Highway Thoughts

I caught about ten minutes of FOX News while I was eating at a Wendy’s in central Pennsylvania. The big news they were covering was the fact that Iran was testing a missle with a 1200 mile range, which would only be mildly interesting to me if I lived within 1200 miles of Iran. Nevertheless, they brought out a shill from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies who dutifully informed the anchors of what a grave and terrible threat Iran poses.

Then they cut away to talk about Bank of America distancing itself from ACORN and wondered aloud if this spells the beginning of the end for that organization. Personally I don’t read much into it. Bank of America is probably just preoccupied with making sure they’re charging their debit cardholders the full $350 of overdraft fees per day that BofA is legally entitled to. Still, FOX seems to think it’s bad news for ACORN that America’s biggest legal loan-shark is severing ties.

The final story they covered was the terrifying statistic that only 1/4 of all terrorism suspects are ever brought to trial. The anchors sounded pretty frightened of the thought that 75% of all terrorists are just going free, but their legal expert was on hand to assuage their fears. In his two minute segment, he said the figure was actually just a testament to what a great job our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are doing. He liked the way that sounded, so he repeated it about five more times until we got the right associations: law enforcement, intelligence agencies, great job.

It’s terrifying to think that people watch that network and think they’re getting the news. Someone from the Foudation for Defense of Democracies is treated as an unbiased expert, and the people watching at home have no way of knowing that this guy’s meal-ticket depends on advocating unrelenting interventionism. The only thing this guy probably ever defended was a master’s thesis. FOX tries to whip up some fear over the fact that terrorism suspects are going free, and never considers the possibility that, hey, maybe some of these guys are wrongly suspected. Nor do they even ask if 75% of terrorism cases are so weak that no prosecutor dares take them before a judge. Nope, FOX news just wants you to worry about all the terrorists that are no walking the streets, waiting to terrorize some more.

I laugh at FOX news a lot, but it scares me. It is packaged to look and sound like legitimate news coverage, but it’s a propaganda machine that attracts a vastly greater audience than real news. It’s existence is antithetical to the nature of an informed society, but it is also guaranteed by a free one. The contradiction never ceases to trouble me, and I’m not sure how it will ever be resolved.

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