James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

  • Archives

  • October 2014
    S M T W T F S
    « Sep    
     1234
    567891011
    12131415161718
    19202122232425
    262728293031  
  • Categories

  • Subscribe

Posts Tagged ‘Fox News’

Conservative quackery and Santa Claus

Posted by James McPherson on December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone. I hope your appreciation of the season hasn’t been dampened by recent controversy involving those wildly popular but oft-misunderstood bearded guys.

No, I’m not talking about “Daddy Duck” Phil Robertson and the other guys of “reality” television’s “Duck Dynastyclan, as I see no need to join the discussion over whether clan leader Phil Robertson is a homophobic racist or just a committed Christian (other than to point out that those who claim that Robertson’s free speech rights are being violated are clueless about the First Amendment).

I’m more interested in the controversy involving those other bearded guys — Santa Claus and Jesus — whom a defensive and “very, very blonde” professional spokesmodel Megyn Kelly brought into Fox News’ annual weird, wacky, hypocritical and ultimately pointless (except to fire up viewers and drive up ratings) “war on the war on Christmas” by insisting that both were white guys.

Not surprisingly, Kelly was wrong about both Jesus and the inspiration for Santa. (Incidentally, Bill O’Reilly has now declared the war over, making himself the commanding general in a Christian victory, and the “war on Christmas” is just a subset of the equally ludicrous (at least in this country) “Christians are persecuted” meme, anyway.)

The “white Santa/white Jesus” discussion continued over several days (not much real news before the holidays, apparently), and I actually heard someone on television question whether we even know Santa’s gender. I’m not making that up, though I wasn’t in front of the TV and so don’t know who said it.

Thinking more about it though, it occurred to me that since I am all for gender equality, I should examine the evidence. I then posted my findings on Facebook, but thought I’d share them here, too:

  1. Santa is beloved, despite his obvious weight problem — in fact, people leave Claus milk and cookies, rather than leaving an obnoxious note saying, “Lose some weight, fatso!”
  2. Santa spends a lot of time in a “workshop,” and apparently has a thing for toys.
  3. Santa needs a Rudolph Guidance System to make it through the fog and finds every house — despite no record of having ever asked anyone for directions.
  4. Mommy was spotted kissing Santa Claus.
  5. Santa stays out all night on the night before a holiday.
  6. Claus apparently hasn’t had a wardrobe update for decades.
  7. Santa has been accused of being a “peeping Tom,” spying on people while they’re sleeping.
  8. Santa prefers to do things the hard way — i.e., going down the chimney rather than simply using the spare key hidden near the door.
  9. Santa postpones delivery of gifts until the last possible moment — and then frequently gives you something that someone who really knew you would never give.
  10. Many people write to Santa, but he never writes back.

I report; you decide.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Personal, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments »

Do you know what you’re investing in, and where?

Posted by James McPherson on July 11, 2012

The question above may be trickier than it looks, but since many right-wing media have decided that their readers are clueless about how investment funds work. Maybe they’re right–they’d know their audiences better than I do–but, regardless, the question in the headline seems worth asking today.

The Weekly Standard yesterday offered a post critical of Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who while in enemy territory on Sunday commented about Mitt Romney and the millions of dollars he has apparently stashed in banks in offshore accounts in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, “Americans need to ask themselves, why does an American businessman need a Swiss bank account and secretive investments like that?”

The Standard post notes, “But disclosure forms reveal that in 2010, Wasserman Schultz invested between $1,001-$15,000 in a 401k retirement fund run by Davis Financial Fund. As the fund discloses, it is invested in the Julius Baer Group Ltd. and the State Bank of India GDR Ltd., as well as other financial, insurance, bank institutions.” Predicatably, the post was then picked up by Fox News, Human EventsNewsmax, examiner.com, Twitchy, and their conservative acolytes. You can see mostly identical examples here, here, hereherehere, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here. (And no, I don’t expect anyone to go to all of the links; I simply wanted to partially demonstrate how far and fast ignorance can be repeated).

Some of the posts–like this one, which is actually kind of funny, if you overlook the inaccuracy–actually outrightly lie, saying that Wasserman Schultz “had her own Swiss bank account.” Keep in mind that I’m not defending the hypocracy or lying that run rampant in politics on both sides of the political aisle. But pretending that Wasserman Schultz’s foreign investments–and perhaps yours–are the moral equivalent of Romney’s is a major stretch. The two have almost nothing in common.

For one thing, the Congresswoman ISN’T RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. Even if she were, her investments were public (declared on her financial disclosure form), pretty small (less than $15,000) and occurred years ago. Any idea how much Romney still has stashed abroad today? Most importantly, the investments–which, again, were far different from “overseas accounts”–were made by the manager of her retirement fund, not directly by her. For an embarrassing example of why that matters, I’ll share a brief story:

A few years ago, using an IRS Form 990, one of my students found out that the Christian university where I work was unknowingly investing in Abercrombie & Fitch–a company popular with many college students, but not one most Christian institutions would choose to affiliate with. The investments were made by a financial manager, of course, and the student’s story led to a change in investment policy by the university’s board of trustees. In fact, chances are that if you have a retirement fund you have no idea which companies your money is supporting at any given moment. (For the record, my own retirement fund is set up to avoid certain industries, based on my own politics, but the many individual companies that get small pieces of my money vary widely and change with time.)

Oh, speaking of money: Americans paid record-low amounts of federal income taxes during Barack Obama’s first year as president. I wonder if the Weekly Substandard will get a conservative meme going about that.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Media literacy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

The daft and the spurious — another conservative conspiracy theory

Posted by James McPherson on June 21, 2012

One could spend all day trying to debunk just the conspiracy theories promoted on Fox News, and typically it’s not worth the trouble. Most people aren’t crazy enough to buy into the theories (and are too apathetic to pursue them, anyway). But one of the latest goofy theories on Fox News and elsewhere is apparently being promoted by an organization more powerful with legislators than Fox News — the National Rifle Association.

The claim comes from the current controversy over the truly stupid “Fast and Furious” program, which this week prompted House Republicans to recommend holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress (which means something different here than the “contempt of Congress” that most of us have). For its part, the Obama administration is maintaining that it has executive privilege to withhold some documents that House Republicans want. And frankly, I don’t care much about that — George W. Bush and Bill Clinton each successfully asserted executive privilege repeatedly (this is Obama’s first time), and this politically motivated attempt likely will go nowhere, and likely will hurt Republicans more than it hurts Obama.

But the NRA has latched onto a way to make the squabble into yet another way to bleed money from suckers while pressuring Congress to toe its any-gun-any-time line. In a letter to Congress, the organization supported the contempt citation — which, with the number of gutless folks eager to kiss the NRA’s brass, may actually prolong the inane process. It will still go nowhere, but will keep the issue alive for an extended period of time when Congress might instead be focusing on more important issues. And as a result, Obama gets to keep running against a partisan do-nothing Congress.

“Heightening the NRA’s concern — and requiring our involvement — is the White House’s use of this program to advance its gun control agenda,” the NRA letter states. Say what? What “gun control agenda”? It’s now easier to buy a gun in this country, and you can carry one in more places, causing destruction in more ways, than before Obama took office. In fact, Obama has been considerably weaker on the issue of gun control than Republicans Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, phony cowboy George W. Bush, or movie cowboy Ronald Reagan.

But Obama’s failure to try to take away our guns is simply a secret plot, say the NRA, Mitt Romney, and other loonies. He plans to start taking them after he’s re-elected. And while Obama’s re-election is likely, a thinking person might actually wonder … huh? Why would he wait? But if you actually followed that line of thought you’d foolishly be trying to apply reason.

For some of these folks, Obama’s lack of action — the fact that he’s done less to control guns than any president of our lifetimes — actually seems to be the evidence that he’s waiting to spring. They will not be deterred by something so basic as observable fact. The view of conspiracy theorists of all stripes might be well summarized by this paragraph (which is actually about media manipulation):

This manipulation is like one of those optical illusion pictures that you have to stare at until you suddenly see the image. Then, once you see it, you can see it every time you look for it, yet the person standing right next to you will insist there is no image in the picture – just like you did before you learned to see it. That’s what you need to do here: you need to start reading history – real history – until you start seeing how this works. Once you do and you start to see what they are doing to manipulate people and how their methods work, you will feel as though you have just been liberated. You will see it everywhere, and you’ll be right nearly every time. But I warn you, that sense of liberation will soon give way to a state of deep concern as you suddenly realize just how many of your friends are still denying the image in the picture. That’s when you come to understand just how much troublke [sic] we’re actually in.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

More evidence that watching Fox News or NASCAR may make you dumber

Posted by James McPherson on November 22, 2011

When it comes to knowledge of world affairs, “no news is better than Fox News,” according to a study by researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Sadly, that’s old news. Even sadder, as columnist Kathleen Parker (once considered a conservative, though now even Ronald Reagan wouldn’t qualify) has pointed out, the relative ignorance common to heavy watchers of Fox News is driving today’s Republican Party. Or, as Paul Begala has termed it, “the Stupid Party.”

I hesitate to paint with a brush so broad, though I have previously noted some activities by conservatives that seemed at least unenlightened. But presumably these are some of the same folks who actually booed the First Lady over the weekend at a NASCAR race (an action that the voice of the GOP, Rush Limbaugh, actually defended).

Think for a minute–as much as some people hated George W. Bush, can you imagine any of those folks openly and proudly insulting Laura Bush? In fact, to find such boorish behavior toward a First Lady you have to go all the way back to … Hillary Clinton. The worst example? Another Democratic First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson.

And when people are working as hard as the current crop of GOP candidates to look stupid, it’s difficult to conclude otherwise. Perhaps it’s simply a Wall Street plot to get Obama re-elected, despite all the reasons he shouldn’t be. See a couple of the more humorous recent examples–or at least they would be funny, if these weren’t people seeking to lead the free world–below.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Wall Street protests: It’s about time

Posted by James McPherson on October 12, 2011

OK, so Fox News, which likes Tea Party Protests as citizen activism so much that it falls all over itself to promote those protests, isn’t nearly as fond of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Considering Fox’s pro-big business, pro-Republican slant, that’s no surprise. (And naturally, being Fox, the story was placed next to one titled, “Feds Arrest Lone Wolf in ScarJo Nude Photo Probe.”) Besides, the protests aren’t getting as much attention as they should from other media, either.

Frankly, though I’ve made fun of Tea Party folks a time or two or three, I’ve also supported their efforts — while pointing out that the “party” is as unfocused as supposedly are the Wall Street protesters. But probably no meaningful protest starts with talking points. In fact, not only liberal media but even a Forbes writer, who might be expected to be pro-Wall Street and anti-protests, has pointed out that the protesters’ ideas are more cohesive than the intellectually lazy (or dishonest) folks at Fox and on conservative blogs would have you believe.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, I think public activism is generally a good thing even if it’s sometimes a bit messy. And the fact is, the Tea Party protests and the Wall Street protests are coming from the same place–frustration and anger among a populace that has been too often ignored by the powerful. I would point out that the “powerful” in this case include the media and corporatist Democrats.

No one can predict what, if anything, will happen as a result of the anger. But even if those in politics and the national media have failed to adequately notice, it’s been a long time coming. And as noted by the Los Angeles Times: “The only thing really surprising about the Occupy Wall Street movement is that it didn’t happen sooner. The United States has a long history of friction over policies that enable an elite to thrive at the expense of ordinary people.”

Next-day addition: Despite what the two groups have in common, it seems that Tea Partiers are less popular than the newcomers (though that may change–as one GOP candidate after another keeps proving, to know someone doesn’t necessarily mean to like them more). And the decreasingly relevant Tea Partiers. who should be seeking allies, seem to be saying “get off of my lawn.”

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »

Obama and Osama both make good career move

Posted by James McPherson on May 2, 2011

 In what virtually everyone other than Hamas and the Pakistani Talaban considers to be good news, Osama bin Laden is dead. Maybe even bin Laden would consider his death to be good news–or at least, according to a former CIA official, “a good career move.”

Barack Obama made the right call (and apparently a decisive one, for a change, drawing praise even from Rush Limbaugh), and now Obama and bin Laden will be connected forever. And not only in the too-hasty reaction of MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell, who apparently tweeted, “Obama shot and killed.” Oops. That’s another good reason for journalists to use last names, Norah.

Not that O’Donnell was the only journalist foiled by haste Sunday night. As I was scanning news websites after the first mentions on cable news that Obama was going to make an announcement relevant to bin Laden, the first source I saw to report bin Laden’s killing was Fox News. Unfortunately, Fox got the details of the story wrong–and stuck to the faulty story even an hour after CNN had it right.

This, from Fox News: “Usama bin Laden is dead, putting an end to the worldwide manhunt that began nearly a decade ago on Sept. 11, 2001. The architect of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil was killed a week ago inside Pakistan by a U.S. bomb.” Fox later corrected the story, though without an editor’s note saying that it had been changed.

Despite apparent DNA evidence, of course, conspiracy theorists are already claiming that either bin Laden wasn’t killed or that he died at another time and Obama just released the bin Laden information Sunday night for political reasons. Let’s look for a moment at the stupidity of such a claim, shall we?

If it were a political stunt, why would Obama make the announcement late on a Sunday, when reporters had to be called back in and when the story then wouldn’t be on the front pages of some West Coast versions of the New York Times or USA Today (including here in Spokane; I picked up both this morning)? Why wouldn’t he release it midday Monday or Tuesday, which any politician or political PR person knows are the best days for maximum news coverage?

And why would Obama chose to announced it on May 1 of an odd-numbered year (unless he wanted to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the announcement of Adolph Hitler’s death), rather than in the weeks just before an election? After all, bin Laden wasn’t going anywhere, and in late in campaigns is when we usually heard about bin Laden from the Bush administration.

No, the Obama administration chose to make the announcement when it had confirmed the information. Unless the decision to announce it when they did is merely reverse psychology, or a means of blunting wacky birther claims. Or maybe it’s just proof that the administration is politically inept, and therefore doesn’t deserve to be in power. Sigh.

We’re too far out from the next election for bin Laden’s death to guarantee victory for Obama. The state of the economy will matter far more. And, assuming they don’t get their act together, the continuing ineptitude of Republicans in identifying either a credible candidate or a coherent message likely will help Obama most of all.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dumb like a Fox: Olbermann suspended

Posted by James McPherson on November 5, 2010

Four days ago Keith Olbermann used his lead story (and Twitter) to criticize Jon Stewart for rally comments comparing the partisanship of MSNBC to that of Fox News. I agree that the comparison is inaccurate, but only slightly, and in fact have made similar comlaints myself–and for Olbermann to focus so much on that issue just looked like whining.

Today, Olbermann has been suspended indefinitely for … you guessed it … political activities–giving money to Democratic candidates who had been guests on his own show. He also used his show to heavily criticize the opponents of those whose campaigns he helped fund.

The amount of money involved is small. The principle is not. Because Fox News donates heavily to Republicans and has a stable full of Republicans on its staff, it cannot be considered a true “news” channel.

Fox folks apparently do what Olbermann did all the time. But in this case it’s Olbermann–not Stewart–who has helped confirm that MSNBC is in at least a dinghy version of the same boat.

Same-day follow-up: As reported by Think Progress, which has been providing regular updates, conservative William Kristol–who calls the suspension “ludicrous“–is among those coming to Olbermann’s defense. Odd to find Kristol and Olbermann on the same side, and me disagreeing with both of them.

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Juan gone: NPR, Fox and ‘news analysis’

Posted by James McPherson on October 21, 2010

National Public Radio has fired Juan Williams for making a remark that sounded too much like the only Jesse Jackson quote that conservatives like (well, maybe except this one).

I have mixed emotions about the firing, similar to those expressed by writers Glenn Greenwald and  Greg Sargent. But I also think it should never have come to this: NPR should have pushed Williams out long ago. After all, it’s not the first time he has been in trouble for comments on O’Reilly’s show.

Mostly, though, I’d have eased him out because I think his overall tone has changed over time to be more in line with Fox News/MSNBC-style “discussion” than with what his job was with NPR. After all, probably most people couldn’t name a regular commentator with NPR, while I think Williams likes being a celebrity.

Williams’ commentary in this case (and others) with Fox relied on personal feelings, rather than on political expertise. That made him inappropriate as a news commentator for NPR.

The Williams case also shows the difficulty of trying to be a rational and consistent commentator who works for markedly different audiences. One of my favorite conservatives, David Brooks, has the same problem.

By the way, I think CNN may have been trying to reclaim some NPR-style credibility with the firing of Rick Sanchez. But for the network that brought us Lou Dobbs and (via CNN Headline News) Glenn Beck and Nancy Grace, it’s probably too late.

Next day update: Williams defends his comments on Fox. His essay doesn’t change my mind, but it does illustrate some other key diversity-related problem similar to what I’ve discussed previously.

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Movin’ on up: Fox News gets front row, NPR biggest winner in White House musical chairs

Posted by James McPherson on August 2, 2010

From the “be careful what you ask for” file: Fox News got part of what it sought from the White House Correspondents’ Association, but not what it really wanted–and may actually be sorry for the shift.

Fox, along with NPR and Bloomberg News, wanted the front-row-middle seat in the White House briefing room, long occupied by retired-and-disgraced Helen Thomas. Instead, the Associated Press was shifted to that spot (a logical move) and Fox was moved up to the front row in the former AP spot.

Interestingly enough–despite the misplaced ego-based idea that “the real plum is being in the front row,” and despite the unwarranted happiness of some conservatives (examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) about the shift–Fox probably was better off before the shift; the new seating arrangement will make it easier for Major Garrett, the network’s White House correspondent, to be ignored.

Instead of in the middle, directly behind the very short Thomas (or now, an AP reporter), with the new seating chart Garrett will be in the second seat from the end in the front row–and Fox will have no basis for complaint, since it now has the seat long occupied by the Associated Press and between NBC and CBS.

And the big winner? Ironically, it’s NPR, which moves from near the outside of the third row up to Garrett’s old seat (right next to Bloomberg). That should cheer up the liberal groups who organized protests against the Fox bid to move forward.

The effect on the news of the changes? Sadly, nil.

Here’s the old seating chart; Fox and NPR each will move one row forward and two seats to the left, while AP moves two seats to the right.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 75 other followers