6 Tricks Fox News Uses to Invent a Fake Story
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To help viewers spot the next Sherrod, here's a brief guide to the six parlor tricks Fox uses to mislead the credulous:
- Rhetorical questions. "Is the N.A.A.C.P. racist?" asked Bill O'Reilly last month, leading some viewers to an obvious-though false-answer. "Will the [New Start treaty] leave the U.S. defenseless until it's too late?" wondered anchor Megyn Kelly. Rinse. Repeat. Every day.
- Creating reality by repeated slogans.Fox's anchors and hosts reiterate certain loaded phrases to see if they'll catch on and reframe the political conversation. The only problem with "death taxes" and "death panels" and "climate-gate," however, is that they all describe made-up stuff.
- Conclusory lies delivered with certainty. To rational minds, facts lead to conclusions; at Fox, conclusions lead to "facts." The key is that they are said so quickly and authoritatively that they seem self-evident. So the stimulus hasn't created one job ... or any private-sector jobs ... or not very many.
I encountered this in 2000 when I was on O'Reilly. In one of many efforts to show that Christians were an oppressed minority, the host asked why nativity scenes were barred from public places but menorahs weren't. I agreed that both should be barred since they were comparable religious symbols. On his next show, he called me "anti-Christian" because I would allow a menorah but not a crèche. Whoa. When I asked for a retraction, his producer blithely said, "Well, Bill had a different interpretation."
- Highlight out-of-context aberrations and ignore all contrary data. Did you know that Ted Williams always struck out? I can prove it with a tape showing his whiffs, but not those hits producing a lifetime .344 batting average. Did you know that Barack Obama largely created all our deficits? Actually, George Bush's last budget anticipated a deficit of $1.3 billion in Mr. Obama's first year, and America's debt today comes largely from Reagan's and Bush 43's tax cuts and deficits, as David Stockman explained in a New York Times op-ed last week.
- McCarthyism and causation. Liberals are evil because in 1969 the Weathermen issued a manifesto suggesting revolution in America, said Glenn Beck on two shows last week. Without explanation, this 40-year-old report was somehow linked to Mr. Obama and his appointees.
In this category goes repeated references to Mr. Obama as Hitler or a Nazi. Mr. Beck did this so often that comedian Lewis Black strung them together on The Daily Show in what he called a medley of Beck's "Hitler Tourette's Syndrome."
When in doubt, race-bait. This is not to accuse Fox of racism, which is a losing argument since, in America today, it appears to be worse to call someone a racist than to be one.