Sunday, December 2, 2012

Along Came Fox

I used to know this intelligent and well-educated young lady (two or three years younger than I, which makes her young) who said she didn't pay attention to blogs, because they didn't have standards of accuracy and professionalism like the New York Times or CNN.  A few months later she was not only linking to blogs but posting memes like the one above to Facebook, and we know the high standards of accuracy and professionalism they have.  When I posted a link to the Onion's takedown of Michelle Obama's DNC speech, she sniffed that she doesn't find the Onion's so-called "humor" funny.  A couple of weeks later she linked to an Onion article that mocked the GOP candidates, commenting LOL! And as we all -- well, I, mainly -- know, typing LOL is a scientifically proven early sign of intellectual deterioration.

I agree that "we" should stop watching Fox News, if indeed "we" ever watched it.  But there is evidence that, even before Fox News was launched, people who rely on TV news are less informed about the world than those who relied on print media.  So one shouldn't stop with Fox News; one should also stop watching CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, and MSNBC.  "What's left?" my friend asked, an opening I hadn't anticipated.  "Democracy Now!" I replied, seriously but also facetiously, since I was naming a professional news source distinctly to the left of the corporate media.  I'm not sure my friend got it; I had to explain it to her.

She said that she was asking for something available on TV, not just on the Internet or radio, and here I was brought up against my own ignorance.  I thought that DN is available in some cable and satellite packages, but what do I know?  (P.S. It apparently airs on some public TV stations.)  I haven't watched TV with any regularity since the late 1960s.  My friend explained that she doesn't have a good radio at home, and her computer isn't up to displaying TV video adequately.  If it's not on TV it's not accessible to her, and aside from TV news she only has time to read the New York Times.  "It's a matter of priorities," she said.

Well, yes: if one's priority is to be systematically misinformed about the news, TV is the way to go.  I can't argue with that.  If one's priority is to be informed, one may have to rearrange one's news-seeking habits.  As I've said before, I don't have time to get misinformation from the corporate media.  But if one chooses to be misinformed about news, one is in a poor position to jeer at people who choose to be misinformed by a slightly different corporate flavor.

It occurred to me this morning that Fox occupies a valuable space in the liberal political universe.  Before it existed, there wasn't a major network dedicated to pushing far right-wing corporate ideology, and I think that left many liberals feeling like they were standing at the edge of the flat earth, teetering too, too near the abyss.  Rush Limbaugh was only one man; with all the fat jokes in the world he couldn't be the barrier to doom that they needed.  But then came Fox News, ready and downright eager to be the Not-Liberal Media.  (In the same way, the Westboro Baptist Church gives right-wing Christians someone to their right, someone they can deplore to make themselves seem more moderate and reasonable, if only to themselves.)  It was a godsend to CNN, which soon began to move to the right itself, using Fox as cover.  (We're not extreme!  Look at Fox News, way out there!  We're moderate!  The irony is that liberals use Fox News the same way: to establish their own moderation.)   Recall the study released a few months ago which found that Fox News listeners were the least well-informed about current events, and PBS listeners the best-informed.  LOL! crowed the PBS fans, We knew the yahoos who watch Fox are dumb!  But they failed (or chose) not to notice that while Fox fans correctly answered only 28 percent of the questions they were asked about the news, PBS fans answered only 38 percent correctly.  And that's not smart.  It's just not quite as dumb.

And let's not forget: if they stopped watching Fox News, Jon Stewart and his team would lose most of their material.