Posted by Brad @ 12:42 am on October 24th 2009

Blog Post of the Week – Mickey Kaus on Fox News (!)

In case you haven’t heard, Fox News and the Obama White House are in quite a tussle lately, with the Obama White House saying, explicitly and with no compunction, that Fox News is not a legitimate news organization, and that they feel no great need to ever cow-tow to or include Fox News if they don’t feel like it. These are, believe it or not, separate points.

Fox has been mewling like whining babies that suddenly they have less access than the other major networks, and have been trying to make this into a valiant first amendment fight. Of course, when they had more access than the other major networks during the last administration, that didn’t seem to be a problem, but we’ll leave that aside. Obama’s team, by comparison, are being hilariously matter-of-fact about the whole thing.

In any case, much of this is just partisan dust-kicking, but I think the smartest take I’ve read on the question of whether Fox is or is not a legitimate news organizations comes from, of all people, Mickey Kaus, one of my least favorite bloggers, in a terrific post today that’s worth reading in full. He goes on a few worthwhile tangents in his short-ish post (including taking up Rojas’ refrain, that the prospect of a sea of biased news organizations doesn’t bother him in the least), but the bottom-line on Fox:

I guess there are two distinct axes on which you can judge press organizations–actually, there are many more than two (see below), but two are important here: 1) Neutrality–Are they attempting to be “objective,” trying to serve the “public interest” in some balanced way, or are they ideologically (or otherwise) driven in a way that inevitably colors their coverage–what topics they pick, what ‘experts’ they rely on, etc. 2) Independence–Whether they are biased or generally neutral, can somebody–a political party, a Mafia family, a government– tell them what to do?

I think it’s pretty clear MSNBC and the NYT and are not neutral. They all have an agenda and they pursue it. But they are independent. The Obama White House can’t tell Bill Keller what to do. They can’t tell Keith Olbermann what to do. (They can suck up to him, and it will probably work, but that’s a different issue.) Breitbart is for sure independent–I can’t see anyone telling him what to do.

I think Fox is also not neutral (which, again, doesn’t bother me) but it’s also not independent (which does). This isn’t because it’s owned by Rupert Murdoch–moguls are, typically among the more independent sorts. It’s because it’s run by Roger Ailes. I have zero faith that Ailes is independent of the Republican party or, specifically, those Republicans who have occupied the White House recently–the Bushes. As I said, I think if Karl Rove called Ailes in 2003 and said “We don’t want so much coverage of X” it’s extremely likely that X would not be covered on Fox.[…]

I do think independence is essential to be a legitimate player in the new, emerging non-objective press world. If you’re independent, there’s always a chance you’ll change your mind. At the least, you have to make fresh calculations about your views and interests, which means that in a free society there will be a steady proliferation of nodes of thought. If you’re independent, Obama’s press secretary Robert Gibbs has a shot at convincing you–even if you’re conservative, even if you’re wildly biased, even if your organization is almost dictatorial in structure. Even if you’re Rupert Murdoch! But not, I think, if you’re Fox.


  1. “Mickey Kaus, one of my least favorite bloggers,”

    What’s so bad about Mickey Kaus?

    Comment by daveg — 10/25/2009 @ 11:44 am

  2. Meh, I guess I haven’t read him regularly in years, so I probably shouldn’t pass judgment. But he was one of the worst of the Democratic concern-trollers against Kerry and then later Obama and yes, his immigration stuff grates as well. He can be good—his Edwards coverage was about the best—but most of the time he’s just frustrating. One too many “Europe is being overrrun by muslims and I wonder if Obama is American enough to protect us from their scourge? He might hate white people—vote Hillary!” posts for me—half the time when I read him he seems like a lightweight Cornerite. He’s essentially the Joe Lieberman of ostensibly left-of-center bloggers.

    Comment by Brad — 10/25/2009 @ 4:13 pm

  3. I think his position on immigration is better than most liberals, obviously, but I would hardly say he want to restrict immigration in any real way.

    I did not realize you were so extreme on open borders… do you think we should have no border at all – that the idea of a nation is not valid? Do you really think such a think is sustainable?

    Comment by daveg — 10/27/2009 @ 5:05 pm

  4. I think we should maintain strictness on illegal immigration (maintain, not get all Minutemen about it), and pretty massively increase quotas for legal immigration. I don’t believe we should do one without the other, and in fact get pretty annoyed when people pretend we can (as in “why won’t those Mexicans just follow the law?” Well, because the law allows for only 26000 Mexicans a year to apply for legal visas, and most of those are reserved for family. If you are an upstanding Mexican of outstanding character that isn’t a nuclear scientist, your chances of being able to enter America legally is roughly the same as your chances of being hit by a car on the way to the embassy). In my view, anyone that wants to come to America and is willing to jump through the legal hoops we would need for national security purposes, ought to be able to do so. I am more or less ambivalent on the idea of amnesty in a reform context in that, in principle, I side against it, but in practice, probably for it.

    But that’s not really what I was talking about. I can completely get down with immigration talk when it’s framed as a rule of law issue or, occasionally, a national security one, or even, in extreme cases, a fiscal one. I have precisely zero sympathy for those that discuss it in the context of corrosive multiculturalism, a notion which I find to be just nonsense. In my experience, 9 times out of 10 when someone is preternaturally preoccupied with immigration as an issue, the thrust of their thinking is usually the latter.

    Comment by Brad — 10/27/2009 @ 5:35 pm

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