How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Laugh at FOX News

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There’s a little game I play with myself when I go to my mother-in-law’s house.  She always has FOX News on the big screen TV, and not wanting to be polite in asking her to change the channel, I’ve developed a mind trick.  Whenever the pundit shows are on, whenever Sean Hannity starts his shtick on how liberals are maniacal and subversive, when Bill O’Reilly gives his version of no-spin which is to criticize Democrats and leave Republicans off the hook, when Glenn Beck pulls out his chalkboard and start his smarminess that would get the average 12-year-old slapped, I imagine the whole production set to a laughtrack, and the pundits are actually comedians.  It turns the whole network into a long episode of The Colbert Report, and just as I’m laughing heartily at Stephen Colbert, I can also laugh at the Right-Wing Noise Machine. 

I have to be able to laugh at them, because if I didn’t, they would drive me crazy, just as they’ve driven me crazy in the past, just as they continue to drive people crazy today.  The complete crap that comes out of their mouths is often mean, false, and downright ludicrous.  The lengths they go to in their pursuit of demonizing Democrats and leftists boggle the mind.  That’s their whole raison-d’etre, to be the pitbull for the American right, running interference for Republicans, saying the vicious and preposterous things GOP Senators and Congressmen are thinking so they don’t have to actually say it themselves.  Half of what comes out of their mouths is spoken just to piss off liberals, you have to know this to be true by now.  

You have to laugh at them.  Don’t give yourself over to hyperbole, this is not world-class propaganda, and Roger Ales is not a nouveau Joseph Goebbels.  This is shtick.  FOX News is a one-trick-pony, they are naked about it, they don’t even try to hide it.

But you have to put this in the proper context.  FOX News is just one network.  They are not noted for journalistic integrity.  Their show hosts are hired on two qualities:  attractiveness and willingness to say whatever the producers put on the prompter.  While there is a string of right-wing blogs out there with modest popularity, like The Free Republic and The Drudge Report, most Americans don’t consider them newsworthy enough to take them serious.  Everyone knows their business by now. 

Liberals and other sane citizens need to learn how to turn THIS...

Every so often, though, because too many liberals consider them dangerous in their ability to get into American living rooms, they are taken seriously, probably more so than FOX takes itself.  A prime example was last year, during the Shirley Sherrod fiasco, where the FOX intelligentsia took a small snippet from a speech she made and tried to make it seem she and the NAACP were racist; it was so successful that the NAACP berated her and she was fired from her federal job; it took CNN, a network still clinging to journalistic integrity, to set the record straight, to show the entirety of the speech in question, to interview Sherrod and others mentioned in the speech, and instead of this being an issue of racism, it became an inspiration on how one can transcend racist thought.  At the end of the day, FOX was ROTFLOL, saying transparently, if liberals contend this network is just lies and propaganda, why did they jump so high to initially condemn Sherrod when we aired our story?  Instead of apologizing for their actions, FOX simply spun the story to make it seem like there was something, nothing they could put their finger on, but something still amiss in the whole affair, something still smells fishy about Sherrod, and the story went away. 

...into THIS.

And apparently, so did liberal memory of the event. 

This is not an attempt to bash FOX.  They are a known quantity.  We know them for what they are.  They are the untrained dog that poops on the floor and tears up the couch when you’re gone for the day, and then looks at you like it was your fault for bringing it home in the first place, you knew I was going to do this, why are you blaming me? 

This is, however, a criticism of American liberals who still, after all these years, get so bent out of shape whenever FOX says something ridiculous. 

This week, while the world is praising the United States for finding and killing Osama bin Laden, and while much of the world is patting Barack Obama on the back for showing leadership and determination in collecting intelligence and ordering Navy Seals to pull this off, FOX is trying to gain political points for former president George W. Bush.  I’m reading liberal comments on the Internet, primarily on Facebook, agog with FOX’s attempts to spin all this into a GOP win.  My response to those comments is, are you really that surprised?  You know they’ll never give Obama respect, you know their entire reason for being is to spin anything and everything to favor Republicans and demonize Democrats.  Why, then, are you dismayed when they act as they’ve acted for the last twelve years? 

Here’s the answer.  Because liberals think FOX’s lies and dirty tricks are effective, and any American who watches one of their pundit shows for five minutes will be whirled away into their web of deceit.  Yes, there’s a sucker born every minute, and no doubt there are viewers that take their broadcasts for gospel.  They have yet, however, to truly damage American politics, with Democrats competing just as well with Republicans on a national level, thank you very much.  FOX does not accurately depict conservative values; they only accurately reflect the viciousness of Washingtondiscord.  What is going on in this country, from a tanked economy to tanked foreign policy to never-ending wars for vague reasons, these are all problems started long before FOX put together their news network, and now they’ve all come to their natural conclusions.  FOX did not put Tea Party candidates in Congress, that was a reaction to the status quo, and voters primarily vote by their pocketbooks.  They did not get George W. Bush in the White House, the Supreme Court trumped the Constitution to do that.  Everything you see today is the push-pull of politics, and after enjoying most of the 20th century with sane, equitable liberal politics, the last thirty years have seen the conservatives push back, until they’re on the brink of undoing the New Deal and destroying people’s rights to collective bargaining. 

All of this, however, took decades to come to fruition.  FOX did not cause these problems, they’re only taking these problems and spinning them to make Democrats look bad.  Had FOX had real influence, the Democratic Party would have died years ago, with Republicans enjoying one-party rule, and theUSwould have become Ayn Rand’s wet dream, a conservative paradise. 

This is only my opinion, but FOX only has power if we give it to them.  We get irritated by them because we allow them to irritate us.  At this point, I’ve come to believe that FOX, like Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh, thrives on having two audiences, a small but loyal audience that gets real entertainment from the show, and a larger one that hangs on their every word to find the lies, to debunk the propaganda, to discover new reasons to get pissed off.  Liberals form the latter, and at some point, we have to recognize this and pull the plug. 

Thus, I have to tell you, if you watch Glenn Beck with the premise in mind that he’s a comedian spoofing conservative zealotry, you will be able to laugh at it.  You won’t need Jon Stewart to do it for you, as he often devotes much of The Daily Show doing.  You’ll be able to do it yourself.  Thus, when you’re flipping stations on the TV, and you inevitably linger on FOX for a few seconds to see what crap is flying from their cakeholes today, you’ll be able to move on with a chuckle, because you’ll see it as comedy, not propaganda.  Life’s too short to worry about this, and you have to remember, we’re liberals, we champion the First Amendment, we support diversity of thought, even if we don’t agree with it.  Knowing half of what comes out of Sean Hannity’s mouth is said just to piss you off, you can’t give him power over you, you have to laugh it off, you have to see him as a comedian instead of a liar. 

Or just change the station and move on. 

Either way, keep FOX in the proper context, and don’t make them into more than they are by giving them power over you.  Kill them with laughter.

LIBYA: War Makes Hypocrites of Us All

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The Right-Wing Noise Machine is pulling President Obama from both sides. On the one hand, they’re badgering him for intervening in Libya, enforcing the UN-sanctioned no-fly zone and engaging Libyan units in aerial combat. On the other hand, they’re saying Obama doesn’t care about democracy because he hasn’t intervened on behalf of pro-democracy protesters in Yemen and Bahrain. I’ve long dismissed conservative pundits as modern pre-Socratic sophists, throwing all the mud they can and hoping some of it sticks, regardless of the twists in logic—if it exists in their arguments at all. It’s contradictions like this that turned me off to them a long time ago.

NeoCon pundits are a known quantity. What I have a hard time reconciling is, why are many of the same liberals who excoriated the Bush administration for starting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq now defending Obama’s use of air cover to help the Libyan rebels?

This is one case where nearly every American becomes a hypocrite if he favored intervention when one party was in the White House, but opposed it when the other was in.

I’ve tried to wrap my brain around this, and though I voted for Obama and still believe, despite Republicans trying to trip him up at every opportunity, he will ultimately be remembered as a solid American and a good President, I can’t go along with him on this, for the same reasons I couldn’t support Bush when he invaded Iraq in 2003.

I remember when Bush addressed the nation in ’03 as battleship groups set themselves up in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. I was reluctantly supportive of the act in its initial stage, considering it a necessary evil. As the war drug on, and all the nasty little evils men do to one another mounted and mounted, I was vocal in my opposition—nay, detesting—of the way the war was handled, between use of contractors that shot civilians for fun, profiteering, waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Halliburton, and all the other critters that we saw crawl when we lifted the rock. I generally oppose war, period, and pretty much all wars in human history were fought for bullshit reasons; this was just one more.

Let me add a little more depth to this. Concerning the Middle East, I’ve been opposed to most every American incursion. From Reagan’s bombing of Tripoli in 1986, to Desert Storm, to Afghanistan and Iraq, to today, I believe American policy in the Middle East has been wrongly enforced and should be scrapped. During the Cold War, the US propped up despots for their own interests (protection of Israel and, more importantly, protection of the flow of cheap petroleum), turning a blind eye to the tyranny they imposed on their own people. While Americans still cringe at the thought of the Ayatollah Khomeini assuming power with the flight of the Shah of Iran in 1979, I’ve come to realize it was an event 25 years in the making, starting with the US installing the Shah in the 1950’s and overthrowing what was then a fledgling democracy.

That’s the hard lesson Americans have to learn, and with Obama’s actions in Libya, it looks like they still haven’t. Since the 1950’s, the US has either turned a blind eye to Middle Eastern tyranny, outright supported it, or manipulated politics to ensure it, for the sake of its own ends, and at some point, you had to believe the people there would eventually get pissed off enough to fight back. What we’re seeing in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and elsewhere in the region is a mass movement, an entire generation of Middle Easterners, who want to free themselves from despots who have overstayed their welcome, in many cases because Western powers, particularly the US, benefited. Have a prisoner you want to interrogate without getting your hands dirty? Send him to Egypt, our buddy Hosni Mubarek has no problem rendering them for you. Need to keep the fundamentalists in Iran in line? Arm Saddam Hussein in Iraq, let him fight a war of attrition that has arguably been the bloodiest war since World War II, and shake his hand until he becomes inconvenient. Who cares if women are second-class citizens in Saudi Arabia, who cares if most of the hijackers from 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, gas is getting up past two bucks a gallon, so the Saudi family gets a pass.

In terms of the Middle East, Americans have to decide what is more important, maintaining the status quo and thinking only in terms of national interest, or allowing these countries to sort out their own affairs and create governments of their own making?

Truly, the protests in Tunisia and Egypt that led to the overthrow of governments and heads of state that were American allies for decades demonstrates that citizens can indeed organize themselves, defend themselves, and even oust the tyrants, all by themselves. It’s an argument that tosses the grand argument of the previous decade, that Iraq and Afghanistan inherently need America to kick the bad guys to the curb, out the window.

Don’t misunderstand me. I want the rebels in Libya to oust Moammar Qadhafi as bad as anyone else does. I root for the everyday man, the working class stiff, the guy who is overworked and underpaid, because that’s most of the world, and there’s something far more noble in a day of labor than a day of leisure. As such, I want the people of Libya to forge their own destiny, one that may or may not include the United States, and for the US to respect that destiny and not warp it for their own selfish cravings.

I will always root for self-determination; that should be a staple principle in all things American. Our history, however, proves us lacking in commitment to that ethic.

If democracy is something we seek to spread throughout the world, it should be through our example, our championing, our excellence in the craft. It should not have to be something we enforce at the point of a gun. Were democracy truly something to treasure, we wouldn’t have to force countries to accept it; they would steal it, just as they would any other precious commodity. They should see the shining example America is setting and say, that’s what we want for our own people, let’s overthrow the bastards and do it for ourselves, even if we have to die trying.

Maybe, once upon a time, we set such a shining example. Now? Eh…

This is a fight for the Libya people to fight, but it was also a fight for the Iraqi people to fight, the Afghani people to fight, the Tunisian and Yemeni and, back in the day, the Iranian people to fight. As Lyndon Johnson said (and later renigged), we shouldn’t be sending American kids thousands of miles around the world to do what Asian kids (or Libyan kids, for that matter) should be doing for themselves.

While I understand and even enjoy the thinking that led the Obama Administration, the French and British governments, and the UN to the resolution that installed the no-fly zone over Libya, it doesn’t matter. As much as anyone, I want Qadhafi gone, and I want the Libyans to create a government of their own choosing, but it’s THEIR government of THEIR choosing.

That’s what self-determination, as foreign a concept as it might seem to Americans, is all about.

So let the conservatives play the contradictions and pull Obama from both directions. Let the liberals support Obama for doing more or less the same thing they criticized Bush for doing. War makes hypocrites of us all. The consistent view is the rare view, and if you’re beholden so tight to your party or ideology that it blinds you, you have to accept your hypocrisy for what it is. Don’t play spindoctor, don’t overexplain yourself, just acknowledge and move on, hopefully with a little more humility than when you started the day.