Monday, October 19, 2009

White House Reporting, John Ensign, Freedom and a Reality Check

This blog isn't political, as I've discussed before. (June 21, 2009, for starters)

In some circles "everybody" knows that FOXNews always lies about President Obama, and never covers any conservative scandals. I can see their point: FOXNews coverage wasn't as adulatory of the "change" president as traditional news networks. And FOXNews has the annoying habit of reporting news: even if it doesn't support White House policy or display President Obama's efforts in a favorable light.

Criticizing the President is Treason!

Well, no.

That's the way we work in America. It's a concept we call 'freedom.' Being allowed to criticize national leaders can result in awkward conversations - and the occasional criminal investigation.

Remember Watergate?

I remember the 'good old days,' when it was conservatives bitterly complaining about people who criticized The Government, and even The President. You could almost hear the capital letters as they uttered those two phrases. Quite a few of them seemed to think that criticizing government policies or elected officials bordered on treason.

Well, those were conservatives. And "everybody" knows what they're like.

This time "everybody" isn't all that wrong.

Some conservatives have a very narrow - and distorted - view of the world, and regard reminders of that objective reality which we all share as a sort of attack.

So do some liberals.

I suspect that tunnel-vision chauvinism is a trait you'd find in some supporters of almost any political or philosophical position.

That's more of an annoyance, than a problem, as long as people who see the world through an ideological kaleidoscope are few in number and far from major decision-making positions.

When they're in top federal offices, I get concerned.

As I wrote before, "In some circles 'everybody' knows that FOXNews always lies about President Obama...." When the "everybody" are people contributing to a discussion thread, or writing a blog, that's America's cultural background noise these days.

When they're on the White House staff, I get concerned.

Like it or not, the American president is in a critical decision-making position - and if he or his staff are breaking with reality, we've got trouble. Big time.

The White House Communications Director, FOXNews, and Fact Checking

"...'She [White House communications director Anita Dunn] criticized "FOX News Sunday" last week for fact-checking -- fact-checking -- an administration official,' [FOX News Sunday host Chris] Wallace said Sunday. 'They didn't say that our fact-checking was wrong. They just said that we had dared to fact-check.'

" 'Let's fact-check Anita Dunn, because last Sunday she said that Fox ignores Republican scandals, and she specifically mentioned the scandal involving Nevada senator John Ensign,' Wallace added. 'A number of Fox News shows have run stories about Senator Ensign. Anita Dunn's facts were just plain wrong.'..."
"Fact checker" is a term used in journalism. It's what you call a person who researches assertions made in non-fiction text: and who is supposed to point out assertions that can't be verified; or which are contrary to objective reality. To "fact check" is, presumably, the act of performing a fact checker's tasks.

I "fact-check" routinely: a habit from my college days, and before.

Since the host of a FOXNews show asserted that FOXNews had covered the John Ensign scandal (the latest one, anyway), I needed to see if FOXNews actually had published an article or two on the conservative senator.

Using Google, I found 816 hits for "John Ensign" - which doesn't prove much.

About "John Ensign" and Names in America

"John Ensign" is a fairly typical sort of name in America.

You may not know all that many "Ensign" families, but the surname is the 15,523th most-common surname of the 88,799 listed in a U.S. Census report.1

That's not as common as the top three names (Smith, Johnson, Williams); but much more common than family names like Kiliipaakaua, Billingsby, or Plavnik. As for "John," It's the second-most-common name for guys in America, just after "James," and before "Robert."

So some of those 816 "John Ensign" hits might be stories about a John Ensign who won a chess tournament in Boise, Idaho, or was elected mayor of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Quite a number of those Google hits, though, are about a "John Ensign" who is a senator - and who apparently should have known better.

FOXNews Coverage of Senator John Ensign's Scandal (That - According to the White House - Doesn't Exist)

I selected the first few Google hits, ignoring a page of links to videos, and a sort of 'where are they now' of politicians caught with their pants down.

John Ensign May be Innocent Until Proven Guilty - But His Current Scandal is Certainly on FOXNews

This is America, so a person is innocent until proven guilty. In courts, anyway. Just the same, Senator John Ensign seems to have cheated on his wife - systematically - and had his parents pay the bill for his extramarital jollies.

Admirable, in a way, keeping it 'in the family:' I get the idea that most Senators use public funds for that sort of thing.

Not that I approve of cheating on your spouse - even if you're a senator.

Finally, I noticed that FOXNews chose to put their articles about John Ensign - which the White House says don't exist - in the Politics section. That choice is open to criticism, since under the circumstances coverage of Senator Ensign's extramarital activities might have been categorized in some other way. Alternative placement might have been in the Health or Leisure sections.

Related posts: on news, assumptions, and points of view.
(added about 6:20 p.m. October 19, 2009): News and views:
1 "Frequently Occurring First Names and Surnames From the 1990 Census," U.S. Census Bureau. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. Data read May 22, 2007, verified October 19, 2009.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.