2007-10-26

Fox News is Propaganda

From the department of lies-will-set-you-free:
For the second straight day, Fox News stood virtually alone in advancing thinly supported speculation to raise fears that the wildfires ravaging California are not the result of a confluence of arid heat and high winds but were set deliberately by al Qaeda terrorists bent on destroying America.

Fox & Friends, the conservative cable channel, was panned Wednesday for breathlessly reporting a sketchy, four-year-old FBI memo as if it offered new information linking America's enemies in the "Global War on Terror" with a plot to burn down southern California.

The morning team was back at it Thursday, as anchor Alisyn Camerota introduced a segment on the fires that again mischaracterized and over-inflated warnings from a 2003 interview with an al Qaeda detainee.
I'm sick of this whole "war on terror" and the communists fictional "islamofascists" who threaten world peace by spreading communism a caliphate around the world.

Organisations like Fox reinforce the lie that Al Qaeda and Osama have almost mythical powers to attack and damage America freely. The reality is that they don't even control a single nation, let alone have amazing power to hurt America.

It's obvious now, six years later, that 9/11 was a complete fluke, a mixture of good planning and good luck by Osama and sleepy incompetence by America. Since then the US has not had a single terrorist attack within its border. Why? Because Osama and Al Qaeda cannot rely upon good luck and American incompetence any more.

There have been, of course, terrorist attacks elsewhere - Bali, Barcelona, London - but when you look at the history of terrorism since 1970 there has been nothing "special" going on. The IRA killed more people in Britain than unhappy Muslims ever did, and ETA killed more people in Spain over the years than the Islamic terrorists in Barcelona.

Fox, and other unworthy media channels, are promoting fear. Fear, of course, sells. If it wasn't for fear, people wouldn't have stopped immunising their kids and some kids would still be alive today. Irrational fear, based not upon factual information but upon impressions and falsehoods, is what leads to many wrongheaded actions. The Iraq war, for example, was waged because Americans feared that Iraq would give chemical, biological or nuclear weapons to terrorists who would then use them against America. Fear led America to invade Iraq, even though there was no real evidence WMDs existed, which is what has subsequently been found out.

The fact that fear sells is one of the problems with modern media. Since media is owned by profit-making corporations, the reporting of objective, truthful news is hardly going to be a priority. Fear is profit for the media.

This is yet another example of market failure. Steps need to be taken to punish news organisations for peddling lies and half-truths, and rewards need to be given to such organisations for objective, dispassionate and accurate reporting. The marketplace is not going to do this, so the government must step in.

6 comments:

BLBeamer said...

The marketplace is not going to do this, so the government must step in.

This is chilling, Neil. Think about what you are saying. Do you really want the government to be the arbiter as to what is truth or newsworthy? How's their record so far?

A much better solution is to do as much to encourage competition between news providers.

One Salient Oversight said...

How's their record so far?

A much better solution is to do
as much to encourage competition between news providers.


If you're referring to Pravda or Goebbels, then you're right.

If you're referring to PBS, the BBC and the Australian ABC, then you're wrong.

There is nothing wrong with the creation of an independent news organisation that is given the mandate to only report things factually, objectively and judiciously. This organisation can either be directly funded by the government, or it can be legislated by the government and funded by TV networks.

What you find "chilling" is the idea that the government can actually do things better than the free market. I'm not a communist because I certainly don't believe that the government can do all things better than the free market.

The problem is that too many people today assume that marketplace competition will inevitably produce the most efficient means of producing goods and services. That's bunkum. It depends upon the goods and services being produced. Moreover, such a belief is about as ideologically driven as the ideologues of communism who argued that the state can do it best all the time.

I created my own adage to communicate this idea: "Entertainment is a commodity, News is a right". I have no problem with the buying and selling of entertainment in the form of commercial television selling advertising space during popular TV shows. I do have a problem with corporations like Fox adjusting and changing the News in order to be the most popular news network so they can generate more revenue.

Lies and fear are more profitable than objectivity and truth when it comes to the market for news. This is a market failure. And if the market cannot do something efficiently, and if it can't be done efficiently by individuals, then the government, acting on behalf of the people, should provide it.

BLBeamer said...

What you find "chilling" is the idea that the government can actually do things better than the free market.

Really? You could tell that by my comment? Please read it again and pretend Fox News doesn't exist. Neil, I can tell you're passionate about your distaste for Fox News, but that's not what I meant at all.

What I meant was that anytime the government is in the business to tell us what truth is, or determines what is newsworthy, then the news becomes politicized. Certainly the risk of it becoming so is higher than if news providers are independent.

By "competition" in my statement I meant as many independent providers as possible. The more providers there are, the less chance there is that the truth will be buried.

The Nation is an old weekly news magazine in the US that has been in publication since the Civil War. Their entire editorial and reporting bias is so-called progressive, or leftist. They are in some ways the Fox News of the left, but few are as hard on Hillary Clinton's shady campaign fundraising.

I am perfectly willing to put up with a Fox News and The Nation, if it means others will be allowed to print the news unhindered.

Goebbels? Please! I invoke Godwin's law, so I win.

Ron Lankshear said...

If the Government (presumably George) was settting up a news organisation then wouldn't it be FOX?
Also there is already PBS etc but still there is FOX. Should FOX be banned? Do they get major revenue from being the service they are or are they what Rupert wants.

I watch quite a lot of Fox and I missed this bit about the wild fire causes. Was it a particular reporter. Geroldo?

I try to watch BBC but so often they have this boring news reporter (they were better when I lived there) OR they are in Advert mode - enormous gaps of nothing and then they repeat stuff already seen

CNN - I like the news ticker at bottom pick up a lot from that

SBS here is very good in their coverage of world events - they have their biases of course

SKY is also a good coverage and they have another USA news service

Bill O'Reilly is still one of the best comedy turns on TV - how does he get all those blonde Yes women

One Salient Oversight said...

What I meant was that anytime the government is in the business to tell us what truth is, or determines what is newsworthy, then the news becomes politicized. Certainly the risk of it becoming so is higher than if news providers are independent.

What you assume is that all because all government can be politicised, government's cannot be relied to present reliable news. That does not have to be the case. Government agencies can be immunised against political interference if the government itself creates those safeguards.

As I have pointed out, it is not Fox news that is the problem - it is the entire system of profit-making that arises from news reporting. Even if Fox news did not exist the problem would still be there.

The use of Goebbels was deliberate since it does actually fit into this argument, as does Pravda. History is replete with instances of the government controlling the press in order to disseminate propaganda in order to keep itself in power.

The problem is that corporations are so rich and powerful that they are also willing to manipulate and influence the press in order to keep themselves in power.

History has proved that publicly funded news channels like PBS, BBC and our ABC can provide accurate, unbiased news reporting and analysis. Moreover, it has done so at a higher standard than news services based upon the market.

Having a non-politicised government funded news service would be a challenge, but it is workable so long as safeguards are met. Safeguards are already being used to limit the power and influence of other government agencies (like the military and the judiciary). If one of these agencies becomes politicised, the solution is not to scrap it or privatise it, but to safeguard it more carefully.

Rewarding news services for objective, accurate and professional news reporting is not going to come from the marketplace.

BLBeamer said...

Having a non-politicised government funded news service would be a challenge, but it is workable so long as safeguards are met.

Your faith in the high ideals of any political body, when legislating something as important as the news, is charming but naive.

Why bother with the challenge? The American model of an unfettered press (bound by libel and slander laws and such) is more efficient and assures that the news gets out.

So what if an organization that reports stuff I don't like makes a profit?

I just don't see how that is a "market failure."