Thursday, February 12, 2004

The Circus

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum… That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate”

-Noam Chomsky

February 12, 2004

I'm writing this week's column for my mother, satellite TV subscriber and avowed Cable News Addict. The various talking heads of the upper 300s have become like family at our house; Chris Matthews has sparked many a bonding moment between my Southern Baptist, Republican, pre-school teaching mother and I, but we can't watch that braying ass Pat O'Reilly together anymore (sorry, Mom, but he's an idiot!).

These days I get my news online, where the bias is a bit less strangling, but I still leave the reruns of the evening talk shows on while I work at my night job. It's with that bizarre mixture of fascination and disgust that makes people watch things like "Fear Factor" that I sample the spin-happy opinion-mongering of Hannity & Colmes Fox “Fair and Balanced If You’re Right Wing” News, and it is with respect for a true asshole that I watch as Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s “Hardball” puts the screws to absolutely everybody brave enough to talk to him, but this week I want to talk about the little things.

I’ll take an example that particularly got under my skin a couple of weeks back from Neil Cavuto. Howard Dean said on January 7 that his faith led him to support civil unions between gay people, and Neil Cavuto, before going to commercial that night, announced that interview over soundless footage of Dean with the subtitle “Howard Dean Says God Told Him Gay Marriage OK,” which really just speaks for itself. When they returned, they didn’t run the interview but instead immediately launched into commentary on Dean’s support of gay marriage, which would politically hurt him because most of the country is against gay marriage blah blah blah. This isn’t just sensationalism; this is blatant misreporting.

The icing on the cake is that Dean said in that very interview that he supports civil unions and specifically not gay marriage; go look it up… online. When I look at the hundred little implicit lies of mass media journalism, I like to think that most people noticed when the people who load trucks with explosives and drive them into buildings went from being “suicide bombers” to being “homicide bombers,” but at the same time I wonder if most people are just happy to get what they pay for: the circus.

By the way, to demonstrate just how subtle bias can be, I support Howard Dean, and I left out something he said in that interview that could actually damage his campaign a bit. Find out for yourself.

The fall of creationism got a couple of you talking, but I’m nowhere near the account size limit at


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