Anatomy Of A False Story. Fox News… The Media Outlet For Fascists.

The Chicago Tribune | January 28 2007

For quite some time, media critics and those on the left have argued that Fox News is an ideologically driven propaganda network.

This is the same kind of argument one makes about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Believers have the answers. Skeptics can’t even begin to count. Agnostics say it’s irrelevant.

The fact is, the Fox formula works with its audience, good folks who believe the rest of media is dominated by closet liberals. It’s a big, dedicated choir.

Sometimes, though, something pops up that carries the conversation beyond questions of ideology, beyond finger pointing, beyond even bitter recriminations from competing TV networks full of envy of “The Simpsons” and the powerful Fox News position in the TV marketplace.

The “Hillary-Clinton-is-trying-to-smear-Bara ck-Obama-as-a-latent-Islamic-fundamentalist” story (Pardon the profuse hyphenation, but we can’t think of anything else to call it at this stage.) is a case in point.

A high-speed recap: The Washington Times Insight Magazine online edition reports the Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate attended a madrassa, a conservative Islamic school, when he was a kid and his family lived in Jakarta for a time.

The source of this revelation, the Web site said, was “researchers connected to” the Clinton camp. Fox News discussed the Insight article on two of its programs. The story spread far and wide through Web sites and e-mail chains.

The juicy tidbit at the heart of the story, the hint that Obama’s primary-school education set him up to embrace radical Islam should he become president, was wrong. He’s a Christian. He didn’t attend a madrassa in Jakarta.

The Clinton folks say the story is “scurrilous” and the product of a “right-wing rag” and that they had nothing to do with it.

Actually, none of this touches on the heart of the problem.

It took a few hundred years for journalism to reach the stage at which the best truth one could find was the force behind what was published, broadcast, put before the public. Critics find it hard to believe, but much of what is called “mainstream media” agonizes every day over what is true and what is not, because it is wrong to print what is not provably true.

In that context, what Insight did on its Web site, and what Fox News did in repeating the report, was not ideological at all. It was unethical, unprofessional and shabby, a trifecta, if you will, in the world of journalism.

It also is a sign of the growing indifference Internet “journalism” presents on the question of truth. Rumor is good enough. Bibles of blogging are created based on nothing more than rumor.

So sure, scan it, scroll through it, read it. But, also, ask yourself: Do you know who’s giving you your news?

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