Fox on Line 1
One thing is clear - FOX NEWS sucks.
It's been dissected, discussed and disputed since it hit the air nine years ago and 467 years to the day after the first public book burning.
I am sure the timing is just a coincidence.
Fox News is biased, slanted and agenda driven. If you're reading this blog, you know this already (if you're more interested, "Outfoxed" is a decent documentary on the subject and can be ordered from Netflix). As far as I am concerned, the least newsworthy thing about FOX NEWS is that it's not news.
FOX NEWS is so off-base that it's not worth debating anymore.
But what I do want to debate is: Should Democrats, liberals and other progressives engage FOX NEWS, Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura and the thirteen hundred other crappy conservative shows and stations? Or should we not bother?
There are two arguments.
The first argument is that these conservative outlets aren't going away. In spite of their obvious flaws, they reach a hefty chunk of the electorate every day. And rather than allow these political snake oil salesmen to peddle their own thories about our liberal agenda, we should speak for ourselves. Only then, this argument goes, do we have any control over what they say about us and we can, from time to time, let the light of truth shine on otherwise dim discourse.
The counter view is that by appearing on FOX NEWS and doing radio interviews with Sean Hanity, we give them credibility they wouldn't otherwise have. By appearing on the O'Reily Factor, for example we allow His Smugness to pretend to be fair and impartial when we know he isn't. Even further, some argue, when we debate conservative pundits we stoop to their level or, even worse, we let the public believe that some political issues are in debate at all.
It's taken me a while, but I have come to believe, that when it comes to the FOX NEWSES of the political marketplace, we're better off yielding to the logic of the second argument - leave them alone.
That's not to say the engagement argument is bogus. We're clearly the best messengers for our own agenda.
But I think we're better off leaving them alone because their viewers and listeners are the equilivent of street junkies; there are a ton of them but the only thing they really want is their conservative, liberal-bashing fix. FOX NEWS viewers have to be the most un-persuadable demographic on television - especially on progressive issues.
If you've watched FOX NEWS at all, you've seen capable, experienced, political professionals hacked to death by half-truths, bogus arguments and shouting. You have to wonder, even if FOX NEWS views are interested in a debate, how much of our argument actually gets delivered.
My hunch is not much.
On the other hand I think we do a great service to a station that shouts about its fairness and balance when we appear. Shakespeare would have said they doth protest too much. But even so, it is harder to argue that FOX NEWS is the public relations arm of the Republican Party when Rep. Nancy Pelosi is a guest.
Just for fun, what would happen if credible Democrats (they can have Zell Miller) refused to go on FOX NEWS shows, blocked them from their press conferences and erased them from their press release media lists?
What if the only guests Brit Hume could get were Reps. Tom Delay and Tom Feeney?
Sure, conservative junkies would still get their fixes. But it would be harder to call yourself a news station if you could only cover one side of every story.
If the Republican White House can restrict access of reporters from CNN or The New York Times when they don't like the coverage, why are we gun-shy about kicking FOX NEWS to the curb?
And here's an honest question: How much more respect would have for Bill Nelson if he had a campaign event and threw the FOX NEWS "reporter" out on her ass?
Sure, they'd play it over and over again. They'd say he's disrespecting the freedom of the press. So what. They're not press. More importantly, what are FOX NEWS viewers going to do about it? Not vote for Democratic candidates?
At the end of the day I think Democrats and other progressives have little to gain by appearing on FOX NEWS and nothing to lose by treating them like the media quacks they are.
Pretend you're the Press Secretary for Rod Smith or Jim Davis or Becky Democrat, and FOX NEWS is on line one about your press conference.
I know what I'd do.
What's your call?