Tuesday, April 29, 2008

American Television Networks and the News: Impartial, Neutral, Nonpartisan, Dispassionate

How many people really believe that?

Let's take a look at one of yesterday's headlines:
"RNC demands networks yank McCain ad"
The Associated Press (April 28, 2008)

"MIAMI (AP) — The Republican National Committee demanded Monday that television networks stop running a television ad by the Democratic Party that falsely suggests John McCain wants a 100-year war in Iraq.

"The ad says President Bush has talked about staying in Iraq for 50 years, then plays a clip of McCain saying, 'Maybe 100. That'd be fine with me.' "

Wait a minute! That's a tiff over an advertisement, not news.

True. However, that ad isn't all that different from news coverage of McCain's 'well-known' willingness to fight a 100 year war in Iraq:
  • "Behind the Scenes: Watch for political fallout from pope's visit"
    CNN April 16, (2008.)
    "Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, appeals to many Catholics because he's pro-life and has a moderate stance on immigration. Yet his willingness to remain in Iraq for '100 years' is at odds with the church's opposition to the war."
  • "McCain, Iraq, And 100 Years"
    CBS News (April 29, 2008)
    "...And in 2008, McCain reversed course yet again, deciding that we should be prepared to leave troops in Iraq, even if it means 100 years or more."
    msnbc (April 8, 2008)
    "From NBC's Mark Murray
    "Once again, the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee are making it crystal clear that they will pounce on any kind of "100-year" iteration by Obama that they think distorts what the Arizona senator originally said. The latest example comes after Obama's appearance on TODAY this morning." 1
  • "McCain's '100 Year' Remark Hands Ammo to War Critics"
    ABC News (March 31, 2008)
    "... Back and forth it went until the man started to ask another question. 'President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years --'
    "Handing Ammo to War Critics
    "McCain interrupted with words that have haunted him ever since.
    "He said either "Maybe a 100," or "Make it 100.'
    "McCain continued: 'We've been in South Korea, we've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That'd be fine with me as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. Then it's fine with me. I would hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day.' "
    (Kudos to ABC, for including the context of McCain's remark.)
There's a range of opinion here, and I'm not going to make a claim like Hillary Clinton's "vast right-wing conspiracy" assertions (yes, she really said that, several times).

'Everyone Knows' Isn't Always True

However, I do think I see a preference for believing what 'everyone knows,' rather than going to the trouble of finding and reporting facts.

As the ABC News item indicates (almost), McCain's "100 year war" was a recognition that America will probably continue to be involved in international affairs for another century. He didn't point out, as I have, that America is still 'occupying' Germany, over a half-century after the end of WWII. Does that mean that America should have pulled out, after the D-Day disaster? 2

But, by virtue of hearing it over and over on the news, my guess is that quite a few Americans, politically active or not, really believe that McCain wants a 100-year war.

Previous posts on this general topic:
1 I can't make out whether this post is on either side. I get the impression that Mark Murray views the parties involved much as Mercutio viewed the Capulets and Montagues: after receiving a pointed response to his peacemaking efforts.

2 By some contemporary standards, D-Day was a disaster. An estimated 4,500 American and Allied soldiers were killed. Worse, there was an 'inexcusable' lack of record-keeping (or was it a cover-up?!) which makes an exact count impossible. To say nothing of the environmental impact!

I don't see it that way, but my attitudes aren't the same as many of the self-described best and brightest in today's America.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.


Ruinous Right said...

Not sure how you can cover this topic without including Fox News.

"'Everyone Knows' Isn't Always True. However..."

Spreading misinformation by starting a questionable statement with "Some people say..." and then pounding it into the ground is trademark strategy of Fox News. Unfortunately, many Americans who buy into this.

"Vast right-wing conspiracy"? I also doubt this, however there are those such as Rush Limbaugh who not only spew violent rhetoric, they also try and manipulate democracy by urging Republicans to cross party lines and vote.

Distortions and lies have come from both left and right, however I would say conservatives have a giant lead in this arena.

Brian H. Gill said...

Ruinous Right,

Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

I know that Fox News is roundly hated, loathed, and feared.

However, I must disagree with you: at the risk of being identified as a simple minded dupe.

Fox News is not politically correct. The network does not regard the United Nations as infallible. And, it has the unnerving habit of airing stories that CBS and The New York Times don't think are worth mentioning.

If that is "spreading misinformation," then I must not know the definition of the term "misinformation."

I do refer to Fox News from time to time, as a source. I also make use of The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, and Reuters, to name a few.

Oddly, the "misinformation" that appears on Fox News often shows up in local news media a few hours to a day or so before it appears on Fox.

I have the researcher's habit of double-checking facts. I have yet to find a case where Fox News either lied, or twisted the truth.

What I have found is that Fox News is willing to air stories which The New York Times and other traditional news media do not feel like printing.

Ruinous Right said...

All I'm saying is that if you are blogging about biased news reporting, you cannot leave out the #1 offender.

Fox News Channel's Republican agenda is so obvious. They constantly infuse opinion into their so-called 'fair and balanced' reporting and incorporate other methods for keeping Americans scared. If you cannot see it, then they must be telling you exactly what you want to hear. Check out the documentary 'Outfoxed' if you really care.

I know very well there are news sources that demonstrate far-left bias (The New York Times, Huffington Post, etc.) and I don't have a problem being honest and admitting that. I could care less had you sighted them in your post. I usually avoid them and gather news from various sources.

I respect your writing skills and blog because I can tell you are thorough and you don't seem to spend a lot of time spewing violent rhetoric like many other right-leaning blogs and conservative media. I'm sure I would agree with you on several posts including the most recent.

Brian H. Gill said...

Ruinous Right,

I compliment you on following a long-standing tradition.

"Fox News Channel's Republican agenda is so obvious. They constantly infuse opinion into their so-called 'fair and balanced' reporting and incorporate other methods for keeping Americans scared. If you cannot see it, then they must be telling you exactly what you want to hear. Check out the documentary 'Outfoxed' if you really care."

Your basic premise - that Fox News is dedicated to the furtherance of the Republican Party - is, to the best of my ability to discern, flawed.

Since I do not agree with you, you say "they must be telling you exactly what you want to hear." Also, "if you really care."

The first statement is a variation on the familiar 'if you don't agree with me, you're stupid' argument. It works, as long as those using it are in the majority, or have some sort of power over the person being confronted.

The second is an appeal both to intelligence, and to an appearance of involvement.

Both have long been in the playbook for those whose spiritual home is Berkeley or Amherst.

I've endured too many years on college campuses to respond in the expected manner to either appeal.

Perhaps I seem insensitive to the presumed bias of Fox News because I am not a liberal. Because my interior world is not infused with left-wing doctrines and assumptions, I am not as likely as some to see 'right-wing bias' or Republican tendencies in reporting which is not sympathetic to liberal causes.

I am not "for" Fox News, but I do not regard that news channel as a tool of the right wing, either. (I know: you stated that you doubt that Fox is part of a vast right-wing conspiracy. The lead sentence in this paragraph is not about you, it's about me.)

I do regard Fox News, CNN, and all the rest, as news services which all draw from the same ultimate source of information: the real world.

I'm aware that bias can exist. At this time, I do not see that happening in Fox News.

But, as a (former) researcher and historian, I try to keep an open mind.

Brian H. Gill said...

Ruinous Right,

One more thing. You (and others) may see that I removed a post left by you, about three minutes before your most recent one.

By the time I got to it, someone (I presume you) had removed its contents.

In order to tidy up the comments, and because there was not trace of information left, other than your byline, I removed the residual comment in its entirety.

Be assured, I do not remove comments simply because I do not agree with them. I have, from time to time, removed spam from my blogs, as well as simple abuse and obscene comments (some of the latter were also spam - but that's another topic).

I'm not posting exactly what my criteria are, since there's a possibility that someone out there will try to 'game' the comments - but I do have fairly liberal (in one sense of the word) guidelines for acceptable contents.

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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.