Daily Republic Managing Editor Glen Faison wrote here Sunday, Jan. 27: “Local columnist Mike Kirchubel this past week completed a three-column series on how Fox News covers the news. He makes valid points throughout the series, but makes no effort to note that what he implies is business as usual at Fox News also takes place at left-leaning news organizations, such as MSNBC, for example.”
Glen is correct, I didn’t. Why? I disagree with his false equivalency.
While it is true that Fox News slants the news to the right and MSNBC to the left, that’s where valid comparison ends. My columns were not about slanting the news, but about Fox News being so wrong so often and it is patently false to say or imply that MSNBC is the same as Fox News in that regard. Study after study shows Fox watchers are more misinformed than MSNBC viewers. Heck, some studies even show Fox watchers are more misinformed than Comedy Central viewers.
In their attempt to appear objective and unbiased, journalists may unwittingly use a false equivalence and perpetuate right-wing mythology. For example, Clinton’s dishonesty about his affair was the same as George W. Bush’s fabricated weapons of mass destruction, or since Romney’s team didn’t care about fact-checkers, Obama’s team probably didn’t, either, or that MSNBC is the same as Fox. Objectivity is not necessarily neutrality; objectivity is simply telling it like it is. It’s mental laziness to think, “Oh, both parties are the same,” when clearly, they’re not.
Another deception to watch out for is using partial statements or taking words out of context to “prove” a false point. The same day’s edition of the Daily Republic ran an editorial cartoon by Mike Rodriquez that had Hillary Clinton sitting on the grave of one of the four Americans killed in Benghazi, smiling and saying: “What difference does it make?”
Like me, you probably felt disgust, looking at that cartoon. I’m sure that was Rodriquez’s intent. What Clinton actually said was quite different: “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk last night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.”
But who cares about the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, when just “a little dab will do ya?” What difference does it make?
Let’s face it, my purpose here on the pages of the Daily Republic is much easier than that of the right-wing propagandists. They must convince American voters that it is good to vote for candidates and policies that favor the rich. My job, on the other hand, is to simply tell you the truth.
The morning after I emailed the “trillion-dollar coin” column to the Daily Republic, I asked Glen to change the line: “. . . Ronald Reagan tripled our national debt” to “nearly tripled our national debt . . .” because, when I calculated the actual numbers, Reagan had only increased our national debt by 2.9 times, not three. I care about what I write and so far, only one person has accurately pointed out an error; an accountant emailed me last May to let me know that Medicare is funded by payroll taxes, not income tax. Luckily, the print edition of that particular Daily Republic column had the name “William Safire” under my picture, clearly absolving me of any wrongdoing.
Next week, we’ll battle toe-to-toe with a straw man and see who wins.
Mike Kirchubel grew up in Fairfield and is the author of “Vile Acts of Evil – Banking in America.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.