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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    What is Fox News?

    Comedian Lee Camp appeared on the Fox News morning show “”Fox and Friends”” on Feb. 24 and posed a simple question.

    “”What is Fox News?”” he asked. “”It’s just a parade of propaganda, isn’t it? It’s just a festival of ignorance.””

    Chuckle, chortle or even guffaw if you want to, Camp’s words are more relevant than even he thinks. Fox News, with its long history of poor scholarship, its cheap jabs at individuals and groups and its bizarre selection of incompetent commentators, is a solid metaphor for the modern conservative movement as a whole.

    Scour the Internet for a few minutes and you’ll find a large selection of humorous Fox News taglines. Writers have blamed liberals for everything from “”legislating defeat in Iraq”” to causing “”high oil and gas prices”” and even attempting to “”sabotage the economy.”” They’ve asked us to ask ourselves whether we should vote for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. for president because he is a smoker. In a thinly veiled expression of their contempt for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., they’ve referred to him not once, but twice as “”Sen. John McCain, D-Ariz.”” And do I even need to mention their shutting out of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., the Republican presidential candidate with the closest thing to a sane foreign policy?

    Humorous examples like these reveal one of a series of dark truths about the modern conservative movement: It has defined itself solely in opposition to liberals.

    But such alliances are notoriously short-lived in American politics. Republican dissatisfaction with frontrunner McCain remains high; noted conservative commentators Ann Coulter and Bill Cunningham have thrown their lots in with Hillary Clinton – who, they claim, is a better conservative than McCain – and let’s not forget the mountain of support Mike Huckabee inexplicably continues to enjoy. The result of this chaos is an internal struggle which threatens to rip the GOP apart unless it can get its act together.

    Conservative commentators like Brad Stine and Bill O’Reilly are notorious for claiming that liberalism leads to moral relativism. But this underscores another truth about modern conservatism. The right maintains that conservative perspectives on issues like global warming (it’s not caused by humans) and our occupation of Iraq (it’s going well) are somehow just as valid as the traditional liberal perspectives, since they are both merely opinions and news outlets should discuss both sides.

    This is nothing more than a selective form of factual relativism according to which, when conservatives are correct, they’re right, but when liberals are correct, there is no fact of the matter and any popular claim to the contrary is an example of liberal bias.

    Conservative factual relativism is even more insidious than its moral equivalent because it takes a higher priority in discussions. It’s hard to begin a debate regarding what we ought to do about global warming if your opponent stubbornly denies that humans have anything to do with it and refuses to hear the mountains of evidence to the contrary because he has some sacred right to an opinion on the matter.

    Fox News supporters claim that the network is “”fair and balanced”” because it avoids liberal bias and presents the news in an impartial manner – see O’Reilly’s “”No Spin Zone.”” Even if supporters admit that Fox News has a conservative bias, it’s only to counteract the widespread liberal bias elsewhere.

    If you’ve been following along and you’re a sensible American, you’ll probably accuse me of constructing a strawman of conservatism. To an extent, you’re correct.

    But take another look at Fox News’ structure, which sets up mainstream conservative commentary directly alongside the most pedantic of punditry. Conservatism brings plenty of worthwhile ideas to the political table such as decreased government interference in private affairs, worries about our national security and sovereignty, and questions concerning the role and value of tradition in a changing society. The problem is that (like leftists, too) conservatives bring just as many completely insane ideas to the table, and intelligent conservatives have done a poor job of distancing themselves from the Rush Limbaughs and Rupert Murdochs of the world.

    Fox News is proof that the ubiquitous conservative faith in the free market’s ability to manage itself is misplaced. If the free market were effective at selecting high-quality sources of information and discriminating against bad ones, Fox News would not exist. But just to be safe, intelligent, high-ranking Republicans need to sit down and have a serious discussion about the unity and relevance of their party, lest the free market of ideas turn its invisible hand against them in November.

    Taylor Kessinger is a junior majoring in math, philosophy and physics. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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