Sunday, June 14, 2009

On a non-science note

I'm having difficulty finding the time to complete a decent scientific blog posting recently so in the meantime I'll just pontificate on something else that piques my fancy: politics. Specifically, the media in American politics.

Its been obvious for some time now that many media types are 'in the bag' so to speak with the Democrats and Obama specifically. That is, they do not give critical coverage of the Obama administration as they did for the Bush administration. One could argue that Obama has a better media relations team, but how they achieved such positive coverage is irrelevant to me, that it has happened is undeniable.

Consider for example Obama's over-use of the teleprompter and the media's reaction (or lack thereof), especially when considering that Harper's reliance on the teleprompter was often mentioned in Canadian press. Or the media's reaction (or again, lack thereof) to the massive budget deficit and its implications. The failure of the media to seriously criticize Obama for the numerous vetting mistakes early on, to criticize Obama for not having a plan to deal with the Guantanamo Bay detainees after making a grand public show of 'closing' it, to criticize Obama for allowing the stimulus package to be porked up by Democrats in congress, to criticize Obama for calling America a 'muslim nation', to criticize Obama for making historically inaccurate comments, etc...

The media, in heavily criticizing the Bush administration, was doing its job. The media's job is not to parse through the news and determine what people 'need' to hear or to portray one politician or political group or another in a positive light. Fortunately in the western system there is some balance, while many news sources may have a bias they are 'balanced' by other news sources with an opposing tilt. While there are liberal columnists there are also conservative columnists. And with the internet you can easily find both sides to an argument if you are truly interested in finding them.

So for me, while I see the strong bias by MSNBC and others in favour of Obama as disturbing, I find it less so knowing that Fox is strongly biased against Obama. Balance (of a sorts) is acheived.

But there is one way in a free and democratic system that you can undermine an opposing media source. That is, you can try to shut down media sources with political leanings you dislike by accusing them of spreading hate and inciting violence. Naturally, if this is true, then there is a serious problem. But what if the accusations are overblown and exaggerated (as they almost always are)?

At first, I only saw it in passing in the comments of a few left-leaning columnists talking about how angry conservatives were about Obama's election. Or about how paranoid conservatives were, etc.. So I didn't pay it much attention. But recently, I've noticed a few articles specifically beginning a serious attack on Fox news as being a propagator or supporter of hatred and violence. The articles use two recent shootings, the killing of an abortion doctor and the shooting at the Holocaust museum to highlight what they feel is the conservative media's fueling of hate and violence.

The problem is that the arguments aren't true.

First off, the abortion doctor survived a previous attempt on his life in 1993. So while tragic, his death had been desired by extremists for a long time. Moreover, the killer had a mental illness. So his murder cannot be seen as a trend of anything.

Secondly, the man accused of shooting the guard at the Holocaust museum wasn't a 'right-wing' by any stretch of the imagination. For goodness' sakes, the guy believed that George W. Bush plotted 9-11. He was a white supremacist who belonged to the KKK and hated both left wing and right wingers (and according to O'Reilly, he hated Fox news as well).

I'm try not to judge people's mental capacity and I tend to assume that people are smart enough to not deceive themselves into believing a falsehood. But these facts are widely available and known and yet still the two columnists I linked to previously chose to try to frame the facts in a way to accuse Fox of instigating violence. The only reason I can see for such a deliberate misleading of their readers is to deligitimize Fox news entirely and perhaps eventually eliminate it as a news source.

Perhaps I would be more sympathetic to those columnists if they had been vocal about the manic Bush-hating expressed by many on the left. Some of which bordered on inciting violence on its own. After all, could you imagine anyone making a movie about the assassination of Obama while he is still alive and occupying the White House as they did for Bush?

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