To the producers at FOX News:
Building a rundown for broadcast requires a keen sense for smooth transitions. After a story on debt ceiling negotiations, if you have a story on Wall Street’s reaction, you’d want that story to follow.
After a story on debt ceiling negotiations, if you have a story on the World’s Ugliest Dog contest… wait until the D block for that one.
Now let’s say you have this: a story on the Norway massacre and a story on the Park51 Muslim community center.
Let’s also say you’re building your newscast before any evidence arises as to know is responsible for the attacks in Oslo and Utøya.
If you’re a responsible journalist, you either kill the Park51 story or you move it further down in the newscast. Why? Because if you lead into a piece about the controversial “Ground Zero mosque” with a story on a terrorist attack, your viewers will likely associate the two, although no one has confirmed the identity of the attacker or the motive.
If you’re FOX News, you go ahead and let that association happen anyway - because catering to Islamophobia is your niche.
I usually try not to bother too much with identifying the Ethical bankruptcy of Fox News, but I think this is a particularly good example of exactly what makes them so bad: they don’t come right out and say that there’s a connection between the Oslo attacks and Muslim Extremism. They suggest it by running a story about Park 51 right on top of the Oslo story, thereby placing images of both 9/11, Ground Zero, and Muslim “controversy” in the same mindshare of their viewers as the Oslo bombing.
You can see them doing similar things when they make conscious decisions about how to phrase their story headings, or what words they choose to describe a story. For example, they might have a lead-in for a story about Obama’s attempt to close Guantanamo that looks like this:
"BOLD LEADERSHIP, OR ENDANGERING AMERICA? YOU DECIDE!"
This headline is flawed for two reasons: a) it presents the audience with a false dichotomy of choices. Bold leadership and endangering America are not mutually exclusive. One can conceive of one leading to the other, even. But more subtly (and importantly), this headline is flawed because, b) it purposefully and consciously places the critical, skeptical choice second, rather than first. Doing so implies through rhetorical selection that this is the correct choice. This actually requires a little explanation, because it’s an argument from tendency, not from causality.
When people argue through comparison, they usually present the “bad” choice first. Here’s three random argumentative examples to illustrate the point:
1. “How would you react if you were punched in the face? Are you just going to sit there and take it, or are you going to fight back?”
2. “What would you do if you found out your best friend is stealing from you? Are just gonna let it happen, or are you gonna put a stop to it?”
3. “What makes more sense in the long run? Spending your money on booze and hookers every night, or saving your money so you can afford a new car?”***
this is a rather subversive rhetorical tool that Fox News uses all the time and on purpose. Of course, Fox News can plausibly deny that they’ve done this on purpose because there’s no hard and fast rule saying that English speakers always need to place the “bad choice first” when making an argument-by-comparison. Yet Fox news can rely on the tendency of English speakers to do this anyway in order to make the second choice seem like the correct one. It is essentially Yellow Journalism with plausible deniability. Fox News uses proximity and rhetorical devices with the intention of drawing their audience in to make passive assumptions and connections about the material in their broadcasts. This is why even many Conservatives who admit Fox News has a Conservative bias still feel they are a legitimate News source, because Fox News can plausibly deny that they use these rhetorical tools on purpose to manipulate the audience’s perception. The subtle genius of their Modus Operandi is that the viewer does the work for them.
***(Personally, I’d take the booze and hookers, but that’s just me)
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- wateringgoodseeds said: Ironically, they managed to get it right. After all, it turns out that the fruits of anti-Muslim hatemongering is murder of one’s own countrymen!
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