Friday, September 21, 2012

Ted Koppel Takes Partisan Cable News to Task

"Is it me? It's him, right? It's him."

Am I Nathan Thurm?
That's a quote from Martin Short's old Saturday Night Live character, Nathan Thurm, the perpetually nervous and stressed attorney, who was always defending the indefensible.  But, that's how I felt watching Ted Koppel's report on Rock Center on Thursday night. Ted Koppel is of course from the old school of journalism, not quite Walter Cronkite, but close. And his topic was the hyper-partisan nature of discourse in the "news." All the while, I'm thinking, "False equivalence!" "But, FOX has 'news' in its name!" "But, FOX lies!!!"

And yeah, I get it. We are a deeply divided country, on seemingly every topic. One could argue that it began with Newt Gingrich back in the nineties. Oh, sure, there was partisanship before that, but Newt (and Lee Atwater and others) took it to a Whole. 'Nother. Level.  The political division grew, and flourished into the political coverage. And nowhere did it flower more brightly than at Rupert Murdoch's (and Roger Ailes') FOX "News," the first attempt at news with a point of view. 

As you know--though it lost millions for years--FOX was eventually very successful. And though it has taken rival MSNBC many years, they are finally nipping at FOX's heels, at least in recent weeks. And while MSNBC is demonstrably and admittedly from a liberal perspective (at least in prime time), there are numerous differences in their approach. You could maybe align Chris Matthews with Bill O'Reilly and Ed Schultz with Sean Hannity for bombast. But you won't find MSNBC running with debunked "some say" garbage for days on end. You won't find MSNBC claiming themselves to be an island of sanity in a sea of biased media (as FOX and its fans seem to believe every other outlet is liberally biased). You won't find a moron of Hannity's scale on MSNBC, and you won't find an intellect on Rachel Maddow's scale on FOX. FOX will never run a three-hours-per-day program headed by a former Democratic Congressman as MSNBC does with Joe Scarborough.

In short (I know, too late), there are differences. As reported here a couple of days ago, FOX "News" hires Romney campaign surrogates and SuperPAC people as commentators, and doesn't usually disclose this when they appear, commenting on the very races they are a part of. You don't see that anywhere else. As Bill Maher says in Koppel's piece, while both sides are guilty of sometimes being in a bubble, the left's is nowhere near the scope of that on the right. There is an extreme right, but there is no mirror extreme left. The extremity of the right has dragged the left toward the center.

But Koppel presented this as a he-said-she-said, pitting Maher against Ann Coulter's clearly (to me) alternate reality view. And I kept saying to myself, regarding Koppel's false equivalence. . . "It's not me. It's him, right? It's him."

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  1. Hahaha, Mr. Greenlee, it's because people like you exist that Fox finds an audience. And to say that Bill Maher, Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart don't do the same thing that you are accusing Fox of doing is hypocrisy at its finest. Classic, I don't do it, they do it, maturity that is dividing this country.

  2. Yes, SOTIW. DNFTT.
    Slightly OT, but I've been reading Akhil Reed Amar (he writes about the Constitution) and it seems that the one thing the Constitution does, its entire purpose, the demand for which it is the supply, is . . . wait for it . . . Federal Government. Yeah, who knew?

  3. Well see, Anonymous, that's why I was asking. In Ted Koppel's interviews the takeaway was, "both sides do it." From my perspectives, both sides may "do it," but the extent to which it is taken is not comparable. Rachel Maddow may focus on specific stories and on specific angles. But she does not make shit up. And if she's wrong, she not only corrects it, she takes jabs at herself, and makes a big point of it. Bill Maher will acknowledge that there is a left bubble too, but challenges that it is not as large, and not nearly as impenetrable. Ann Coulter would make no such concession, and indeed alleges that ALL media prior to FOX "News" was liberally biased, and could only name FOX in the category of good journalism.

    Lastly, the tone of my post from beginning to end was QUESTIONING whether or not "I do it." I don't see how that is hypocrisy. But that wouldn't be what is dividing this country, that would be the result of the division already sewn.

  4. And Murfyn, you lost me. If you're a spammer I don't know what you're spamming, and if you're making a point on the topic, I don't see the connection. In either case, thanks for reading!


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