Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough acknowledged the firing of Bill O’Reilly, by talking about the great contribution that O’Reilly and Fox News Channel have made to news reporting. He and other conservative commentators claim O’Reilly and Fox saved America by presenting news from the “conservative perspective”. Truth be told Fox News has been the worst thing to happen to American democracy in the last 20 years. Ted Turner showed us how news reporting could help America, Roger Ailes showed us how news reporting can hurt America.
Hopefully Joe and others who share his opinion are guilty of the old adage of “can’t see the forest for the trees” or in this case, they can’t see the facts for the ratings. O’Reilly and Fox as a business model have been a wonder to behold. From 2014 -2016 the O’Reilly Factor tv show alone generated $446 million in advertising revenue for the network, one of the the most profitable in the vast Rupert Murdoch empire.
In 2016 Fox News Channel was crowned the most watched basic cable channel, a first in its 20 year history. If ratings and profits were the standard then all the praise would be understandable but fortunately for American democracy it’s not.
profits no substitute for fact based reporting
The financial success covers up the damage being done daily to the rational fact based functioning of our society. The Fox mantra of “fair and balanced” from a conservative perspective sounds good but in reality is contradictory to true journalistic principles. There is no such thing as a fair fact, a balanced fact, conservative fact or a liberal fact.
A fact is either a fact or is not a fact and it’s either true or not true. Fox has created a dangerous myth that there are conservative facts and liberal facts. That America’s biggest problem is that we have been bombarded with liberal facts by the “mainstream media”, and that Fox was bringing light to darkness by presenting never before heard or seen conservative facts. Fox’s so called facts are in truth conservative opinions masking as facts.
Ted Turner and CNN true pioneers
Before Roger Ailes and Fox News Channel there was Ted Turner and CNN. Turner and CNN are the ones Joe should be praising because they are the true pioneers. They created TV news as a stand-alone industry in the process creating your job Joe, along with countless others. Prior to Turner/CNN national TV news was the monopoly of 3 networks, who gave us only 30 minutes of it a day for only 5 days a week. The hard nose investigative journalism during this time was being done primarily through print news media. Ted Turner created both 24 hour news programming and use of cable networks as a source to get the news from, hence CNN, MSNBC and FNC.
These 2 creations were revolutionary to the media industry. Our options for getting news were increased and more importantly we got fact based reporting 24/7. Fortunately for American democracy the revolution stopped short of changing journalistic principles. All media outlets drew a line between their fact based reporting and their opinion based commentary. All media outlets reported the same facts while their opinion writers or commentators might come to different conclusions about what the facts meant.
This all changed in 1996 with Ailes and the creation of the FNC. Like Turner/CNN Ailes/Fox brought some innovation to the
industry, but unlike Turner/CNN Ailes/Fox innovation has been detrimental to both the industry and American democracy. Under the guise of being fair and balanced the majority of things said on Fox News are conservative slanted half-truths or total untruths. Fox invented the false narrative of liberal facts versus conservative facts to justify reporting stories that convert conservative ideology to false facts.
Fox News Channel considered least creditable
The thought that CNN could possibly be considered not a credible news source would have driven Ted Turner mad. The fact that Fox is considered the least credible news source is of no consequence to Roger Ailes. His goal was to get conservative policies implemented by using half-truth or false news to create false realities.
The idea of using tv to create false political realities was first introduced to Ailes in 1970, while he was working as a conservative political consultant for dirty trickster President Richard Nixon. The plan was laid out in a memo titled “A Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News”, some have referred to this as the blueprint for the Fox News Channel.
Ailes/FNC have been so successful at implementing the slant news strategy that it has created a set of new problems. Problems that are responsible for the current political gridlock and confusion, that if not stopped could do real harm to our country.
can’t tell difference between real and fake news
Ailes/FNC have created an environment where conservative half-truths have morphed into acceptable full blown lies and fake news. Following the example of Ailes/FNC it’s now common practice for lies and half-truths to be dressed up in professional looking packages, with misleading charts and graphs to give the appearance of truth backed up by facts.
This is so widespread now that people can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s fake. To compound the problem Fox has sewn so much distrust among some people that no entity is trusted to tell them what fact versus fiction is.
We now live in a world of facts versus alternative facts. In the good old days facts were based on truth and reality not like today were political ideology can determine the facts.
The best example of the craziness and harm this is causing can be seen through the nation’s current healthcare policy. Republicans fear it’s not to their political advantage to tell people their true feeling that people don’t have a right to healthcare. So with help from Ailes and the FNC playbook the truth was slanted and some outright lies were told about Obamacare.
Now our healthcare system is stuck in place because Republicans who now politically control everything are caught by their own lies. 1) Because they don’t believe healthcare is a right, the whole time they were trying to repeal Obamacare they never developed a replacement plan of their own.
2) To repair Obamacare would be to admit that opposition was based solely on political ideology, and not on having a better plan to insure that everybody gets the healthcare they need regardless of their economic status.
3) All the political slanting and lying about Obamacare created a communication gap between the politicians and the voters. Republican politicians had misinterpreted voters acceptance of the lies about Obamacare to mean they were rejecting the healthcare program, in fact they were only rejecting the name Obamacare not the benefits of the program. Meaning its political suicide for Republicans to repeal Obamacare with no adequate replacement.
fair and balanced is a sham
The “fair and balanced” approach to presenting a conservative perspective of the news is a front for presenting politically biased and sometimes false news. It is the most divisive political force in America today. Unfortunately it fosters a climate of echo chambers where people can run from facts they don’t want to accept to alternative false facts that they will accept.
Hopefully for America the O’Reilly, Ailes and FNC “end of an era” that Joe Scarborough and others seem to be so proud of is in fact coming to an end. We need to get rid of conservative facts or liberal facts, do away with conservative reporting or liberal reporting. Now is the time to rebuild a tall thick wall between fact based reporting and opinionated commentary. Now is the time for a fact being a fact based on reality not politics, a time where we can tell the difference between fake news and real news.
Good riddance Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes you had a long profitable but destructive run maybe now we can get back to governing based on facts and not on fear.