Monday, November 16, 2009

Fox News - the subtle altering of reality to sell a preconceived narrative?

On the Thursday, November 12, 2009 broadcast of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, Jon Stewart implied that the Fox network is far from fair and balanced:
But, of course, that was just one big story from cable news last night. There was another story – one that actually concerns our humble program here.

On Tuesday night, we did a little bit about Sean Hannity’s program, or to call it by its official name `the greatest program that has ever given to a people by God.’

It concerned the Super Bowl of Freedom that Michele Bachmann sponsored on Capitol Hill.

On Sean’s show, Mr. Hannity and Ms. Bachmann discussed her rally and for no apparent reason then started showing images of Glenn Beck’s much better attended 9/12 rally, not acknowledging that the footage was different, but in fact commenting on how robust the crowd was, even though Bachman’s rally took place on a sunny day in fall and this rally appeared to take place on a cloudy day in summer.

So, we thought that was funny because we finally had a literal manifestation of what we feel is the metaphorical methodology of the entire Fox network, which, of course, is the subtle altering of reality to sell a preconceived narrative.

The previous night, Sean Hannity acknowledged the “inadvertent mistake” that had been caught by one of The Daily Show‘s producers.

Stewart suggests the mistake was not accidental, but part of systematic and intentional deception designed to rally viewers behind favored causes. Stewart seems to imply that other networks may have biases, but they are not as extensive, coordinated, and intentional as those on Fox. The network defends distortions on many of its programs, such as Hannity's, by claiming the shows are widely acknowledged (even by Fox) to be opinion-based.

People of all political persuasions may cling to opinions that support a current perspective and ignore facts that contradict it. The human brain seems to prefer to fit new information into an existing belief system. In the 2008 book, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, behavioral economist Dan Ariely explains that people have an irrational tendency to overvalue things they own, including ideas. This can make people reluctant to let go of a preexisting belief, even when provided with substantial contradictory information.

Ariely suggests people will make better individual and social choices if they acknowledge these biases and try to limit their impact. People might benefit by using diverse sources of news rather than limiting their exposure to the information they want to hear.

Related articles:

Click here for a Chicago Tribune article linked to the video discussed above.

An October 29, 2009 report by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press concludes that Fox News is Viewed as the Most Ideological Network.

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