Here’s my latest for Nailed Magazine. Taking on Fox News is kind of like kicking a dead horse and hurting your toes, but when al-Assad went to them exclusively I knew there was a reason for it.
The Punch Line
Syrian President al-Assad went to Fox News and told them that he is committed to a plan to destroy his chemical weapons within a year’s time.
Holy shit. I really cannot believe that people outside of the United States see Fox News as a viable, credible place to announce any type of news. I just assumed that everyone, including leaders of nations, knew that Fox News was a joke.
President Obama, the most powerful leader of the most powerful nation in the world, has openly stated that he plans to launch a volley of Tomahawk missiles into Syria. Missiles that have a range of 1,000 miles, and travel over 500 miles per hour until they smash through the front door, window, or ventilation shaft of whatever building they’re aimed at. The accuracy of this missile is a miracle of modern science, and it carries almost a half ton of high explosive ordinance. In response, al-Assad goes to Fox News. Why?
One of the leading stories this week on the Fox News website is how Grand Valley State University was forced to remove a wrecking ball because of the new Miley Cyrus video. As if her twerking wasn’t enough, now she’s making our country unsafe by corrupting young minds and forcing us to remove public art. Their news “sources” on this story were anonymous tweets and a YouTube video of a young naked male student swinging on the pendulum sculpture.
You’re right. It’s easy to pick on their journalistic integrity over an entertainment story, so let’s look at an op-ed written just a few weeks ago by a Fox News Insider (notice they’re not called reporters). Dr. McCaughey in the New York Post (notice the New York Times isn’t running this) argues that the Affordable Care Act championed by President Obama will cause medical doctors to ask every single patient about their sexual practices and preferences. That’s right, if you go and even get a flu shot, then you’re going to have to spread it around that you’re gay, or a slut, or you’re just not cool enough to find anyone to sleep with you.
Instead of building credibility by citing any of the language of the actual law, asking an expert who has read the law to speak on it, or even coming up with a solid argument, this opinion piece hits one Greek Fallacy after another. The Straw Man Fallacy: she attacks an exaggerated version of the ACA to try to win people to her side of an illogical argument. Argumentum ad Hominem: she attacks the President and says he is coercing doctors to become government agents and he is forcing each of them “to violate their Hippocratic Oath.” Even the quotes she uses from experts look out of context. She writes that Dr. Richard Amerling, a nephrologist and associate professor at Albert Einstein Medical College, says that your medical records should be “a story created by you and your doctor solely for your treatment and benefit.” No one is arguing this fact. The ACA isn’t arguing this fact. Unless she found some proof she’s not listing. I can just as easily say about Dr. McCaughey and Fox News that Joseph Pulitzer said: “Money is the great power today. Men sell their souls for it. Women sell their bodies for it. Others worship it. The money power has grown so great that the issue of all issues is whether the corporation shall rule this country or the country shall again rule the corporations.”
By the way, Dr. Betsy isn’t a medical doctor. Her PhD is in History from Columbia University, but she spent most of the first decade of this century in the medical field as a member of the boards of directors of Genta, a medical supply corporation that focuses on products for cancer treatment, and Cantel Medical Corporation, a company that produces and sells medical equipment. I wonder if both of these companies are set to lose a lot of money when the Affordable Care Act takes effect.
Dr. Betsy is only one of the characters that has it so wrong on Fox News. Look at Bill O’Reilly. When an atheist being interviewed on his show came up with a stellar argument on how he knows God exists, Mr. O’Reilly said, “Tide goes in, tide goes out, never a miscommunication, you can’t explain that. You can’t explain why the tide goes in.” He either chose to ignore, or just forgot about the science that most of us learned in grade school. Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Geraldo Rivera — these aren’t journalists, they’re personalities — personalities who are there to sell airtime and make money.
Poll after poll tells us that Fox News has the most uninformed viewers. The people who watch Fox News are the furthest away from reality. Researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University conducted a study saying that people who watched no news at all had a better idea of what was going on in the world than those who only watched Fox News. Forbes magazine, a Gallop Poll, and… just search the Internet for them yourself. There are many. Take a minute and examine the stories they’re reporting on the television, newspapers, radio, op-eds. Do you really believe the personalities who are reading these stories are journalists, or even experts in their fields? If your argument is that CNN, MSNBC, and NPR are not any better, then you’re missing the point.
Again, why does al-Assad choose to speak to the American people, to the world, through the Fox News channel? Our president, who is a democrat, announced he will use force against Syria. The Syrian president went on the news channel that is watched almost solely by Republicans, a channel that has been proven to supply its viewers with misinformation.
Should we go to war? No. Should we believe what he’s saying? Hell no. But the biggest issue here is that a foreign leader, an arguably tyrannical asshole of a foreign leader, is exploiting one of our biggest failures as a country. We’ve let the corporations take over our news. They sell us sensationalism, they sell us rifts between our two parties, the sell us glorious indignation, the sell us bad information that they use to sell us more shit or bad policy like in the case of Dr. Betsy. It was bad enough when we all knew it was a big joke we were playing on ourselves, but now it is affecting foreign affairs and global politics.