I know, it’s Casual Friday, and so we should be approaching the news with whatever the opposite of a no-nonsense approach is. A nonsense one probably.
But I had to let you read this.
It’s an article by Howard Kurtz from the Washington Post about the ongoing blistering feud between Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and how their respective bosses, in trying to settle it, somehow only seemed to fan the flames even higher.
There’s a reason I’m featuring this.
A couple of days ago, TV cameras captured a special moment at a town hall meeting, one of those contrived toxic rallies being organized by Republican fundamentalists to try to throw Obama’s healthcare legislation under a gigantic PR bus.
A woman was shown standing at the back of the hall yelling. Plain, insignificant woman, a face in the crowd. And not even a particularly attractive face at that. But she was really irate. Boy, was she pissed. The healthcare debate had her so riled up that she was close to tears, holding a little homemade sign and bleating, “I don’t recognize my America any more. I want my America back!”
It was a touching moment. And also the height of idiocy when you think about it.
What she was essentially saying was that the incoming tide of universal healthcare that, in whatever form it takes, will at the very least give millions of poorer Americans, possibly including herself, access finally to doctors and decent medical treatment in an emergency, so that they don’t receive astronomical healthcare bills at the end that they can’t pay, forcing them to go bankrupt and lose their homes, a situation which happens countless times in “her America” under the current greedy-corporate-run system….that this policy, modeled on other up-and-working healthcare systems around the world, was threatening to ruin the country she loved so much.
How ludicrous. Where on earth did she get such a ridiculous idea?
Hang on, let me guess – Fox News?
Wouldn’t surprise me. Fox abuses the word “news” daily by offering up misinformation, anti-government propaganda, and needless fiery rhetoric that in extreme cases cynically fuels a warlike aggression among its viewers, promoting division and unrest and right-wing hatred, making enemies out of decent people, and doing so for the tackiest of reasons: to bolster up its ratings and keep the ad money flowing in, quite regardless of the harm they may be doing. (Profits up over 200% in the last year. That’s success, right?)
This approach – which the guys on-screen would deny vehemently, hands held up in horror – is pretty transparent and, I would contend, actually rather harmless when viewed by intelligent people who can tell when they’re being duped or manipulated. But alas not all Fox News viewers (or, to be fair, MSNBC viewers for that matter) are all that bright. Not bright enough at least to know when they’re being had for profit.
Quite the opposite. The brand of inflammatory bias that Fox and others peddle nightly can, as we’re seeing, foster unrest on a grand scale when it enters the minds of grassroots stupid people, people who believe everything they read and everything they see on TV, and who don’t have the mental wherewithall to discern between the circus chimp antics of Glenn Beck, for instance, and actual facts and sane arguments dispensed by a reasonable journalist.
The ongoing war at corporate level between Fox News and MSNBC has therefore, I think, to be viewed in that context. What we’re seeing are extremists fighting for territory – the fertile minds of the stupid and the gullible – their snipers firing off random rounds into the night in the hope of wounding the opposition and scoring points. It’s a sport to them, fair game. They’re kids, grown up now, but still waging schoolyard wars, still trying to bully one another. Yet it’s anything but a sport to their viewers, who lean towards believing everything they’re told, especially when it comes from a man in an Armani suit.
Actually, I want to go back for a second and retract something.
I was wrong to suggest that the woman at the town hall meeting was an idiot. If she’s guilty of anything at all it’s of trusting her sources. Trusting without question her imperial masters in the media, believing that they would never mislead her, or say something that wasn’t true, or inspire her to act in a way that was counter to democracy.
In fact, in many ways she’s right, her America is disappearing, buried slowly beneath the greater and greater scrambling of corporations for excessive profit. Unfortunately, that’s not going to stop. The system appears to be so corrupt now, due mainly to the apathy of the American people who let the Bush Administration loosen regulations for years, awarding massive-and-growing paydays to their big business buddies, and did nothing to correct it, that I doubt it can ever be reversed.
One fact all parties of all political stripes can probably agree on at this point: the America that woman remembers ain’t never coming back.
Here’s Howard Kurtz’s article.
“It was never intended to be a cease-fire.
The best that the men who run two of the nation’s media giants were hoping to achieve was a ratcheting down of the rhetoric between their warring commentators.
But Keith Olbermann refused to play along this week, Bill O’Reilly returned fire, and the New York Times got wounded in the crossfire.
The peace talks with Fox sparked a fierce battle within MSNBC, where a faction led by Olbermann argued that the network’s journalistic integrity was at stake — and that any leak of a nonaggression pact with Fox could damage NBC’s reputation for independence.
Things had looked very different in April. When Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes left the private dining room of Jeffrey Immelt, the General Electric chief executive whose company includes NBC, at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, they thought they had a firm deal. But as in any high school grudge match, neither brawler wanted to back down.
For viewers, the constant attacks have been a grand spectator sport, but their bruising nature has at times been painful to watch. Olbermann started the assault on “Bill-O” five years ago as a way of boosting his fortunes against “The O’Reilly Factor,” which roughly triples his ratings; O’Reilly refuses to mention the “Countdown” host by name, instead training his ammo on MSNBC, NBC and Immelt.
The Washington Post reported last year that a series of back-channel discussions involving….”