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fair and balanced, my ass!

March 7, 2011

I don’t know what Fox is, but I can tell you what it’s not, a real news organization. Fox is the American equivalent of Pravda. It’s the mouthpiece of the conservative right. It’s propaganda. I’ll give you just one recent example. On February 28, a reporter from Fox News was filling in Bill O’Reilly on what’s going on in Madison, Wisconsin, and in the process, they were showing clips that the average person would logically assume was from the Madison rally/protest:

The clips show a lot of angry and violent people, basically implying that the pro-union protesters in Madison were just running amok. But if you look closely in the background, you can see palm tree. Guess what? They don’t have palm trees in Madison. That clip wasn’t from the Madison rally. It’s just another attempt by Fox to spin the truth. I know this is old news by now, but it still pisses me off, especially when I hear people defending Fox’s innocent use of file footage and saying things like, “I’ve never had a union job, and I don’t think we need unions to be treated fairly in the workplace.”

Right, like Fox just happened to pick a clip of what appears to be a bunch of rowdy union protesters without any underlying motivation whatsoever, like, say, trying to make the protesters look bad. Mhm, I’m sure it was just a coincidence. And you might not have ever been in a union, but many of the things we now enjoy in the workplace are directly due in part to union struggles: the 8 hour day, the 40 hour work week, child labour laws, sick pay, vacation pay, safety regulations, etc. Take away the unions and people’s right to collectively bargain, and there will be little to stop those gains from being eroded away by capital.

What many people don’t seem to understand is that the main purpose of things like unions is to protect workers, who usually have little means to protect themselves. Our economic system is designed to protect private property rights, and those who possess the means of production (i.e., property) have the most legal protection and leverage in the marketplace. (In fact, at the beginning, only white, male property owners were allowed to vote due to property requirements imposed by most states. It wasn’t until the Jacksonian Era that these were removed.)

Workers’ power, on the other hand, lies in their numbers, and without something like unions to help effectively organize workers, they have little leverage in the marketplace, being resigned to selling their labour for whatever the employer is willing to pay and under whatever conditions the employer sets. Unions simply allow workers to collectively bargain with the employer, with one voice, instead of individually, when they’re at their weakest.

That said, I’m not a big fan of all organized labour, and I think that many unions have become just as corrupt and greedy as any board of directors. But that’s no excuse to try and take away their legally protected rights and bargaining power, or to try and insinuate they’re all just a bunch of rowdy extortionists, as Fox seems to have been doing since the pro-union and pro-worker protests against Gov. Walker and his plan to plans to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights started.

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One Comment
  1. OK, so I was challenged to watch the whole interview by a person who didn't think that it was supposed to be Wisconsin they were at, since “if you listen to what they're saying, the guys says 'on the weekend, people are bused in from Wisconsin'”(http://video.foxnews.com/v/4563626/whats-behind-the-anger-in-wisconsin/).

    I watched the entire clip, and my opinion is still the same. To begin with, the context of the beginning monologue and subsequent interview is clearly the protests in Madison, Wisconsin. O'Reilly starts the segment by talking about the protests in Madison, which then segues into the interview with Mike Tobin, who himself is in Madison.

    During the monlogue, they're showing clips of angry protesters, with only the caption “union protests” on them; and during the interview, they're showing the same clips interspliced with video coverage that's actually from Madison. I also noticed that during the introduction, O'Reilly mentions that Tobin “has experienced pro-union anger first-hand,” which I think is used to further imply the connection between the people in clips and what's actually taking place in Madison.

    Now keeping in mind that the context of this entire segment is clearly the pro-union protests in Madison, as far as I can see, they makes absolutely no attempt to identify where this other footage with the palm trees in the background is from, or to differentiate it from the actual footage from Madison.

    The effect is to make them appear current and directly related to what's happening in Madison, but there's no date, no location, and absolutely no context whatsoever. Of course, they don't flat out say, “These video clips are all from protests in Madison,” but they're presenting them in such a way that it's implied. I think that's dishonest and unprofessional for a new organization even though it's not outright lying.

    Sure, they're vague about it all, talking about how the union organizers are busing people in from out of town, but it seems to me the implication here is clear—that what they're talking about (i.e., the protests in Madison) and what's being shown (i.e., angry protesters) is directly related.

    If those were clips of people who were bused to Wisconsin from another state, or sympathy protesters in another state, they should have labelled it as such. But they didn't, and I think it's obvious why—to make the pro-union side look more extreme than they really are in order to match Tobin's 'personal experience.'

    Now Tobin may or may not have experienced harassment, but we're not shown any of that footage. Instead, all we see is what appears to be a bunch of unruly protesters in a completely different and unnamed city. That's not fair and balanced, in my book; it's biased and deceptive.

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