Monday, November 03, 2014

Policy Versus Ratings Versus Ideology

This otherwise fine talk on Russia and Ukraine was marred by a pointless attack on Fox News.

The pointless attack by Professor Snyder was in saying that Russia Today does in postmodern relativism what Fox News does--only much better.

It is pointless because it is wrong on a number of practical levels despite having a good measure of narrow truth.

Sure, he has a certain point that the Fox News opinion shows use a variety of competing opinions to argue with each other in an attempt at postmodern tactics to deny there is an objective truth and so the conservative truth is as valid as you like.

Fox does have lots of arguing talking heads. They do. So do other stations. PBS does it (The McLaughlin Group, anyone?):

60 Minutes did it enough to make it an SNL skit! With this ultimate retort:

That's the news, and goodnight.

So you have to admit that our news stations in general do it rather than portraying Fox as uniquely doing it. In a narrow sense, given Fox ratings success, you actually can say that Fox is very good at this genre compared to their cable competition.

Further, you have to disregard that to the extent that Fox has more of this competing talking heads format, it is because other stations spend more of their time on a single point of view format--the liberal side of the argument. Sometimes that one-sided format is just opinion, but often it tries to call itself the objective truth. Why is that better than what Fox does in its opinion format?

Indeed, I tend not to watch the Fox opinion shows and when I do it is more for news-focused entertainment and not for news consumption. I don't watch the other stations' opinion shows because their bias is not entertaining to me.

Further, to claim that other stations' news shows are standards of the pursuit of objective truth more than Fox is nonsense. I say this as someone who has consumed multiple stations and newspapers as a news junkie all my life. As I've noted before, over the years I tuned out the partisan news stations of CBS, ABC, NBC in the 1980s, and then CNN and even MSNBC (yes, I watched it) in 2004 as the leftward bias during wartime became too annoying to put up with. I've recently resumed watching CNN news as the Iraq War-levels of idiocy and bias fade into history.

But even conceding the narrow point that Fox uses what can be called a postmodern type of argumentative style in its opinion shows (but it isn't uniquely Fox), it is a mistake to equate it with the state propaganda arm that Russia Today is.

Fox News is attempting to get better ratings. Russia Today and related media in Russia are trying to support an aggressive Russian foreign policy that justified conquering portions of a sovereign state (Ukraine) by portraying Russia as the victim of foreign plots.

That's too big of a difference to justify taking a cheap shot at Fox News. It was completely unnecessary.

But that annoying quibble aside, the talk itself is worth your time.