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Kill Your (Cable) Television

To be honest, I find the whole Obama v. Fox News kerfuffle so tedious and exhausting that I've tried to ignore it, which is why I haven't bothered to blog anything about it. Still, despite my best efforts, I can't seem to escape it. But if I had tried to write something about it, I doubt it would have been anywhere near as spot-on as this Jacob Weisberg piece:

Rather than in any way maturing, Fox has in recent months become more boisterous and demagogic in rallying the opposition against Obama. The "fair and balanced" mask has been slipping with increasing frequency—as when a RNC press release was regurgitated so lazily that it repeated a typo on air or when a reporter wondered why other networks weren't doing PR for "tea parties" that Fox covered the way the Hearst press covered the Spanish-American war. On Fox, fact-checking about the president's health care proposal is provided by Karl Rove. For literary coverage, it features the bigot Jerome Corsi's rants about Obama and John Kerry. Meanwhile, the crybaby Glenn Beck has begun to exhibit a Strangelovean concern about America's precious bodily fluids, charging the government with trying to invade our bloodstream by vaccinating us for swine flu. With this latest misinformation campaign, Fox stands to become the first network to actively try to kill its viewers.

That Rupert Murdoch may skew the news rightward more for commercial than ideological reasons is somewhat beside the point. What matters is the way that Fox's successful model has invaded the bloodstream of the American media. By showing that ideologically distorted news can drive ratings, Ailes has provoked his rivals at CNN and MSNBC to experiment with a variety of populist and ideological takes on the news. It's Fox that led CNN's Lou Dobbs to remodel himself into a nativist cartoon. It's Fox that led MSNBC to amp up Keith Olbermann. Fox hasn't just corrupted its own coverage. Though its influence, it has made all of cable news unpleasant and unreliable.

So unpleasant and so unreliable that I can't even bring myself to watch it anymore. I just wish I didn't have to read about it so much. Let's hope Weisberg's piece--in which he urges his fellow journalists to just ignore Fox--is the final word, although I know better that it won't be.