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Into the Liar's Den

Cross-posted at Plural Politics

So it wouldn't be a Dheeraj post if it weren't full off piss, vinegar, bravado and bluster. Let's just get that out of the way. Here's what I have to say about Senator Clinton's appearance on Fox: desperation is the least attractive quality in a candidate. There's more [...]

My good buddy Kevin Sullivan thinks it was a great idea. I could not disagree any more. Arguing against a straw man Netroots activist, Kevin says,

I think Hillary Clinton’s performance on The O’Reilly Factor last night should put to rest the whining and crying we’ve heard from a few marginal Leftists. These critics seem to believe that a Democrat’s face on Fox is tantamount to treason. But in truth, these appearances allow them to hone their message, hit their positions and reach out to the kind of voters that the Democratic nominee will need in places such as Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. It doesn’t appeal to the sensibilities of the Netroots, but the Netroots is indeed tiny, divided and often irrelevant. The loudest person in the room isn’t necessarily the wisest, and Senator Cinton did herself well with last night’s appearance.

He also then compares O'Reilly to Tim Russert.

I’ve defended Russert in the past, and I’ll continue to defend him for what he is. Leftists who complain that he relies too heavily on “gotcha” politics don’t understand the purpose of the Sunday morning shows; and they confuse these forums for outlets of high-minded journalism. Tim Russert isn’t trying to expand your mind, man! He isn’t trying to elevate the public discourse. Let the public elevate their own damn discourse.

What Russert does do is allow candidates a message box–he hits them with the same things you’d likely see in a direct mail piece in a close race. He allows them to test their blurbs and their canned responses, preparing them for the next 1,000 times they’re likely to hear those questions. It’s a symbiotic relationship–Russert gets to “gotcha” important people, and those important people get to inoculate themselves from those “gotchas.”

O’Reilly tried it on Hillary, and she responded masterfully.

Now, Kevin is a good buddy of mine, as I mentioned earlier, but there are some very glaring problems with his analysis here.

1. Going on Fox costs Hillary more voters than it gains her.

Let's assume for a minute that Fox is the preferred journalistic outlet for the white blue collar workers who delivered Reagan and the Republicans victory after victory. By this point, those voters have built into their political identity the behaviour of pulling a Republican ballot. Those who are going to vote Democratic by and large already do. She's not liable to pick up very many of these people by going on Fox to reach them in general, but given the crazy means by which Fox conducts their interviews, there's no guarantee that she and the Democratic platform are fairly represented to these people. (More on that later.) Moreover, because of the stance that the Democratic base has taken on Fox, it's going to cost her voters from an outraged base. They may not be that many people on their own, but they are the ones who stuff the letters, make the calls, knock on the doors and donate the money. They are the ones who exhort their colleagues to vote. THey are the ones at work whom their colleagues turn to in order to find out what's going on with that whole election craziness. For these people, it will be further proof that Hillary is not trying to grow the party or protect it in its current state, but is in fact trying to carve out a whole new coalition for herself.

This is going to bleed her dry from all but the most committed activists, especially considering that she went on O'Reilly, who is the symbol of all that's wrong with Fox.

2. Fox is not a legitimate journalistic outlet

My problems with Fox have very little to do with their editorial biases. Hey, even the crazies are entitled to their own media, like WingNut Daily. But let's not for a minute pretend that they're journalistic entities as we understand them. In most journalistic entities, there is a very firm division between news and editorial. Just look at The Wall St. Journal. If it weren't for the neanderthals they found to write their opinion section, one would have absolutely no idea that they actively promote Republicanism. Had Hillary sat with an interview with WSJ's DC Bureau Chief, no one would have a problem. The problem is because of what Fox is.

If you're ever so inclined, I advise that you watch Fox non-stop for one business day. You will find virtually no news reporting. All the content on that channel is personality driven or editorial. More than that, they're so sensationalist and biased that they make William Randolph Hearst look like a professor of political science. It's not as if she's walking into an environment in which they'll ask questions like, "Senator Clinton, what is your position on the Democratic base's view that we need more federal funding for public health options for African-Americans in rural areas?". She's walking into an environment in which the question is more likely going to be, "With all due respect, Senator CLinton, why are you running for the nomination of a far left, soft on terror, anti-white party who thinks that it's okay to take money out of the hard working taxpayer and use it to provide condoms to irresponsible welfare queens? When will the Democrats learn that it's not okay to rob Peter to pay Likwidesha?" There no possibility for her to unpack and refute all the nasty assumptions latent in that question on the show, and everyone knows it. Moreover, whatever answers she does give will be so ridiculously edited and manipulated that you'd swear that Fox had some resurrected DJ Screw to come back and do production for them.

It is important to understand that Fox does not engage in journalism as we understand it. They are not committed to truth-seeking nor are they committed to writing the first drafts of history. What they do is masquerade as journalists in order to spread their political message. Instead of thinking of them as an opinion magazine, think of them as one gigantic infomercial for the GOP.

So, now, the Russert comparison....Paul Waldman and I agree that Tim Russert is an embarrassment, but he's still a mostly objective journalist. He hits everyone with his brand of "gotchas" equally. More importantly, Russert is one journalist on one network, albeit, an important one, and not an integrated part of a communications strategy intended to suppress the Democratic vote. To compare Russert and O'Reilly in any meaningful sense is to make a category error. You cannot imagine that a sloppy journalist is the same thing as a paid spinmeister.

With any luck, Kevin will have something to say about this. Flame on.


See, if people would just die....

My impression:

See, national health care would help the terrorists because it'd keep people alive, and then the terrorists would have people to kill.

Man, someone at Fox should hire me.


Hope for the future of journalism

Thank you, Mika. Thank you.


Almost Honest.

Wow, Rupert Murdoch almost had a moment of honesty. Let's hope that never happens to Fox.

Spake the Muckraker:

"CNN is pretty consistently on the left, if you look at their choice of stories, what they play up. It's not what they say. It's what they highlight." (CNN, which is also owned by Time Warner, hotly disputes this charge.) Then he mumbles conspiratorially, "And if you look at our general news, do we put on things which favor the right rather than the left? I don't know." Has Murdoch just said what I think he said? Has he flirted with an admission that Fox News skews right? If so, he quickly backs away. "We don't think we do. We've always insisted we don't. I don't think we do. Aw, it's subjective. Neither side admits it."


Fair and Balanced history. They report, you decide.

Promoted to the front page because of awesomeness. -dx

UPDATETurns out, Faux News doesn't even engage in news reporting. Go figure.

If Fox News were to have reported on history...

For the love of God

Every time I hear something like this, it makes me really wonder what sense of megalomania other writers have. OH NOES UR CRITICIZIN ME HOW DARE U SOME1 SHOULD TAKE U 2 GTMO.



The Gospel According to Bill...

The Delayer brings it all home.

Thanks, Cunctator . -dx

Sometimes other people say things perfectly

Eugene Robinson is sort of the man.  And by "sort of," I mean "entirely. " -dx

Look What She's Wearing!

Since the mid-term elections last November, we’ve heard a lot about Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. We’ve heard about her fights with Ellen Tauscher and Jane Harman; her Armani suits, her hemlines, her pearl necklaces and her makeup; and we’ve heard about who she likes, who she doesn’t, and where her grudges lie. We’ve heard nearly everything about her except who she’s going to the prom with. And now, with her historic trip to Syria, we’re treated to endless debates about whether or not she should have worn a head scarf. If one didn’t know any better, he could reasonably assume that he was reading high school newspaper articles about the Mean Girl in Chief, rather than political coverage of the Speaker of The House.

How many political reporters know what brand and color of suits former Speaker Dennis Hastert wore? How many articles did we see about whether or not he wore too much jewelry, or his shirts were too clingy? Did anyone describe what kind of shoes Newt Gingrich wore, or which Congressmen he wouldn’t sit with at lunch? Do we know whom Tom Reynolds passed notes with in the Caucus Meetings? Why is this sort of thing considered hard news when it comes to Speaker Pelosi?

The picture we get from the reporting on Speaker Pelosi is not one of a strong-minded, politically savvy, grown-up leader who led her party from the minority to the majority. We’re not shown a leader who makes tough decisions about how to manage a fractious caucus that reflects the various viewpoints of America. Instead, we’re given a picture of a middle school girl stamping her feet, picking boys she likes and fighting with other middle school girls about who has the better shoes.

This kind of reporting on women leaders only serves to undercut their credibility. By focusing on trivial matters like clothing and makeup, it prevents us from taking their ideas and actions seriously. It also reinforces the bankrupt idea that the most salient feature of a woman is her appearance. When every mention of a woman’s ideas is buttressed by coverage of her clothing and looks, we reinforce the idea that the primary purpose of a woman is to be looked at, and then afterwards, we listen to her. In fact, given the kind of reporting we’ve seen on Speaker Pelosi, one could very well walk away with the idea that a female leader’s choices of Armani are more important than her choices of legislation.

No one expects reporters to use their voices to support the Speaker’s agenda, but it would be nice to see reporters treat her as the Speaker of The House, and not a movie starlet. Perhaps we can see more stories about why Speaker Pelosi had to go to Syria, and fewer stories about whether or not her headscarf matched her heels.