Why We Don’t Believe Conservative Criticism of the News, Or Conservative News

Townhall has an article entitled Why We Don’t Believe You which gives the conservative case for not believing the news. No need to read it all. The real reason is not that the media makes mistakes from time to time, but that conservatives don’t believe those who don’t accept their fictitious world view. They include the so-called Reuter-gate affair in which a freelancer photographer was fired by Reuters for photoshopping photos. Biased report, and the photographer was fired–hardly an argument to never trust the news media.

While liberals are also critical of the mainstream media, there is a major difference. Liberals criticize the media because we want it to do a better job of getting out the truth. Conservatives attack the media in an attempt to prevent them from revealing the truth.

I’m speaking of the real news media here–not the fake news outlets used by the right wing noise machine to spread their propaganda. Pravda wannabees like Fox News are not news outlets. We could go on much longer as to why we don’t believe them. For starters I’ve reprinted some posts below the fold, including some of their slips showing whose side Fox is really on. As this is a topic I’ve written on numerous times, to keep this at a readable number of posts I limited this to previous posts at Light Up the Darkness from 2005.

Fox News Outed as Administration Surrogate

We knew it all along, but is Fox New’s real role starting to become common knowledge? Think Progress reports on an interesting exchange between Terry Moran of ABC News and White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. While they were using this as an example of White House stonewalling on the Plame case, I find another aspect far more interesting (and changed the portion which is bolded):

MORAN: … Fox News and other surrogates are essentially saying that the conversation lasted for two minutes and that the subject was ostensibly welfare reform. They’re getting that information from here, from Karl Rove.

MCCLELLAN: And, again, you’re asking questions that are related to news reports about an ongoing, continuing investigation. And you’ve had my response on that…

Fox Anchor Slips, Showing Identification With Republican Party

Media Matters for America has reported on a slip over at Fox News in which the interviewer confirmed what we already knew. Fox used the word “we” to indicate how they were on the same side as the Republicans–hardly a sign of being fair and balanced.
From the May 25 edition of Fox News Live:

ASMAN: You’re the chairman of the rules committee. Did Senator [Bill] Frist [R-TN] have the votes to end the filibuster?

LOTT: I believe that he did. It would have been very close. We would have probably gotten a 50-50 tie vote, with the vice president breaking the tie. Perhaps we’d have had 51 before it was over. I do think it’s a rule that should be in place because what the Democrats have been doing is not, you know, protecting a rule, they have been causing something different. The filibusters on a serial basis, federal judicial nominees to the appellate courts, was unprecedented for 214 years. So, to put that rule in place saying that it only takes 51 votes to confirm these judges was something I thought we should do. Remember now —

ASMAN: So, Senator, if we should have done it and if we had the votes to do it in the Senate — if you guys in the Republican Party did — then why did you need a compromise?

LOTT: Well, you know, I would argue that we probably should have gone forward with the vote, all things considered.

Fox Slips Again in Admitting Bias

Slate picked up another Fox slip, in this case from Scott Norvell, the London bureau chief for Fox News, as quoted in the European edition of the Wall Street Journal on May 20:

Even we at Fox News manage to get some lefties on the air occasionally, and often let them finish their sentences before we club them to death and feed the scraps to Karl Rove and Bill O’Reilly. And those who hate us can take solace in the fact that they aren’t subsidizing Bill’s bombast; we payers of the BBC license fee don’t enjoy that peace of mind.

Fox News is, after all, a private channel and our presenters are quite open about where they stand on particular stories. That’s our appeal. People watch us because they know what they are getting. The Beeb’s institutionalized leftism would be easier to tolerate if the corporation was a little more honest about it.

While on the topic of Fox’s bias, I noted something of interest recently in viewing the documentary Out Foxed. They showed how Fox uses biased text boxes on the bottom of the screen to influence viewer’s opinion and one example they had was of a Clark Flip Flop. It just shows that no matter who won the nomination, the right wing was ready to go with the flip flop charges, as they have in most recent elections. Sooner or later you would think the average voter would catch on to this tactic.

Republican Go-To Guys in the Media
8 February 2005

US News spills the beans on the conservative friends in the news media. Note how Luntz lists CNN along with Fox:

NBC’s Go-To Guy
While Fox News Channel remains the favorite network of Republican lawmakers, NBC’s new anchor, Brian Williams, is the one turning GOP heads. Message guru and former MSNBC contributor Frank Luntz says in a confidential memo to Hill leaders that Williams has emerged as the “go-to network anchor” because of his brains and “lack of detectable ideological bias.” Luntz credits NBC Executive Producer Steve Capus for “a flawless transition to a new generation of news anchor.” Still, Fox and CNN lead the nets when it comes to GOP loyalty.

Dean: Fox News is a propaganda outlet of the Republican Party

I’ve had some critical responses to some of Dean’s comments lately (here and here) but have always been willing to report on Dean’s more significant comments (most recently here). Here’s another comment from Dean where his outspoken nature works for us as he says something which has been said too little outside of the blogosphere:
Dean’s recent remarks drew a rebuke from Vice President Dick Cheney in an interview to be aired Monday on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes,” according to the Associated Press.

Cheney called Dean “over the top” and “not the kind of individual you want to have representing your political party,” according to the Associated Press.

Asked by a reporter Sunday to reply to Cheney’s criticisms, Dean said: “My view is that Fox News is a propaganda outlet of the Republican Party and that I don’t comment on Fox News.” The response drew applause from the room.

Personally I’ve Been Comparing Them to Pravda

Ted Turner knows about cable news:

Turner Compares Fox’s Popularity to Hitler

Ted Turner called Fox a propaganda tool of the Bush administration and indirectly compared Fox News Channel’s popularity to Adolf Hitler’s popular election to run Germany before World War II.

Turner made those fiery comments in his first address at the National Association for Television Programming Executives’ conference since he was ousted from Time Warner Inc. five years ago.

Suppression of Knowledge By the Right

The right wing is continuing on a number of fronts to suppress free speech, unbiased news, and scientific knowledge.

Evidence of Fox New’s bias is so strong that even Howard Kurtz, who is normally in bed with the right wing both ideologically and literally, had to acknowledge it. (Kurtz is married to Sharri Annis, who has worked as a Republican political operative and has written for the National Review and Wall Street Journal).

Kurtz discussed a report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism which found that:

In covering the Iraq war last year, 73 percent of the stories on Fox News included the opinions of the anchors and journalists reporting them, a new study says.

By contrast, 29 percent of the war reports on MSNBC and 2 percent of those on CNN included the journalists’ own views.

These findings — the figures were similar for coverage of other stories — “seem to challenge” Fox’s slogan of “we report, you decide,” says the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Kurtz also noted a quote in a Detroit News story last week regarding Fox’s bias:

Speaking of Fox, a Detroit News story last week called it “consciously biased” — without attribution — and quoted onetime Fox producer Dan Cooper as saying: “In the morning, everyone is told what today’s key issues are and how those issues are viewed by Fox News. The entire staff understands how the organization feels about them.”

Cooper subsequently denied making this statement but Detroit News editor Mark Silverman reviewed the reporters notes and found “we believe his story accurately portrayed what you said to him.”

Bob Edwards, former host of NPR’s Morning Edtion and now a host for XM Satellite Radio spoke on the media at Centre College in Kentucky. Reportedly Edwards warned that the United States is in a period like the McCarthy era of the 1950s, in which the government is stifling political dissent while the news media and the public fail to speak out in vigorous opposition. He alsosaid the “Bush administration holds reporters in contempt” and has become the “all-time champion of information control.”

The Washington Post also reviewed attempts by the religious right to prevent teaching of evolution. They note that “the growing trend has alarmed scientists and educators who consider it a masked effort to replace science with theology.” They quote Southern Baptist minister Terry Fox, pastor of the largest Southern Baptist church in the Midwest, as seeing this as part of the culture war of the religous right, believing that”If you can cause enough doubt on evolution, liberalism will die.”

Unfortunately, if these reactionaries get their way, not only will liberalism die, but so will modern civilization.

As If Fox Wasn’t Bad enough

We’ve talked about biased right wing media. We’ve talked about the right wing religious groups campaigning for Bush. Columbia Journalism Review ties the two together with a story of evangelical Christian groups forming an “alternative universe of faith-based news.”

This alternative universe contains many fake news outlets, such as USA Radio Network, described in this manner:

USA Radio Network, for example, ran pieces produced to sound like news stories, but with a single conservative perspective. One segment, based solely on an interview with the former CIA analyst Wayne Simmons, reported that Osama bin Laden spent years laying plans to destroy America, only to have them thwarted by a tough-talking Texan. “He never planned on running into a president with the strength, character, and conviction of George W. Bush,” Simmons said. “If George W. Bush wins the presidency, his fate — meaning Osama bin Laden’s fate — is sealed. If John Kerry wins, he’ll go back to business as usual because he knows he’ll have another administration in there where he did nothing and let them plan attacks on us.”

What Passes for News

John W. Baker has a column on Nuzak, which is to news what Muzak is to music, and warns about what passes for news. Here is a portion:

WPN is most commonly the product of zero-sum journalism. A partisan is interviewed and quoted. A partisan of the opposite persuasion is likewise interviewed and quoted. The reporter, having thus presented both sides, considers himself dispensed from fact-checking and analysis. The reader is left to decide the truth for herself as though it were merely a matter of opinion. But as the late Senator Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, not to their own facts.”

We saw an example of this kind of journalism during the last presidential campaign. Swift Boat-loads of lies were told about John Kerry and dutifully reported, “balanced” with denials from the Kerry campaign but often with very little fact-checking or analysis by the reporters. WPN became Nuzak when the accusations turned into headlines and 30-second commercials and the facts and denials were delayed or muffled. After a few days of steady drumbeat on cable news, polls revealed most people viewed the lies as accepted truth.

Nuzak in itself is nothing if not innocuous. Not so, the use to which it is being put by the White House, with the willing cooperation of its friends in the mainstream press. Together they convinced staggering numbers of Americans that Saddam had WMD, that he was in league with al-Qaeda, and that preemptive invasion of Iraq was necessary to prevent Saddam from delivering a mushroom cloud or bubonic plague to our shores. None of these things were true.

The White House has also exploited Nuzak since the invasion to convince the public that the situation in Iraq is steadily improving, when it is clear that the opposite is happening. The White House spin grabs the headlines and soundbites; the corrections and the full facts must wait until the next news cycle, where they are buried by more new spin. The steady drumbeat goes on. Mark Twain had it right: “A lie can travel half-way around the world while the truth is still putting his boots on.”

Behind The Scenes at Fox News
15 April 2005

New York Daily News exposes how those guests on right wing talk shows manage to stay on topic–they’re coached:

Fox News host: Repeat after me

If the conservative guests on Fox News’ “Hannity and Colmes” sound especially on-message, that’s because they’re being coached by the best:
Sean Hannity himself.
On the March 31 installment of the shouting-head show, the guests included two of the late Terri Schiavo’s former nurses, Trudy Capone and Carla Sauer Iyer, arguing that their patient wasn’t brain-dead.
Between commercials, according to an off-air audiotape obtained by investigative comedian Harry Shearer for last Sunday’s episode of his weekly radio program, “Le Show,” Hannity coached the women on exactly how to respond when liberal co-host Alan Colmes cross-examined them.
“Just say, ‘I’m here to tell what I saw,'” Hannity can be heard instructing his guests. “No matter what the question, ‘I’m here to tell you what I saw. I’m here to tell you what I saw.'”
Hannity adds helpfully: “Say, ‘I’m not going to be distracted by silliness.’ How’s that? Does that help you? Look into that camera. Look at me when I’m talking.”
On the air, Iyer performs beautifully. “I don’t have any opinions or judgments. I was there,” she declares
After the segment ends, Hannity gushes off the air to the nurses: “We got the points out. It’s hard, this isn’t easy. But you did great, both of you. Thank you, guys. Those nurses are powerful, aren’t they?”
On his radio show, Shearer injected: “Yeah, especially when they do what you tell ’em to do. Very powerful when they follow instructions from the host!”
A Fox News flack didn’t respond to Lowdown’s detailed message yesterday.

Read The News–Don’t Watch TV
11 March 2005

A study to be published in Mass Communications & Society showed distinct differences between people who received their news from television versus print media, again casting doubt about the conservative claims of a liberal media:

In contrast, heavy newspaper reading by liberals was related to lower levels of support for expanded police powers and for limits on privacy and freedom of information, basically reinforcing the differences between liberals and conservatives, says Dietram Scheufele, a journalism professor who conducted the study.

The lead investigator says “It wasn’t just a Fox News phenomenon. It was across all of the TV coverage.” The article specifically cites coverage on CNN and MSNBC to show it isn’t just a Fox News phenomenon. As CNN and MSNBC have moved considerably towards the right, this is no surprise. No information on this account how network news compared to cable news. That might be academic anyways, with the recent moves to the right by NBC and CBS.

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6 Comments

  1. 1
    Jose says:

    A very good article. I interviewed Dietram for our blog as well

    http://www.memetherapy.net/tag/dietram-scheufele

  2. 2
    moonbat says:

    Blah, blah, blah. You can replace all liberal blogs with this:

    http://blog.gleeson.us/avm/avm_sidebar

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    That link better fits the consrevative blogs which primarily repeat Republican talking points.

  4. 4
    Mick Stockinger says:

    So let me see if I understand

    1. Blatant attempts to manipulate public opinion with “fake” news is no reason not to trust the media.

    2. Conservative criticism of the media is disingenuous because conservatives are “bad” people.

    3. Media bias exists, but only at Fox News.

    Hmmm. Bigotry AND stupidity.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    Mick,

    Except that what you “understand” is totally different from what I am saying. I fail to see why conservatives always argue in this fashion and then think they have achieved some sort of victory by refuting the straw men they create while ignoring the real arguments presented against them.

    Sporatic attempts to fake news such as the Reuters case is reason to take everything with a grain of salt, but not sufficient to say that the media in general cannot be trusted. Reuters did act appropriately in dumping the person responsible.

    The objection to conservative media has nothing to do with a judgement as to whether they are bad people. It is based upon the fact that organs such as Fox News were established with the expressed intent to push a specific agenda. By definition this is bias. Such planned bias of an entire news agency is by far more dangerous than problems of individuals at other news sources where the entire news source is attempting to be objective.

    Bias exists beyond Fox News, but Fox is one of the most significant offenders since as their bias is institutionalized and directly coordinated with one political group.

  6. 6
    Marcus says:

    Kind of in context here..
    check out the vid of Keith Obermans evisceration of Rumsfeld and the administration

    It gave me chills oh hope

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnR6qDDVCSI

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