Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Useful Idiots

You may have missed this, it may have been deliberately timed for a slow news weekend on a semi-national holiday (in that the markets were open Monday despite Columbus Day), but an interesting front was opened up by the Obama administration on Sunday: FOX News
The White House is now fighting a three-front war: Iraq, Afghanistan and Fox News.

I found myself in the middle of that conflict on Sunday when my interview with Anita Dunn aired on CNN's "Reliable Sources." Within hours the thing went viral; stories and video of the White House communications director's remarks spread to the Huffington Post, Daily Beast, Media Bistro, Politico, Mediaite, Hot Air and many other sites.

I had thought Dunn might try to smooth things over with the country's highest-rated cable news network, as guests often do in front of a television camera, but instead she was determined to ratchet things up: "The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. . . . Take their talking points and put them on the air. Take their opposition research and put them on the air, and that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is."

I'm going to ignore the sucking up aspect of Dunn's statement for a moment to take the narrow case with respect to FOX News.

It's no secret that FOX News takes its marching orders in large part from the Republican leadership, if not directly from the party itself.

"Party itself"...sounds so...Soviet...don't you think?

Kurtz goes on to point out that, indeed, MSNBC offers some refuge for the progressive wing of the country in the evening in its opinion round-up: Ed Schulz, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow make no attempt to hide their biases, but misses the point that the daytime coverage of the news on MSNBC is nothing but what FOX claims it is: fair and balanced.

FOX is, in effect, what Lenin used to call the far-left wing of America and the west: "Useful idiots".

I'd add Rush Limbaugh and all the other B-list opinionators who are either too scared or too insignificant to land a gig with FOX television (I mean, my God, Glenn Beck has a show on FOX!), but hasten to add that, in Rush's case, he's the most useful idiot the party has: one who thinks he's in charge!

So what Dunn describes is not only fair, but true: FOX is an organ for the right wing of this nation to hang their idiocies on.

Is that a bad thing?

No. It is true that FOX is the highest rated cable "news" network in the country, but there are many reasons for that, not least of which is the almost single-minded devotion its viewers have to being deluded.

They can't get enough crystal meth, I suppose, so FOX is the next best thing.

That other real "news" networks don't do as well doesn't mean that FOX is better or more informative or accurate. It just means it attracts a larger number of idiots, much like a bug zapper attracts dumb moths.

There's plenty of room on the cable spectrum to support both FOX News and MSNBC's progressive opinion makers (in their own right, useful idiots) and CNN's attempts to ride the middle as far as it can. We've entered an era where if you get your news from one source or one side, you really are playing the idiot, given the choices available to you. You deserve the pablum you get.

"News" has been redefined, in other words, not as the facts carefully compiled to relate a story, but as opposing opinions, often unfairly juxtaposed and imbalanced, and spoonfed to the waiting throngs of yes-people.

"News" has become infotainment, a smear of fact and a little truth, encased in a rich chocolate coating, sprinkled with sugar, then served in a plate of ice cream. Somewhere in their is some mental nutrition, but you'd be hard pressed to find it.

Like chocolate cake has milk, flour and eggs in it.

When the Today Show does twenty minutes with an Afghani widow, instead of Kate Gosselin, I'll start to believe in the news divisions of America's networks again.