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, 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 vital responsibility to report the news accurately - A responsibility that they must hold to, lest they can lead people to act contrary to their own self-interests. Unfortunately, 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.
A "false equivalency" is created when the media reports both sides of an argument, yet one side is purely truthful while the other side is entirely false. One example of such balanced but nonfactual reporting is that of the 2011 debt ceiling fight: Democrats and Republicans both claim that the other side refuses to deal, yet, in reality, 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.
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" and crushing austerity for the poor. "Trickle down" economic 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 benefit to balance (and numerous drawbacks) where only one party is bound by the facts, while 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 credence.
A secondary, but much less significant, issue in current media is that they inaccurately balance coverage towards extreme and interesting policy. For example, 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; this characteristic led Palin to get disproportionately larger coverage than a rational politician. 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.
When the focus on "balance" and the prioritizing of the extreme are combined, the effect is that, not only does the right wing get more coverage than the left, but their delusions are displayed as fact.
The first thing that you need to know about Fox News is that it is not a news network. Starting with its inception, 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 it has donated millions to the RGA and has employed innumerable Republican politicians as "commentators".
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. For reasons that are currently unknown, the rest of the news media insists upon treating Fox News as a legitimate news outlet.
The true purpose of Fox news was explained by Nixon era memos between Nixon and Ailes. These memos detail the creation of a republican media outlet masquerading as a balanced news source, in order to confuse the electorate. 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 a country which refer to itself as "The Democratic Republic of ____" - in general, you can bet that the country which has to include this phrase in its name is not even vaguely democratic.
The Sarcastic Liberal
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