Another excerpt from “Assholes: A Theory” by Aaron James is up at Alternet. It discusses the role of Fox News in warping our national discussion on policy. Study-after-study has shown that Fox News watchers actually know less than people that pay no attention to news.
A study conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey, found that the average American was able to correctly answer 1.8 out of four questions on international news and 1.6 out of five on domestic.
Fox News followers however only answered 1.04 domestic questions correctly, which is worse than those who said they watched no media at all – which stood at 1.22.
“These differences may be small, but even small differences are important when we’re talking about millions of people,” said Dan Cassino, political scientist and poll analyst. “We expect that watching the news should help people learn, but the most popular of the national media sources – Fox, CNN, MSNBC – seem to be the least informative.”
Fox’s business model is not to inform but to muddy the conversation via traditional propaganda methodology. The use of personalities that spew ideology is just one way that Fox dumbs down the nation and–in James’ words--creates “a New Culture of Idiots”. Here’s a telling analysis of Neil Cavuto in exchange with Ron Blackwell using moves that James says is classical asshole behavior. It is also a power move that prevents real information from getting to the Cavuto audience.
Cavuto fully grasps the difference between job creation and net job creation, and he knew full well what point Blackwell was making. He therefore cannot be classified as a mere “ass,” with the suggestion of donkeylike stubbornness of mind combined with obliviousness to basic concepts or the social situation. Cavuto in fact staged a ploy: a dodge. He shifted attention away from the point made to the qualifications of the person making it in order to score dialectical points with the audience.
This is at the very least an asshole move. One often can permissibly shift attention in a conversation, but here it is at best unclearly justified. Interrupting Blackwell several times and then accusing him of not answering his question does not count as even half-cooperative discourse, not even by the low standards of American politics. Even that would not have been so bad if Cavuto had meant to initiate something like a meta- conversation between the two speakers, a conversation in which Blackwell could have later complimented the tactic of diversion with a “touché!” or “well played, sir.” Cavuto betrays no hint of metacooperation. He simply feels entitled not to wait his conversational turn. He does not have to actually listen to an opposing perspective, even from the person he is talking to. Cavuto could perhaps argue that the host must exert heavy control over the terms of debate, because polite terms will not do. Or maybe he feels justified in his bullying as long as he is scoring points in a kind of televised game show, with influence, profit, and fun as his justly deserved reward. Either rationale could constitute a sense of entitlement — something like the right to rule, or at least to shut the opposition out, while taking the moral high ground.
Cavuto and other FOX personalities are not interested in the news, a conversation about policy, or presenting alternative viewpoints. They are only interested in bloviating whatever thoughts–no matter how misguided or wrong–float about in their minds. Bill O’Reilly is another prime example of an asshole that isn’t the least bit interested in news, facts, or true discussion. He frequently turns the mic off when his victims refuse to bow to his views. James shows how all Fox personalities–even those responsible for just doing the news– have the same basic approach.
It is not just Fox News commentators but Fox News itself that has the appropriate, in-your-face, I’m-entitled-to-do-this,especially-because-you-dislike-it vibe. Which should not be surprising from a tightly controlled outfit in which everything flows from a single source, chairman Roger Ailes. Ailes has personal flaws that do not necessarily make one an asshole but that clearly shape the coverage, including his paranoia and his extreme politics. We find more telling evidence by considering the man in a happy moment, a victory lap. In an event celebrating Fox News’s success, Ailes said of the competing networks’ talent, as though sharing in the agony of their defeat: “Shows, stars, I mean it’s sad, you know? . . . I called and asked them all to move to the second floor wherever they were working. Because when they jump, I don’t want it to hurt.” By which he meant that he wouldn’t mind at all if his competitors not only lost the contest but felt humiliated enough to kill themselves. He meant of course to gloat but also to show his contempt. He meant to broadcast his contempt and to have a laugh about his being in a position to advertise it.
Roger Ailes–who just signed a new contract with Fox–is probably most responsible for the zombie cable news station.
He has made clear in past interviews that he believes the country is at a crossroads. Whether we’re looking at a second Obama term or a Romney administration, Ailes wants to be engaged as head of a news organization whose commentators reflect his aggressively political views. Various Republican presidential contenders, including Mitt Romney, felt the need to meet with Ailes during the primaries, and a couple of them—Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum—had been on his payroll.
Ailes has made Fox News a propaganda arm of the Republican Party. He sees that all Republican candidates are treated with kids gloves and lets his hosts put up all kinds of lies and misstatements–no matter how egregious–just because of his ideological agenda. The deal is that lots of sheeple watch the station and listen to the lies. Hence, the results of the studies. Fox Watchers are basic no-nothings. Fox executives make a lot of money on all levels of the marketing scheme.
The notion that Mr. Ailes might decide to retire has intrigued many media observers this year, especially after he hinted that he might not stay at Fox News. Mr. Ailes is widely credited with the financial and cultural success of Fox News, the highest-rated cable news channel and a megaphone for conservative commentators like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. The channel now rivals the broadcast networks during some big news events, like thepresidential debates this month.
The terms of the new contract were not released. Mr. Ailes is already one of the highest-paid executives in television; he has received a base salary of $5 million and a bonus of $1.5 million a year for several years, as well as millions in compensation based on the financial performance of Fox News, according to public filings by News Corporation.
In the fiscal year that ended in June, for instance, Mr. Ailes received $9 million, paid in cash rather than stock, as a reward for Fox’s record earnings. Furthermore, he received $4 million in stock awards tied to the performance of Fox Business. His total compensation for the fiscal year was $21 million, making him the third-highest-paid executive at the News Corporation, behind the chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, who made $30 million, and Chase Carey, the chief operating officer, who made nearly $25 million.
Here’s a recent example of Fox lies and distortions from Steve Benen at Maddow Blog. There’s been plenty of them during this election cycle.
This visual actually aired, without a hint of irony or shame, on Fox News today, as if it presented accurate, legitimate information to its audience. Media Matters’ Zachary Pleat called it “dishonest,” but really, that’s being overly generous. I’m more inclined to say Fox News is deliberately deceiving its viewers, assuming they won’t know the difference.
There are two main elements to this. The first is the notion that the “real” unemployment rate nearly doubled on President Obama’s watch. To arrive at this figure, Fox News began with the standard U-3 unemployment rate from January 2009, and then compared it to August 2012 U-6 unemployment rate, which includes part-time workers who want to work full-time and those who’ve given up.
The only reason to equate a U-3 rate and a U-6 rate at the same time — a classic apples to oranges comparison — is to wildly mislead people. It’s about as honest as saying a team that scored two touchdowns loses to a team that scored three field goals, because three is greater than two, and when you weren’t looking, we decided to count by how many times each team scores.
The truth, for anyone who’s interested, isn’t hard to find.
Fox News is the perfect example of a set of people that can’t win an argument based on merit, facts, or logic. I actually believe that this sort’ve warped reality is what’s brought us the candidacy and campaign of Mitt Romney who appears to be able to say absolutely anything to anybody based on his current audience and needs. He knows that he’s got an entire media empire behind him that basically does the same thing. We’ve had everything from Moderate Mitt to Severely Conservative Mitt and it appears to me that the Fox Nation has been so numbed by the cable station’s ability to lie and deceive, that can’t tell one Mitt from the other and they don’t know enough to discern the lies. Fact-checking is anathema to Fox and the Romney Campaign. They’re partners in deception and the resulting assholes and idiots are set lose on the country. We now live with Fox Zombies. Watch this Youtube. It’s an interview with Romney supporters at an Ohio Romney rally. This is the FOX Nation of zombies. BE very afraid.