cynicism, journalism

Why do we, the media, tolerate and encourage lying?

Years ago, I remember seeing the show Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction on Fox. I had already done some grad-school research on Rupert Murdoch and come away convinced that he wasn’t a political ideologue but rather a man who didn’t share most folks’ ethical concerns about how to make money. So at the time, I joked the show was Phase 1 of Murdoch’s strategy to run “news” and “entertainment” out of the same Fox division. (Yes, I anticipated FNC’s evolution. What do I win?)

Murdoch is indeed very good at this. His businesses could, as the cliche goes, sell ice to Eskimos. The Economist doesn’t specify FNC by name but remarks with wonder at the Fox-fed Tea Party:

It is a neat trick. Conservative elites pretend to be part of a marginalised cultural force while at the same time orchestrating an electoral bloodbath led by America’s least marginalised people. The fact that this is working so well tells us a lot about who the elites really are and where the power really lies.

Far away from the glamor and high pay of cable lies punditry is the indispensable Politifact. What’s most amazing about Politifact is that it’s virtually the only bulwark we have against the incredible distortions that pass for political advertising these days.

Consider this: We raise a huge stink when a wide receiver catches a touchdown pass and uses a prop in celebration. “Oh, it’s unsportsmanlike! It’s taunting! What horrible role models!” And yet we tolerate behavior several times worse from our politicians.

You’d think you could find some respite from these shenanigans if you watched, say, the History Channel. Apparently not. Today, I stumbled upon Ancient Aliens, which rounded up a gaggle of alleged experts to explain that the archaeologically significant site of Mohenjo-daro, Pakistan, had turned up evidence of an atomic blast taking place thousands of years ago, surely evidence of alien intervention.

In rebuttal, one guy got one sentence.

I dug up a more thorough rebuttal here. But what does it say when the History Channel is entertaining notions of easily refuted nonsense, and I have to find a Google Group to find the truth?


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