Media Literacy in America

The Obama Administration has continued to challenge Fox News as a worthy news network and as noted earlier, reaction can concentrate on the content of the White House’s challenge or the form it is made in.


In a sign that much of what we call news is increasingly opinion, the media reporting the Fox News v. White House story are asking whether the challenge is politically advantageous to the Administration, leaving to the side whether the claims being made by the two parties are true or not.

Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald says Fox News is hypocritical for having cozied up to the Bush administration while booing Obama for trying to control the media. True, I suppose, if the White House is trying to control the media, but its criticism has been very transparent. The frightening thing about Nixon’s lists of enemies, which Obama and his media literacy have been likened to, was that they were secret. The names on Nixon’s list were to receive the private, covert muscle of the Executive.

But Greenwald is allowing Fox News to frame the debate—putting attention on the White House’s actions rather than on Fox—and when Fox frames a debate, everything shifts to the right and the conversation starts just where Fox wants it to. The controversy is not about White House influence on the media or the political fallout of the call-out. What is at issue is whether American news sources are reporting facts or hiding from them.

Even the New York Times handles Fox News with kid gloves, for example, saying that Fox covered the anti-tax Tea Party rally without mentioning that it directly inflated the protest’s virility in front of cameras. The Times’ staff article merely reports that there is some back-and-forth between the Administration and Fox News without analyzing claims made on either side. Is the NYT afraid of being a member of the “liberal press”? What else could explain its neutered reporting?

England’s the Guardian, however, reports how Fox News has covered the Obama presidency. Here is a list of things it remembered from Fox broadcasts:

  • Glenn Beck’s patriotic fervor as he wept while introducing Sarah Palin
  • Fox News taking talking points memos from the W. Bush Administration
  • Fox giving its own resources to boost the Tea Party protesters
  • Glenn Beck’s accusations of Obama as a Nazi
  • Fox’s repeated fear-mongering
  • Notice that only the end of the Guardian article considers the political fallout of the White House’s challenge while mostly focusing on whose claims, Fox’s or the White House’s, are supported with evidence. NYT, take a lesson.

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