Friday, November 5, 2010

Is Fox News Divisive? Well .... Sort Of

Is it divisive to state your opinion? I guess it is, if someone disagrees with you.

The word “divisive” has turned up in politics a lot in the last 10-15 years. I started noticing it’s frequent use during the George W. Bush Administration, and I thought it funny because those who disliked Bush were, of course, the ones calling him divisive. While Bush might have been divisive, I certainly don’t think he had a monopoly on it. Even before the Dems took the house in 2008, my view was that Nancy Pelosi was the most divisive person in politics. I guess it depends on your political leanings.

Nevertheless, it does appear we are more politically divided, and the magnitude of our different viewpoints is increasing. Why is this? Have we just become less tolerant of others with differing views? Are we more stubborn about our own?

There are many reasons, but two that stand out. First, the American public is more informed. In many cases, they are misinformed, but still are fed information to process. The more information people get, the more they strengthen their opinions. And, this, of course, is because of the new media. It is easy to get news without having to obtain a newspaper or sit for a given period of time in front of a TV to find out what is going on. We have a smorgasbord of choices from the internet, blogs, DVR’s - you name it. Info is available at virtually any time and in any form we want. People who want to seek out info can find it fairly easily.

The more compelling reason, however, is the rise of conservative talk radio and Fox News.

We all know (or should know) the major broadcast organizations such as ABC, CBS, and NBC and newspapers such as the New York Times have moved decidedly left over the years. These news outlets drifted into reshaping news to cover only what they wanted to cover, news that fit their view. Anything that didn’t fit their view was omitted, dismissed as irrelevant, or just plain lied about. Everyday citizens were brow-beaten into believing what they heard from the establishment news organizations, and made to feel stupid if they didn’t understand and agree.

But all along, something didn’t seem right, and when conservative talk radio gained to get a foothold, many people started to question what they heard in the mainstream media. Common sense conservative talk radio dared to challenge the “established beliefs” that characterized the mainstream media, and people connected. Suddenly people began to realize they were not alone, that there were other people who shared their opinions. Does the “silent majority” come to mind? Notice we haven’t heard that term for a while. That’s because they are no longer silent.

If conservative talk radio was the fuel, Fox News was the match. With a television network now in on the uprising, people were able to see photos and video clips to justify the viewpoints of the upstarts. No longer was right-wing talk just hearsay. The large numbers of Americans who found out others shared their views suddenly became empowered, suddenly felt justified, suddenly felt right. They were no longer as afraid to express their views and stand up to be counted.

Yes, the Left is correct when they accuse conservative talk radio and Fox News of creating the divisiveness in this country. Contrary to their charges, however, it is not because they spread misinformation or fear, it is because they distribute facts and express opinions that are legitimate and well-conceived, and, therefore, have assisted in creating the uprising of people who are just not going to take submission anymore.

The reason the left calls it divisiveness? Prior to this political rebellion, the left had their way with the media and the public discourse in the country without challenge. All of a sudden they were being called out, challenged, and their columns and news broadcasts were being criticized. The peace and harmony of a one-party dominated media and an intimidated political under class were suddenly gone. No more easy street. They named it divisiveness.

I am distressed when I see the vitriol spewed from both sides of the idealogical isle. I wish we could have reasonable discussion without name calling. Name calling is a good form of defense because it shifts the discussion from the issues to whether or not the target of the attack is guilty as charged. A good example is calling tea party people racist, or calling left-wingers unpatriotic. Both charges are ridiculous.

In my recent blog, The Boxer Racist, I began by saying when you disagree with Democrats on any subject where race is remotely involved, they will call you names. As expected, one reader called me a bigot, and said I was “full of crap.” He said little to explain his reasons. He also said nothing to rebuke my statements in the article, feeling that merely calling it “laughable” disproved everything I had said. Fortunately, these forms of verbal intimidation and oppression are more and more being ignored by those previously oppressed. The “right-wing” media is making that possible.

The new discussion is healthy. The name calling is not. And while both sides participate, the predominant name callers are on the left. The “divisiveness” will not lessen until it stops.

So, Fox News, you are guilty of promoting divisiveness as charged. And we thank you.

Mercer Tyson

This is part two of a two-part opinion about Fox News on this blog. Part two, The Rise of Fox News? The Networks Have Themselves To Blame discusses how Fox has catapulted itself to the top in television news ratings.

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