Fox Snooze

book cover: Amusing Ourselves to Death

Amusing Ourselves to Death from Penguin Books

Former Fox news correspondent, David Shuster explains how Fox distorted the news to right editorially. While this is normally so obvious that it doesn’t deserve mention, there was an interesting quote from him:

“Editorially, I had issues with story selection,” Shuster went on. “But the bigger issue was that there wasn’t a tradition or track record of honoring journalistic integrity. I found some reporters at Fox would cut corners or steal information from other sources or in some cases, just make things up. Management would either look the other way or just wouldn’t care to take a closer look. I had serious issues with that.”

That sounds very believable. While I haven’t had a chance to watch Outfoxed, I have an issue with the basic 1984 premise: Right wing domination of the media is masterminded by people such as Rupert Murdoch following some pyschopathic corporate plan.

When you look at David Shuster’s comments or the background of how Monsanto killed reporting on rBST, it seems more like Brave New World. Not so much a mastermind, but a lack of any thought. Fox isn’t leading, but following a course dictated by Americans in denial over our self-destruction and corporations blindly believe in the myth that Capitalism solves all.

When I was in high school, I read Amusing Ourselves to Death in my Modern Viewpoints, English elective. The thesis was that television was creating an apathetic society more resembling Brave New World than 1984. Both societies seem similar on the surface, but the underlying motives make all the difference. Since it was an election year (1988), there was ample fodder in campaign commercials.

That year, I had engineered a switch of our school newspaper to a new technology desktop publishing. This allowed me to adopt layouts reminiscent of USA Today, I learned about in design books and workshops, but hadn’t been able to use. I remember writing a fake letter to the editor in the name of my teacher for our Lampoon issue complaining about these changes. Despite my ribbing, This book seems oddly prescient now. Many of the examples in the book are dated; the basic premise of passivity is not.

The book (like many others of it that followed in the 80’s) was a diatribe against television in particular. Television is finding itself increasingly irrelevant. That does offer some hope.

I wonder if it is really television that is the problem. Could it be a symptom of simply sensory overload via a wealth of information? People on both sides of the political spectrum are starting to worry that the real problem with political discourse of our nation was the increasing segmentation into echo chambers and iPod playlists.

That we are leading ourselves to our own demise is an depressing thought.

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