Fox news as explained by Nixon era memos between Nixon and Ailes. The memos detail the creation of a republican media outlet masquerading as a balanced news source. Tellingly, the proposed motto of the theoretical propaganda outlet in the memos is "fair and balanced". Fox news calling itself fair and balance is the media equivalent to the countries which refer to themselves a "The Democratic Republic of ____", where you can bet that the country is not even vaguely democratic.

The Sarcastic Liberal

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