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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Who's Hypersensitive Now?

Over at Reason, David Harsanyi pens a very touchy article discussing recent remarks from the Obama administration about Fox News.

Let me offer some quotes from Harsanyi that illustrate how he is placing the worst possible interpretation on whatever the Obama administration says:

"Dunn also asserted that when the president 'goes on Fox, he understands he's not going on it really as a news network at this point. He's going on to debate the opposition.' Who knew debating the future of the nation is such a ghastly thought?"

Of course, Dunn doesn't say the idea is "ghastly," I guess we're just not supposed to notice that the ghastliness is entirely the invention of Harsanyi.

"So what is the underlying rationale for this hypersensitive strategy of trying to delegitimize the voice of cable opposition?"

But if Fox News is "the voice of cable opposition" then they really aren't a news station, are they, but more of an op-ed station, right? And pointing this out would not be "delegitimizing" them, but just noting what they do.

Harsanyi is ready for this objection: "Then again, does biased political coverage disqualify one from reporting legitimate and useful news stories? Fox News may not be able to unsheathe the intellectual rigor of Obama favorites David Letterman and Jay Leno, but it has covered numerous stories in the past few months that otherwise would have gone unnoticed."

That's fine. I don't think anyone doubts that Fox News at least sometimes reports news. But because USSR-era Pravda sometimes reported "There was an earthquake" when, in fact, there had been an earthquake, that did not make it a newspaper!

"the nation's most dominant government entity--an entity that allegedly represents all Americans--is using tax dollars and its considerable influence to try to squash a privately owned news organization that disagrees with it."

They are trying to squash Fox News? Isn't that a bit... well, hypersensitive? Fox News attacks the administration, and the administration responds. Has there been any administration in my lifetime that wouldn't have done the same? Could any administration possibly achieve any of its goals if it didn't fight negative media portrayals of its agenda? Now, if someone in the administration has been suggesting shutting down or fining Fox News, that might reasonably called squashing, but if they have, I haven't heard about it nor does Harsanyi give any evidence that this has occurred.

And that "allegedly represents all Americans" is just lovely, isn't it? It seems to be based on the notion that to "represent all Americans" means never to argue against any of them. So, in 2012, Obama better not campaign against the Republican candidate for president, since he allegedly represents the GOP nominee. And if an American citizen is advocating massive terrorist attacks against US cities? Well, Obama represents him, too, so he really shouldn't object.

"And if this administration can't handle one cable station's opposition, what does that tell the American people about its mettle on issues that matter?"

Um, but this administration is handling the Fox opposition. In fact, Mr. Harsanyi has just written an entire article about how they are handling it: by pointing out that Fox is an opposition outlet.

That Fox News has an anti-Obama slant is pretty obvious -- Harsanyi himself admits this several times in this very article, by calling them "the opposition" -- so that's not under dispute. Harsanyi's point seems to be that the Obama administration's job is just to sit there and take its lumps.

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  1. Anonymous10:39 PM

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