Enough is Enough

We have endured this pretense that Fox News is a legitimate news organization for too long. It's not. It's the 24 hour propaganda channel of the Republican party, and Washington should marginalize and stigmatize it until it withers and dies. (More on this in a later post). 

The first step is for all real journalists to watch and read Olbermann's special comment, and use it to launch their own national conversations—as Charles Kaiser has now done in a MUST read essay  — about how this obscene insult to their profession can be knocked off its ghastly pedestal and pushed with market forces into some kind of more responsible new organization—or just driven out of business.  It has completely polluted and distorted most all of our other national conversations, precisely at a time when we need to have them the most.

I am not suggesting censoring Fox. I am suggesting that we kill it with intensive levels of rejection of everything it does and stand for until no decent sponsor will get near it. The @stopbeck movement proves Fox can be hurt. We need to hurt them far more. And fast.

On July 23rd, Keith Olbermann took on Fox News… frontally:

Let me make this utterly clear: What you see on Fox News, what you read on Right Wing websites, is the utter and complete perversion of journalism, and it can have no place in a civilized society. It is words crashed together, never to inform, only to inflame. It is a political guillotine. It is the manipulation of reality to make the racist seem benevolent, and to convict the benevolent as racist — even if her words must be edited, filleted, stripped of all context, rearranged, fabricated, and falsified, to do so.

    What you see on Fox News, what you read on Right Wing websites… is a manipulation. Not just of a story, not just on behalf of a political philosophy. Manipulation of a society, its intentional redirection from reality and progress, to a paranoid delusion and the fomenting of hatred of Americans by Americans…The assassins of the Right have been enabled on the Left.

    — Keith Olbermann, from his Special Comment on Sherrod debacle (below fold )

The Reaction

While long overdue, Olbermann calling out the Fox culprit, unambiguously, seems to be finally bringing forth a reaction from the mainstream journalism community that Fox should have provoked a decade ago.  But if this Google News search is any indication, it's still not getting nearly enough reaction. It's only Monday, but I sure hope there will be more on the level of the remarkable piece by Charle's Kaiser (posted next).

I am going to keep track of what DOES appear here. If you see more, please tweet them to @shoq with the hashtag: #killFox

The Shame of the Fourth Estate — by Charles Kaiser [Essential Reading]

It has become fashionable to dismiss Keith Olbermann as an over-the-top ranter or as the MSNBC host put it himself, “a mirror image of that which I assail.”  But there was nothing over-the-top about his special comment about Shirley Sherrod.  Every word he spoke was true. 

Enough right-wing propagandaby E.J. Dionne

The mainstream media and the Obama administration must stop cowering before a right wing that has persistently forced its propaganda to be accepted as news by convincing traditional journalists that "fairness" requires treating extremist rants as "one side of the story." And there can be no more shilly-shallying about the fact that racial backlash politics is becoming an important component of the campaign against President Obama and against progressives in this year's election.

Video: Olbermann's Special Comment


On July 14th, on an MSNBC Countdown segment about the pending well bore pressure tests of the Macondo well, an oil industry MBA named Bob Cavnar was "confused," saying this was the first he'd heard of an "integrity test," then suggesting that something was "not making any sense," as if some other agenda might be in play. He went on to imply that the entire operation might be some new ruse to somehow help BP to mitigate their liability by distorting that data which might come from the well conditions.

This segment disturbed me greatly, and sure enough, already this morning, I am seeing people tweet about it, implying there *must* be some nefarious doings afoot. I have no love of BP, nor any wish to defend them, but that doesn't mean I want to see such suggestions made without hard information, and especially not when it's said in concert with something said that was just blatantly inaccurate.

I don't know where Cavnar had been vacationing without Internet access, but there was nothing surprising, unusual, nor unmentioned about either the test or the entire operation, which had been in progress for many weeks.

Pressure testing the bore wasn't news to the oil industry, nor anyone following the issue closely. While the words "integrity test" may not have been used verbatim everywhere, the concept of testing the bore casing for deformation, failure, or pressure intolerances has been referred to again and again in Congress, the professional literature, and even by Incident Commander Thad Allen himself in his briefing on July 2 (two weeks ago) where he explained that the tests would help decide whether the well could be "shut in" (oil industry-speak for closed-off completely):

Katie Howell: It was and one quick follow-up. Is there a chance that you can actually shut in the well with this cap? I think someone from BP had mentioned that as an option.

Adm. Thad Allen: There is a chance. It depends on what those pressure readings are if we can get the right pressure reading by – assuming the decision is made, the cap is put on and the pressure readings are taken. If the pressure readings indicate that there is no damage to the well bore we don’t have any leakage at that point you have pretty much contained the outflow of oil.

Source: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/07/02/96968/transcript-of-thad-allens-briefing.html#ixzz0tkoFXwO7

Also, while now called a stacking cap, or "sealing cap" or "hard cap,"  these novel terms are simply  new and more public relations-friendly descriptions for a second blowout preventer of a marginally different design. BOPs have a bad name of late, and "caps" seem more understandable to lay people. BOPs of any type are always pressure tested after being landed on a wellhead.


Why do I care?

Because cases like this are instructive, and as our media choices get smaller and smaller,  I think we all need to be vigilant about what we see and hear. The Gulf oil crisis is generating a lot of bad information, and often a lot of outright hysteria is being spun from it. It's vital that we all try to address the inaccuracies and  fallacies when and where they appear.

I have great respect for Keith Olbermann and his MSNBC producers. There is no way they can possibly vet or fact check everything said by their guests in real-time, and it isn't reasonable to suggest that they should.  This was just one of many similar examples of such misinformation incidents I've seen over the course of this and other crises, and I think all media and their viewers should be more sensitive toward them. 

Whether it's Fran Townsend distorting national security facts, or some Heritage flack distorting economic data for partisan advantage, these self-proclaimed experts can be consistently wrong, or needlessly hyperbolic, often without offering a shred of evidence  to support their assertions or analysis. In many cases, this never seems to prevent their being invited back again to offer up more of the same.

It all serves to illustrate for me that our Sunday talk shows are not the only things that could benefit from real-time fact checking. Television hosts and producers cannot be expected to know everything about an issue, which is why they use "experts" in the first place. I think it is incumbent on we, "the crowd," (as NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen would call us), to keep them as accurate, candid, and honest as we can.  Too much is riding on good information to let the bad information gush out without notice or comment.


"Tadeusz Patzek, a professor who is the chairman of the department of petroleum and geosystems engineering at the University of Texas, argues that the well bore integrity discussion has been hijacked by people who don't know what they're talking about."

"There is a lot of fast talk, which has little relation sometimes to reality," Patzek said. "And there is jumping to conclusions by the people who have no right to jump to any conclusions because they don't know."

Source: Washington Post

Must Read

Everyone would profit from reading Prof. Patzek's testimony to Congress. It articulates a whole host of issues we must deal with as we go forward with the very risky business of deep sea oil exploration. It can be done safely, but it requires a lot of people with pretty poor science and technical backgrounds to bone up on a lot of things.

"More study of offshore drilling needed to prevent tragedy"

This cartoon is just so brilliantly wrong, it's completely right. I wish every grammar school in the country walked students through each type of selfish ignorance depicted here. 

Maybe then more kids would grow up knowing that most of what they enjoy came from the efforts (and taxes) of their parents and grandparents, and their parents and grand parents, and not from the blowhard know-nothings, only barely caricatured here, who resemble most of the citizen's in Dick Armey's ruinously destructive Tea Party army. They're simple and supple pawns of very rich guys posing as very little guys who are doing everything they can to further enrich all their fellow big guys.