Posts Tagged ‘fox news’

REVIEWS FROM THE REV: “Toxic Talk: How the Radical Right has Poisoned America’s Airwaves” by Bill Press.

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Review: “Toxic Talk: How the Radical Right has Poisoned America’s Airwaves” by Bill Press.  (Thomas Dunne Books, 2010).
Bill Press is host of the nationally syndicated Bill Press Show, also on Sirius XM, and writes a syndicated column for Tribune Media Services. He is the former co-host of MSNBC’s Buchanan and Press and CNN’s Crossfire and The Spin Room. Press lives in Washington, D.C.”

I wasn’t familiar with Bill Press, though I’m certain I’ve seen him as a “talking head” on television at some point.  I snagged this book from the “new arrivals” section at the library, and figured I was due for a primer on Conservative “talk radio”.

Despite the seemingly inescapable derisory tone of pundits (the author of this book being one of this pundits), the book is a good overview of the major personalities and events that have led to the astonishing dominance of the talk-radio landscape by Conservative blowhards large and small.  I found the book highly informative and useful, even while wishing the author weren’t such a talk personality himself.  On the up side, however, we are hearing from a man who’s been in the business and has worked with more than a few of the people he profiles.

The book gives us a history of the talk radio revolution, and then breaks out into mini-biographies of the players in Conservative talk, including second- and third-tier personalities.  (Fox News is not left out of the discussion, of course).

The tone of the book aside, Press cites reliable sources for some great debunking of the many whoppers told by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the others (a practice that would be much more fun to read were the lies not so disturbing).

“Toxic Talk” is a light read, and breezes by pretty fast.  Part of why I wanted to read it is that it’s been dawning on me that many of the people I engage in debate are carrying around crazy ideas that I have been slow to appreciate.  Understanding that these ideas are out there and knowing where they are coming from is just plain good information to have!

t.n.s.r. bob

OP/ED FROM THE REV: “What if it’s You?”

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

(NOTE:  This opinion piece of mine ran in the Las Cruces Sun News on August 10, 2010 under the title: “Bias in America: What if it’s You?”)

If your blood pressure shoots up at the mention of the name “Obama”; if you can’t stand to watch network news because of its “left-leaning liberal bias”, and if you think Fox News is the only reliable source for “fair and balanced” news, I have a serious question for you:  Have you ever considered that it might be you that is biased?

We’ve become so used to the epithets that partisan mimics throw around that next to no-one is actually bothering to ask themselves if what they’re being told is, well, true.

Personally, I’ve taken to fact-checking every story that finds its way into my e-mail box.

Generally I’ll go to a site like FactCheck.org or Snopes.com.  This was particularly effective during the last Presidential campaign, where — to my chagrin — I would find that even my preferred presidential candidate (though consistently hewing closer to the truth than his opponent) was not always getting all his facts exactly right.  That being said, when I recently referenced FactCheck.org in an on-line posting, I was immediately attacked for using a source funded by a “lefty organization”.  When even facts are attacked purely on the basis of their source, and not on their actual merit, where, I ask you, does this leave us?

The conservative right has, at this stage of its long life, managed to build a fortress of data that somehow manages to be impregnable to the entry of facts or perspective.  By “data” I mean surveys and studies so obviously selective and skewed as to be of no use except as supports for on-air blowhards as they build their brands (based, it seems, on the alchemical idea that if enough people believe a falsehood, it is somehow miraculously turned into truth).

Based on what I have observed in the recent “debates” over health care reform, the opposition, in particular, seems to have made a decision that facts are only to be respected when they support their own arguments, and attacked when they don’t.  As an example, the preposterous notion of “Death Panels” persists (and refuses to die itself).  This is a perfect example of a sliver of fact being turned into an entire dining room set, for the original idea (supported at the time by Republicans as well) was to merely compel insurers cover end-of-life discussions between patients and their doctors.  It takes a certain kind of intellectual sleaziness to “Hitler-up” such a simple, humane idea up into a tyrannical attempt by our own government to murder grandma.  Such twisting of reality is the immoral act of one who cares not a whit about truth but only about winning, the truth be damned.  (And a kernel of truth does not a bushel make).
The step that any thinking person needs to take in the face of such manipulation, then, is to check the data (that comes across your T.V. or into you e-mail in-box) against the totality of the information out there.  The fact is that it only takes a cursory web search to get the sense of what is bogus and what is factual.

To help you out, here’s a clue to a story’s credibility:  If in any part of it the phrase “I don’t understand why the mainstream media is ignoring this story!!!” appears, there is most likely a reason: it’s probably not a valid story (there are, of course, notable exceptions, but as a general rule, this phrase should raise a warning flag).

This is one of the concepts we all need to get clear on: probability.  There is, indeed, the theoretical possibility that President Obama is not native-born.  It is also possible that he is a Martian.  Neither assertion can be completely, unequivocally disproved.  Both, however, are equally improbable.  And for us to advance as a society, we must stop diverting so much of our energies into chasing after the improbable.  (Let the “wild goose” be – we need all intellectual hands on deck)

Now to be clear, I get this sort of thing from the “left” as well, so a responsible citizen has to exercise at least a basic level of diligence and check the facts.  (Sometimes this means wading through the dozens of repetitive postings on partisan blogs and getting to a reputable news source to find an opposing critique).

I don’t expect that all of us will ever believe all the same things, or share the same political views, but how so many people can spout clearly false second-hand nonsense (based on two parts truth and 98 parts hysterical knee-jerk reaction) is, frankly, beyond me.

This is one of the reasons I keep picking on the poor TEA Party:  how can I take them seriously when over 90 percent of them actually believe that President Obama is a Socialist (a claim that makes actual, real socialists laugh), and perhaps just as many believe (or are inclined to believe) that our duly-elected President is not an actual American citizen (despite the fact that there is zero actual evidence to support their belief?)

As citizens we all share a responsibility to work towards some sort of shared vocabulary and standard of evidence that will allow us to make the critical decisions about the kind of country we want to live in.  But a lot of us aren’t even trying, and it is those people who are the greatest threat to our survival as a nation.

Is one of them you?

(Bob Diven is an award-winning artist and performer and longtime resident of Las Cruces.  He writes as the not-so-reverend bob on his blog at: http://thechurchofbob.com/boblog/)