Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Just noticed

All my posts seem to be about my dislike of Labour and the Republicans, and my scepticism about the whole “War on Terror”. This is not actually intentional, and I swear that if I was a little more dilligent I'd include stuff like Giles's thing about “anarchists against deregulation”. It's just that the WoT is such an easy target if you're looking for nice bite-sized chunks of irony, hypocrisy and double-speak.

But, in the spirit of fairness and balance, I'd now like to be nice about Fox News for a change. Obvioulsy they lean a smidgeon to the right on most issues, and this has made their famous tag-line the subject of much mirth at the expense of a few people. I wouldn't go to them for news about anything (except possibly weapons development), and would harbour grave reservations about the intelligence of anyone who used them as their primary news source. But what I do question is this idea that they're much more responsible than anyone else for the sort of distortions we see in the news media.

Because at least Fox wear their political hearts on their sleeve. Most of their viewers must have realised that they're going to get things from a Republican point of view, and that's why they watch it. This is why all those statistics about Fox viewers being more likely to think their were WMD in Iraq or that Saddam Hussein had links to 9/11 are essentially much less interesting than they sound. Of course they thought that. They were all Republicans, and so they got their news from a Republican news source. I can't belive Fox itself actually changed many people's minds on the issue. What it did do was provide a good summary of the conventional wisdom on the right that guys like Steve Colbert could methodically take apart.

The broader point I'm making here is that Fox is actually a very good example of what I like about the internet - you can get the news that fits you politically, or see the ideas and claims of those you disagree with laid out in clear fashion, and so engage in a more meaningful discussion, instead of just having one, supposedly neutral, telling of “the news” that claims this creeping monopoly on the truth. I suspect this is one of the reasons, along with more in-depth coverage and general snobberies about TV as a medium, that we in the UK think of newspapaers as a better source of news information that telly - there's a broader range of opinion on offer (not THAT broad, admittedly).


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