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 and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘fair and balanced’

Subjects of history and economics too taxing for tea party organizers

Posted by James McPherson on April 15, 2009

age-of-reason2Conservatives are waging “tea parties” today to protest Barack Obama’s economic policies. Protests are scheduled around the country for those who want to complain visibly about their taxes–or at least those few people who aren’t at work during the day and who aren’t frantically spending their day trying to actually file their taxes by midnight tonight.

Though of course I’m happy to see political protests–and to see them covered by the news media–to call today’s protests a “grassroots movement” is somewhat silly. After all, Fox News has been promoting them for weeks. Like other conservative organizations, Fox uses the “movement” to suggest that their side is “catching up” with liberals in their use of technology. And always mindful of the benefits of fear-mongering paranoia, Fox also warns of a potential “liberal backlash,” leading one story with this: “What would a party be without party poopers?” The story manages to get fictional ACORN threat in by the third paragraph. There’s “fair and balanced” for you.

Other ironies surrounding the event stem from the fact that conservatives typically benefit more from taxes than do liberals, the fact that untold numbers of today’s protests (including the one in my city) will be held at facilities paid for through taxes, and the fact that many of those who complain the loudest actually pay relatively little while many of those who pay the highest rates view doing so as patriotic. And speaking of patriots, journalist/blogger Jeremy Styron (who is not opposed to tweaking Fox News, himself) is among those who has pointed out the historical ignorance of many modern conservatives who keep using Thomas Paine as a model.

Paine believed that everyone had a right to free land (“socialism”?), and tended to be anti-religious. He also believed in a large inheritance taxes (what modern conservatives have managed to denegrate as “the death tax”), because he didn’t believe in royalty or pseudo-royalty like that created by unearned, handed-down wealth. Paine also favored various kinds of so-called “welfare,” including (but not limited to) public works, maternity benefits, free public elementary education, old-age pensions, and aid to poor people.

Speaking of conservatives who happen to be ignorant, Glenn Beck has even apparently turned his understanding of Paine into a stand-up comedy act. Beck calls himself a “poor-man’s Seinfeld,” which is pretty funny in itself considering he makes $10 million per year on his radio program alone–not counting his Fox salary. I’ve actually recognized that Beck was hilarious for some time, though I didn’t realize he was in on the joke. Unfortunately, neither do most of the people in his audience.

Beck and other conservatives who insist on referencing Paine should at least consult The Age of Reason. And maybe an online dictionary, so they’ll understand why so many other people have trouble keeping a straight face when they hear conservatives repeatedly using the phrase “tea bagging.”

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Posted in History, Journalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Don’t blame me: the photos came from Fox News (and other mixed messages)

Posted by James McPherson on September 5, 2008

To prove how Sarah Palin has been smeared by the media, Fox New was using the first pair of photos below as the main photo on its Web site for part of today. The photo at right is used with the linked story itself. And no, I didn’t enlarge them.

  

Maybe such behavior is to be expected from a site that boasts a regular section titled “Pop Tarts,” and which today also has a Britney Spears story (with photo) on the front page titled “Mom: Britney Spears Lost Virginity at Age 14.” Yet this is also the site hosted by the same network whose political commentators have been rightfully slamming the intense coverage of Sarah Palin, particularly as it pertains to her 17-year-old daughter.

Speaking of mixed messages (in addition to Cindy McCain wearing an outfit worth perhaps $300,000 while trying to drum up support from “middle America”) today John McCain and Palin start trying to convince voters that they are agents of “change,” despite how long McCain has been in office supporting almost everything promoted by George W. Bush (otherwise known as “the invisible man” of the campaign), and despite the fact that Palin’s socially conservative brand of politics seems to align even better with Bush’s politics.

It’s no wonder they want to run from the McCain/Bush record and campaign more like Barack Obama. Here are some other news items from the last couple of days:

“The U.S. jobless rate unexpectedly jumped in August to a nearly five-year high as employment fell for an eighth-straight month, raising the risk of recession as households face a struggling labor market and a high inflation rate.” (Wall Street Journal)

“The Bush administration has conducted an extensive spying operation on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, his staff and others in the Iraqi government, according to a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward. … The book also says that the U.S. troop ‘surge’ of 2007, in which President Bush sent nearly 30,000 additional U.S. combat forces and support troops to Iraq, was not the primary factor behind the steep drop in violence there during the past 16 months.” (Washington Post)

In short, despite the harping of McCain/Palin and Bill Oh-Really, Obama’s more nuanced critique of the surge is more correct that the McCain/Bush/Fox News view of it. Incredibly, unlike every other new organization I’ve seen (and I haven’t read the book myself), Fox reports Woodward as saying he “acknowledged the success of Bush’s surge of additional troops into Iraq in 2007,” adding, “Woodward notes that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama opposed the surge, while GOP presidential candidate John McCain was ‘advocating more troops for years.'” There’s an interesting “fair and balanced” analysis. 

In international news, “The United States and Libya sealed a historic turnaround after decades of terrorist killings, American retaliation, suspicions and insults with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s peacemaking visit Friday with Moammar Gadhafi, Libya’s mercurial strongman.” (New York Times) Thank God we don’t deal with terrorists. 

And in honor of Palin, this: “It’s the season for Alaskans to be rewarded just for living here and this year’s take is extra sweet: $3,269, a record share of the state’s oil wealth combined with a special cash payout to help with stratospheric energy prices.” (USA Today)

Sept. 10 update: Fox News found yet another reason to prominently display the same photo today. Apparently a stars-and-stripes bikini and a rifle are just too much for the network to resist.

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »