The fuzzy line between news and entertainment
July 22, 2010
The undeniable conservative agenda of Fox News pushes their content out of the category of news into polarizing entertainment for those who share their beliefs. Fox News is indeed more accurately described as Faux News. They carry just enough legitimate news stories to give the appearance of news. Some are factual, some are blatantly false. It is difficult to discern the difference especially if your political outlook coincides with Fox owner, Rupert Murdoch’s.
This is a great strategy if the objective is to condition the viewers to accept your statements as true. Sometime a Fox ‘News” story is true, sometimes it’s false and sometimes it’s partially true. It’s intermittent reinforcement at its best. In the world of BF Skinner, intermittent reinforcement is the most powerful form of operant conditioning. Murdoch must have been paying close attention in Psychology 101.
If you watch Fox and want to avoid being manipulated you simply have to remember you are not really watching news. You are watching an entertainment show with an agenda to shape opinions. To a lesser degree MSNBC has a decidedly more liberal slant to their content. The difference Between Fox and MSNBC is that the line between political opinion and news is clear with MSNBC. With Fox it is intentionally blurred.
The extreme are the blogs. Come on, even a person of average intelligence just has to know that reading something on a blog (any blog) is unverified, unsourced and more often than not one person’s opinion. There is minimal if any fact checking. In the case of Shirley Sherrod’s inappropriate firing by the USDA, Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted excerpts of a four month old video that he hoped would “prove” reverse discrimination by Sherrod. The clips were very persuasive but when taken in their full context, they categorically did not show any discrimination. This was no accident. Shame on him. What a jerk!
Shame on the people who are so thirsty for views that support their particular bias that they actually read such dribble. I’m sure Breitbart has more followers than ever. More shame by far is reserved by the “News” groups that picked up the story and legitimized it by reporting it as if it were true. Hello Fox “News” The video ran frequently on their news broadcast. If Fox were actually a news organization they would have sourced and verified the story. Instead, since it supported their bias, they just slapped on their “News” shows as fact. The followers of Fox were provided yet another “factual” example of how the Obama administration is flawed. Hah! Gotcha. The only problem is that it wasn’t true. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter because what remains for loyal Fox followers is the feeling that there was a screw up. The bell can not be unrung.
Feelings are more powerful than facts and after a while feelings that are consistently reinforced may become perceived as factual. These little transgressions where false or biased information is intentionally twisted and reported as fact ultimately form a lasting impression on the consumers who are not critical thinkers. A few months ago the Fox followers who intellectually accepted the fact that the story is false will forget that fact but the story will remain subliminally as part of their firm belief that Obama screwed up. For Fox that would be considered a success story.
It is unfortunate that Fox followers allow themselves to be manipulated by Rupert. All it takes is a small amount of critical thought to wash away the news veneer from “Fox News” to realize that Murdoch is peddling opinions, his opinions. Legitimate news sources are becoming increasingly less common as society places a higher premium on entertainment than on legitimate news. (See: “Aristotle.. can you keep up with Kardashians?” )
We must remain vigilant to keep clear the distinction between news and entertainment. Blurring the line only benefits those who have something to sell. It is no accident that Murdoch is a billionaire. He knows how to sell.