Thursday, October 30, 2008

All ACORN, All the Time -- The parallel universe that is Fox News

When Buzz and I can't find an old episode of Star Trek on the plethora of cable channels we have at the OVC central command, we can always travel to an alternate universe on Fox News. It's almost impossible to turn to Fox News these days and not see a series of stories on ACORN. ACORN (the association of community organizations for reform now) is the nation’s largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people with over 400,000 member families organized into more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in 110 cities across the country. It was created in 1970 and has a commitment to social and economic justice.

Fox News has devoted almost as much time to ACORN as Nancy Grace has dedicated to telling us that Casey Anthony should be drawn and quartered. The problem with ACORN is that they hired people on an incentive system based on the total number of registrations an individual could get. The more registrations the workers, got they more they got paid. This lead to registrations of "Mickey Mouse" in Florida and the Dallas Cowboys team in Nevada. What's important to remember about the ACORN matter is that ACORN was required by law to hand in these registrations no matter how illegitimate they appeared. ACORN went one step further and red flagged any suspicious registration before they handed them into the Voter Registration Offices. These fictitious registrants are not showing up to vote.

Barack Obama's only direct formal connection to ACORN was limited to representing ACORN as co-counsel with the US Department of Justice on an Illinois Motor Voter case in the early 1990s. It is true that a number of ACORN's future leaders participated in "Project Vote" in the early 1990s. Obama helped organize Project Vote, a successful voter registration drive in Illinois in the early 1990s. This is the ACORN story, period. Sorry. One more point. John McCain was a featured speaker in February of 2006 at an ACORN rally in Miami, Florida. McCain gave a speech where he praised the group's accomplishments and mission.

Fox News is neither "Fair" nor "Balanced." It is basically the propaganda wing of the Republican National Committee. Don't get me wrong, other national media outlets certainly have a liberal slant, but at least they attempt to report the news with only occasional commentary. There are those on MSNBC, for example, who obviously have an axe to grind. Keith Olbermann is the perfect example. Countdown with KO is a very entertaining and informative show, but at least Keith tries to separate his opinion from the news he reports. Again, don't get me wrong. Olbermann is a liberal and proud of it. When he wants to pontificate on a subject at length, he separates that opinion in his "Special Comment" segment.

Further, MSNBC is not just Keith Olbermann. MSNBC has a three hour morning program hosted by conservative former GOP Congressman Joe Scarborough. And here's something that has always perplexed us about, does Pat Buchannan live at the MSNBC studios? He is literally on from morning to night, forcefully offering his well reasoned conservative point of view. During the rest of the programing day, they offer a variety of anchors who may be liberals at heart, but give conservatives and liberals fairly equal treatment.

What Fox has done is intertwine news with opinion so tightly that you can't tell the two apart. Sean Hannity is the perfect example. Here's a little drinking game for our avid readers. Watch Hannity and Colmes. Drink every time Hannity says any of the following: "Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers, Father Flager, Joe the Plumber, or Socialist." Mark my word, you will be falling down drunk fifteen minutes into the show.

But what is more troubling than the opinion shows of Hannity and Bill O'Reilly is the fact that 24 hours a day, Fox tries to pass off opinion as news, all the while blasting the Main Stream Media, to which it is a part. In a perfect world, it would be nice to have an alternative to liberal leaning media --- a network that was indeed "Fair and Balanced," but what Fox News has created is the conservative counterpart to the liberal evils they decry.

Let's take Sarah Palin as an example. Palin did a number of interviews with Fox News' Sean Hannity, and I use the word "interview" very loosely. Hannity failed to ask her a single difficult questions. His interview can be summed up this way. Hannity's questions amounted to "Tell us why you are the Second Coming of Christ." It was like an eight year old child interviewing his sports hero. The Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric interviews consisted of questions which any competent candidate for the nation's second highest office should have answered with ease. They were not "gotcha" journalism, or the media picking on her because she is a woman. THEY WERE THE MEDIA DOING THEIR JOB. Hillary Clinton would have been able to answer the Gibson and Couric questions with ease, because she knows how to think and analyze, not just spout off scripted talking points.

Here's some recent gems from the "fair and balanced" network. Dick Morris repeatedly said Obama was general counsel for ACORN. Obama was an associate in a law firm that represented ACORN in a "motor voter" law suit in 1993. ACORN "almost" got money in the $700 billion bailout. Neither the September draft proposal nor the final version of the bill contained any language mentioning ACORN. Hannity referred to former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines as "a chief economic adviser" to Obama. Raines has no involvement with Obama or his campaign.

In 2003, the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland conducted a thorough study of public knowledge and attitudes about current events and the war on terrorism. While the PIPA study concluded that most Americans (over 60%) held at least one of these mistaken impressions, the researchers also concluded that Americans’ opinions were shaped in large part by which news outlet they relied upon to receive their information.

Looking at the misperceptions one at a time, people were asked, for example, if the U.S. had discovered the alleged stockpiles of WMD in Iraq since the war began. Just 11% of those who relied on newspapers as their “primary news source” incorrectly believed that U.S. forces had made such a discovery. Only slightly more — 17% — of those who relied on NPR and PBS were wrong. Yet 33% of Fox News viewers were wrong, far ahead of those who relied on any other outlet.

Likewise, when people were asked if the U.S. had “clear evidence” that Saddam Hussein was “working closely with al Queda,” similar results were found. Only 16% of NPR and PBS listeners/viewers believed that the U.S. has such evidence, while 67% of Fox News viewers were under that mistaken impression.

Overall, 80 percent of those who relied on Fox News as their primary news source believed at least one of the three misperceptions. Viewers/listeners/readers of other news outlets didn’t even come close to this total

The by-product of the Fox News propaganda machine is a misinformed public, and a public that focuses on the propaganda spewed forth by Fox News. Buzz showed me an example of this in one of our local papers from this week. There were two "letters to the editor" in support of John McCain. Neither of them focused on McCain more than saying McCain puts "country first," and he is a man of "absolute moral character and integrity." The main focus of the letters was Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers, ACORN, an the liberal media. In fairness, there was one letter supporting Obama. That letter did an adequate job explaining Obama's tax plans as the reason to vote for Obama.

We're gonna go watch some Star Trek.

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