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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Caught Inside The Fox "News" Bubble . . . Again!

Nothing is more disheartening than when I look around and come to the sudden realization that I have been enveloped by a Fox "News" bubble again.

It often happens spontaneously. The awareness starts with a tingle at the nape of my neck. I could be in a line at the grocery store or, more likely, sitting on the patio of my local Starbucks, lost in my own world. First detected by the hairs on my neck, my ears pick up on this early warning system. My brain, always the last to fall into line, begins to focus on my surroundings. I become aware of the general drift of the conversation around me.

OH, NO!!! I'm inside another Fox "News" bubble!!! It makes my skin crawl. My palms feel like the nearby Florida swamp. The stream of false Fox "News" talking points turns my stomach. The longer it continues, the more I vibrate inside. Every part of my being is poised for Fight or Flight.

In the end, I always choose flight. There's no point getting into it with total strangers. That's what the Twitter machine is for.

While I've only been writing Fox "News" criticism for the past 6 years, I've been a professional writer for more than 40. I have done every kind of writing there is, 'ceptin' the greeting card. A partial list of my many tear sheets: music and film reviews; interviews with Rock Royalty and Hollywood Honchos; promotional bumf for multinational corporations; cross-media publicity campaigns; Queen's Park Correspondent and Investigative Journalist for Yorkview Magazine; and a monthly column for Toronto's Taxi News -- about life on the mean streets -- under the nom de plume Travis Bickel.

However, the experience that most informs my Fox "News" criticism is my decade as a News Writer at Citytv, the spunky, street-level operation in Toronto that became a template for news operations all across the continent. It was the first to capture and broadcast news on videotape and the first to do away with the anchor desk. The anchors actually had to know how to walk and talk in an actual newsroom.

Consequently, I was seen in households across Ontario every single workday. I never realized the power of tee vee until I was once asked for my autograph on the Queen West streetcar. I demurred, certain they were mistaking me for someone else. "No. You're that guy that sits behind David Onley on BreakfastTelevision." He got his autograph.

It's the power of tee vee news that this post wishes to explore.

A decade ago I returned to 'Merka and was shocked -- shocked I tells ya!!! -- by the Fox "News" Channel. I had never seen such -- dare I say it? -- unfair and imbalanced news in my life.

Soon afterwards, I found the movie Outfoxed. Later I discovered NewsHounds, the motto of which is "We watch Fox so you don't have to," without knowing the movie had spawned it. I became so well known on the comment threads for laughing at Glenn Beck, I was eventually hired on to write under the nom de plume Aunty Em. Since then I've turned my Fox "News" obsession into a cottage industry with posts for the Not Now Silly Newsroom and PoliticusUSA, which publishes Friday Fox Follies. When it works it's a comedic look at the network's shenanigans and tomfoolery during the week. And, I am your genial host at Fox Follies & Fallacies, a page over at the facebookery.

Wait! I lied. There is something more disheartening. It's when I look around and the Fox "News" bubble is at a family get-together and there's not a damned thing I can do about it. That members of my family are exhibiting the stupidity I write about breaks my heart. It's the same Unfair and Imbalanced Bullshit™ spouted by those who only rely on one news source, the Fox "News" source. It's instantly recognizable.

It's no coincidence that various polls show both of these things to be simultaneously true:

The best way to understand this dichotomy is to realize that being a Fox "News" Viewer is no different than belonging to a cult. Like any self-respecting cultist, the Fox "News" Viewer has been brainwashed into believing that there is only a single source of truth, and all the other ones are lyin', left leanin', pinko perversions of news operations.

When one challenges the average, brain dead Fox "News" viewer, they often shut down because they have no comeback. However, if they have any social media skills at all, they're able to cite other sites that say the same damned thing. This is the Fox "News" Echo Chamber in full effect. All these Right Wing sites are singing from the same hymnal. Hallelujah!

I always marvel at one thing: there is almost always a kernel of truth in the buttered popcorn Fox is serving to its unthinking and incurious audience. However, it's heated by the Right Wing Outrage Du Jour™ until it pops, but it's really nothing hot air, lacking all resemblance to the original.

I managed to avoid many of these self-inflicted Fox Family Food Fights™ until last year when I committed myself to a weekly family lunch. Wednesdays are reserved for Cousins' Lunch up in Boca. For reasons I don't quite understand, two of the cousins seem to feel this the perfect forum to spout every ridiculous thing they've ever heard on Fox "News."

For nearly a year I managed managed to ignore their imbecility. Having political discussions with Chicolinis is not why I go to Cousins' Lunch. I can do that at home on my computer and -- even better -- have the information at my fingertips to refute any argument. At Cousins' Lunch it was always a formless discussion, with a constantly moving targets, that was almost totally devoid of any verified facts whatsoever.

A few months back I walked away from a half-finished lunch rather than engage them as they tried to bait me into a political discussion. I told Pops I'd wait for him in the car and to call me when he was done.

A few weeks later it happened again and this time I rose to the bait, loudly and without regret.

Please understand, I prefaced my remarks with, "I don't come here to argue, but if you want to get into it, I'm more than happy to do so." Since they were more than happy to do so as well, I spent about 20 minutes shouting at them. Everyone else at the table remained silent while I chewed them out over and over again.

Infographic by Frugal Dad,
scooped from the Infographics
Archive. Click for larger view.
If they brought up something they heard in the Fox "News" Echo Chamber -- or read in their chain emails -- I'd jump on it to reveal the context missing. They'd counter by shifting the argument to something else, the Moving Target I spoke of above. I'd provide new facts, figures, and context. Then the target would move again with a false equivalency or the Outrage Du Jour, all items recognized from my hours of obsessive Fox "News" Channel watching.

I admit I was loud -- and passionate -- but I countered every stupid statement with greater context. We argued for a good 20 minutes until I finally changed the topic to Harry Nilsson, something they didn't know anything about either [which may have been their greater crime.]

Just as we were leaving, at the car door, it started up again. I mentioned a very minor point in a news story and was asked, "Did you actually see the police officer say that or did you just read somewhere that he said it? Because I no longer trust what I read, especially in the Left Wing media."

And that's when I REALLY exploded!!!

"But, you'll repeat any stupid thing you hear on Fox "News" or in those chain emails, without even knowing what it means. Fox "News" lies to you every fucking minute of every fucking day!"

But . . . Left Wing Media!

"THERE IS NO LEFT WING MEDIA!!! The New York Times is just slightly right of center. To you and Fox "News" that just feels like the far Left Wing. Five corporations own 95% of the media in this country. By definition corporations are right wing. If Socialism is on the Far Left, then Capitalism is on the Right. And, there's a whole continuum of ideology in between.

"You call what you don't like the Mainstream Media. But, Fox News *IS* the mainstream media. Fox "News" has the biggest ratings and they are way to the Right, right?"


"But, you even believe them when they say they're Fair and Balanced, even though you just admitted they are not. They lie to you every minute of every day and you're foolish enough to believe them without looking for any further context. There's one thing I will admit to you: There's always a kernel of truth in what Fox "News" tells you, but once you know the whole story. it falls apart as a talking point."

But . . . but . . . but . . .

"Don't *but* me. I've been writing Fox "News" criticism online for more  than 5 years. Use your Google."

And, I started the car and closed my door.

I felt GREAT!!! It was cathartic!!!

Now several weeks have passed. I have no desire to start arguing politics at Cousins' Lunch, but may no longer keep silent if baited.

Or, we can stick to the OTHER conversation that we have every single week that frustrates me. It's always good for 20 minutes over the course of the entire lunch, and often comes up before we've even ordered our food:

"Where do you want to eat next week?"

However, if the political discussions start up again, I still have the same choice as always: Fight or flight. At this point I'm inclined to merely point them to this blog post and go wait for Pops in the car.

What else is there to say after this post?