Tuesday, November 04, 2003

"Fair and balanced" debunked -- by a conservative. Fox News fans who actually buy into Roger Ailes's "fair and balanced" crapola ought to get themselves over to the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com.

Yesterday the site republished a long piece from City Journal written by one Brian C. Anderson, who glowingly sings the praises of the Fox News Channel because -- get this, Roger -- it's unapologetically conservative.

Writes Anderson: "Watch Fox for just a few hours and you encounter a conservative presence unlike anything on TV." Naturally, Anderson thinks this enables Fox to do better journalism than its so-called liberal competitors, which is a dubious proposition. But it's refreshing to see someone on the other side acknowledge simple reality.

Anderson doesn't stop there. He praises South Park for its allegedly conservative sensibility -- he's absolutely rhapsodic over segments that depict the rain forest as smelling "like ass," and that make fun of Native Americans.

And he engages in the absolutely loathsome practice of attributing to liberals views that are held only by a few seriously demented extremists.

For instance, he points to a South Park encounter with the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) as somehow saying something important -- importantly bad, that is -- about liberals. He writes of NAMBLA:

One of the contemporary left's most extreme (and, to conservatives, objectionable) strategies is its effort to draw the mantle of civil liberties over behavior once deemed criminal, pathological or immoral ...

Of course, Anderson offers not a whit of proof that any real liberal would "draw the mantle of civil liberties" over the behavior that NAMBLA advocates, as opposed to letting the organization simply talk about it, which is a very different thing. Then again, the First Amendment isn't all that big with the right these days, so it's perhaps too much to expect Anderson to make such fine distinctions.

Anderson also lets Matt Welch assert, without challenge, that he started his weblog right after 9/11 "in direct response to reading five days' worth of outrageous bullshit in the media from people like Noam Chomsky and Robert Jensen."

Yes, it's true that Chomsky and Jensen are members of the hard left. Like virtually every liberal I know, I was deeply offended by Chomsky's blithe blame-it-on-the-US attitude following the terrorist attacks.

But Welch -- and, by extension, Anderson -- would lead one to believe that Chomsky was perched at the right (okay, left) hand of Howell Raines during those days and weeks of 24/7 coverage. In fact, you'd have to scour the websites of, say, CounterPunch and the Nation to find any unmediated Chomsky. And even the Nation's editors felt compelled to balance Chomsky with erstwhile lefty war hawk Christopher Hitchens. For the most part, the public was introduced to Chomsky's views by pundits who quoted him for the sole purpose of attacking him.

As for Jensen, I couldn't even remember who he was until I Googled him this morning. Here is his home page. As I recall, he nearly lost his job for speaking out, and was saved only by an old-fashioned idea called academic freedom.

Toward the end, Anderson cites Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam's attack on bloggers last year (sorry, can't find it online) as an example of elite liberal bias. Beam is certainly an elitist, as I'm sure he would be the first to attest; but he's actually a conservative, in an elitist, old-fashioned sort of way.

Ultimately Anderson's piece is well-written, well-argued, and silly. It sounds good, but it falls apart when you examine the faulty premises on which it rests.

But he's right about one thing: Fox News is as fair and balanced as the Wall Street Journal's editorial page.

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