Friday, August 16, 2013

Fox News v. MSNBC

So, Joe Scarborough sees no difference between MSNBC - his employer - and Fox News. According to him, they're basically both the same. To be honest, I'm not that surprised; he's hardly alone in that assessment. You'd be surprised how many people I run into who feel the same way. Over the last couple of years, a growing number of people have come to view MSNBC as the flip side of the same partisan coin.

In my opinion this was no accident. It was a deliberate and carefully orchestrated plan carried out by Roger Ailes to perfection. The plan? Brilliant in its simplicity.

First, create the narrative that everyone else in the business is in the tank for the opposition party. This allows you to present yourself not only as a logical alternative, but the only trusted authority out there. By indulging a market that's already paranoid to begin with, you slowly build an empire that is self perpetuating. A vast majority of Fox News viewers report that they seldom watch any other cable news channel and believe that Fox News is the only news channel that reports the facts accurately.

Second, throw as much mud as possible at the opposition party. So much so, that the other side has no alternative but to respond in kind. The resulting "food fight" will permit you to claim that all you're doing is defending your turf. You'll even be able to convince a few gullible souls that everyone does it. In hockey they call this the retaliatory penalty. The first infraction is missed by the referee, but when the opposing player turns and retaliates, he gets called for the penalty; or, just as bad, both players get called for penalties, which is kinda what the instigator was hoping for. Like the famous saying goes, a pox on both your houses.

A number of years ago, Jacob Weisberg wrote a piece in Newsweek, called "The O' Garbage Factor: Fox News Isn't Just Bad. It's Un-American." One passage perfectly encapsulates the real problem that Fox News has wrought on the industry. 

"That Rupert Murdoch may tilt the news rightward more for commercial than ideological reasons is beside the point. What matters is the way that Fox's model has invaded the bloodstream of the American media. By showing that ideologically distorted news can drive ratings, Ailes has provoked his rivals at CNN and MSNBC to develop a variety of populist and ideological takes on the news. In this way, Fox hasn't just corrupted its own coverage. Its example has made all of cable news unpleasant and unreliable."

And I would add it has had the "intended" consequence of leveling the playing field to such a degree that the average viewer can no longer separate the wheat from the chaff.

In a piece I wrote back in 2010, I said that "MSNBC is not the tit for Fox’s tat. You’re allowed to have a point of view and be passionate about it; you’re not allowed to make shit up." Unfortunately for the former, passion is often confused for propaganda.

As I said, brilliant.


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