Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fox News: A Healthy Dose of Skepticism

One of the most critical traits required of any journalist, lawyer, investigator, scientist, or anyone else whose job is to examine evidence, listen to conflicting stories, and make sense of what they find is a little thing called “skepticism.” Skepticism is what causes you to question the things that just don’t seem right, and to check the things that seem too good to be true. But journalists have abandoned skepticism, as shown by their reaction to a recent Fox New directive.

At one point, journalists realized that skepticism was a necessary part of their jobs. Indeed, this principle was summed up perfectly in a statement attributed to the City News Service of Chicago: “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.” But modern journalists no long respect this axiom.

Mike Vick is reformed! Sure, his apologies were not apologies and his mea culpa was more of a mea accusa everyone elsa, but the NFL says he’s reformed. Lindsey Lohan’s publicist says she’s sober. Sure, she ends up in rehab more often than most people go to the bathroom and she’s constantly photographed coming out of clubs drunk, but her publicist sounded very sure.

What do you mean the Democrats aren’t the party of the working class? They say they are. Sure, they get their money from rich lawyers and Wall Street, and they do favors for banks, but they say they don’t really like those people. What do you mean Obama isn’t the ideal leader? Sure, he has no educational or professional record and his first book reads like someone else wrote it, but he looks nice and he reads well. . . and all the Democrats say he’s a genius.

You get my point? The media has reached a point where skepticism is no longer considered part of the job. They will report any assertion as true if the assertion comes from the right people, even when it’s patently obvious the asserted facts could not be true. And they will uncritically parrot any conclusion, no matter how unsupported or how illogical, so long as it comes from the right people.

Indeed, the closest they come to skepticism is cynicism, but that’s not the same thing. What separates cynicism from skepticism, is that skepticism involves a thorough process of starting from a default position of doubting all that you are told, and then vigorously trying to prove or disprove the assertions. . . letting the facts fall where they may. It has no bias.

But cynicism, on the other hand, is just an opinion and it is pure bias. Cynicism takes from skepticism the idea that simple assertions cannot be trusted, but rather than seeking to prove or disprove those assertions, it stops at disbelief. Thus, if you do not trust the source, then you cast doubt on the source’s data, their motives and intentions, their capabilities, and their seriousness. And that is exactly how modern journalists behave, not with skepticism, but with cynicism. Indeed, they no longer seem capable of true skepticism, just cynicism directed at the people they don’t trust, i.e. Republicans, and blind faith in the people they do trust, i.e. Democrats and other leftists.

Consequently, it should come as no surprise how leftist journalists have responded to the news that on December 8, 2009, Fox News Washington Bureau Chief Bill Sammon issued a memo to his reporting staff telling them to be skeptical about assertions of global warming. Here’s what he said:

“Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data, we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.”
Their response should be, “excellent! We, as journalists, must be skeptical of all things and this fits perfectly with our credo.” But that’s not how they responded. Instead, they called this directive “conservative spin” and they ranted furiously that Fox would not bow at the global warming alter. The horror, the horror that journalists would treat disputed facts as disputed!

How sad is it that the same profession that refused to believe that Presidents never sanction breakings and enterings, that the Pentagon never lied, that corporations never committed crimes, that scientists never faked data to get contracts, that colleges never paid their athletes. . . would suddenly be outraged that other journalists have dared question disputed “science” that has been exposed as the domain of liars, cheats and data-fakers.

The fact that these “journalists” react this way should tell you all you need to know about your ability to trust their reporting and their analysis. It is yet another black mark in the eye of modern journalism.

25 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

Nice post, Andrew. It is sad, indeed. Even sadder, is that for so many journalists, there cynicism is directed exclusively towards anyone who disagrees with the "agenda."

CrispyRice said...

Yup! And when you see the statistics on how many journalists are liberals and donate to liberal causes, it makes it all the worse.

This "net neutrality" vote isn't going to help. The internet and its free / open-to-anyone nature are doing what journalists used to do.

Tehachapi Tom said...

journalist: person who researches, photographs, or writes news, current events, or feature stories.

Remove researches and features from the above definition for a more accurate definition of today's journalist.

At least here I know we are all opining.

DUQ said...

Love the hypocritical outrage. And they wonder why no one trusts the MSM!

AndrewPrice said...

Thank Jed. I think that's entirely true. So many journalists are now agenda driven that they have crossed over well beyond in advocates into the realm of "true believers," people who accept everything their side says without hesitation or thought and who see all others as enemies.

T_Rav said...

Thing is, I don't believe most of our so-called journalists today believe in simply reporting the news. They share the same mindset as everyone else on the Left, including the belief that it's up to people like them to enlighten and reform society. If that's the case, it's hardly possible for them to impartially gather the facts of a story. They have to nudge the reader or viewer towards their own point of view.

By the way, you notice how the AP and other organizations seem to announce every December (and always in the midst of a nasty cold snap, no less) that this year was one of the hottest on record? That would be very disturbing, if it wasn't all hogwash (kudos to your post a few months ago debunking the temperature data).

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, What I find so funny about those polls, is that the left (and journalists in particular) take it on faith that whites can't be fair to non-whites, men can't be fair to women, "Anglos" can't be fair to Hispanics, the able can't be fair to the disabled, etc. etc. when it comes to running a business, teaching, representing in Congress, etc.

Yet somehow, they -- a profession that self-reports at 90% liberal -- is perfectly capable of representing conservatives? And they resist any suggestion that they are biased or that they let their bias interfere with their jobs? Give me a break.

AndrewPrice said...

Tom, I've been honestly shocked for the past decade how little work journalists put into their work. They don't contact sources, they don't research their subjects, they often don't even have a basic understanding of the subject matter. It's literally like they sit in an office somewhere and say, "I think I'll write about XX today" and then they just make it up.

They really are making their profession worthless.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, Isn't that the truth! They sit an wonder why people don't trust them.... "we're not biased, we're journalists!" And then they whine bizarrely about something like this: "how dare you ask questions!"

It's almost shocking.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Thanks! I thought the whole Climategate issue was very important to wrap my head around and I'm glad it turned into a readable post! I still plan to debunk global warming, but haven't had the chance.

In terms of journalists, I agree entirely. They no longer see themselves as reporters of events, they see themselves as opinion-makers. And you sum this up perfectly when you said: they think "it's up to people like them to enlighten and reform society". They really do believe that, and they don't think anything of lying or distorting to the ignorant masses to make us believe what's good for us.

But we're smarter than that, and that's why they are having such problems with credibility.

What's truly telling to me, especially in light of what's in this article, is that they are deluding themselves. If they really were "enlightened" then they (1) would happily challenge all theories and arguments put before them to ascertain the absolute truth -- in other words, the "enlightened" people I've met all love truth and knowledge and hate propaganda, and (2) they would never be afraid to have someone challenge their beliefs. Yet journalists show neither of these traits, which tells me they are "intellectual posers" -- they are faking that they know anything more than anyone else, they just arrogantly think of themselves as superior.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, P.S. -- The whole idea of net neutrality, i.e. trying to control the flow of information to keep us from informing ourselves, and the constant talk of bailing out their profession because consumers have turned on them, only hurts their credibility.

Ed said...

You said the other day that leftists soil the labels they claim, I see it the same with professions. They've taken a really noble profession, so noble that the Founders mention it in the Constitution, and they've turned it into the least trusted institution in the country. They've done the same thing with being a college professor. It's because they don't do their jobs despite their politics, they redefine their jobs to suit their politics. Journalism, 1,000,000 B.C. - 2010 R.I.P.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, There is certainly something to that. And it's not just journalism or professors. They've done the same with the legal profession, and they tried to do the same with the Catholic Church in the 1960/1970s. They've done the same with governing.

The problem isn't the professions they enter, it's the way they behave once they get there. They truly think they are better than the rest of us and their mission is to impose their beliefs us no matter how far beyond the scope of their powers that may be.

patti said...

they just keep giving us ammo for the fight. love it. and they think we're the ones folks should be skeptical of. bunch of leftie drones.

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, Isn't that the truth! They just keep giving us more and more evidence of their real motives and that's why the public is responding by losing their trust... yet, we're the stupid ones? No way!

AndrewPrice said...

By the way, I just heard that Blake Edwards has died. RIP.

Cronickain said...

Journalists write what they are supposed to write without regard to the truth and if you don't believe me you are a hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobe

Unknown said...

My parents taught me not to believe anything I hear and only half of what I see. Somehow that advice seems more apt on a daily basis when viewing anything from the MSM.

AndrewPrice said...

ACG, That's true, they are advocates, they write what they want without any regard to what is true or false.

Nice word!

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, In this day an age, you can't believe anything you see either -- not with photoshop!

Ed said...

Ed, So true.

Pittsburgh Enigma said...

I have a healthy dose of skepticism for the mainstream media itself, as do a lot of Americans, I think. Every time I read any news article or listen to any news story put out by the MSM, I question whether it's biased, spun, omissive or even blatantly false. Just now I was reading an article from CNN Money about the tax bill in congress, and they are talking about the cost of tax rate extensions. Every MSM outlet is calling this a "cost", but it's not a cost at all. Just because the government would have received extra money doesn't mean it's a cost to them by not receiving it. And if you consider the Laffer curve, a tax rate increase may actually decrease revenue to the government. But the MSM can't talk about Laffer because he's just an evil right winger spewing evil right wing propaganda. *sigh*

AndrewPrice said...

Pitts, I do the same thing. It's gotten to the point that I can't read a single story without looking for all the holes, the caveats, and the half-truths.

And like you, it really ticks me off that they are calling "tax cuts" costs. The money does not belong to the government, it belongs to the taxpayer. The fact that the government is taking less does not mean that this is a "cost" to the government or that this is a "giveaway" to the taxpayer. Only a communist could believe that terminology, and I don't use that term lightly.

And excellent point on the Laffer Curve, which has proved beyond a doubt (and experience verified it) that raising taxes can reduce revenue by suppressing economic activity. And the left would admit this if their ideology weren't based on pure spite.

StanH said...

Journalism is dead. It’s been in a death spiral for many years. The moment journalist got away from informing the public, to forming opinion, the trade is a goner. I remember being a kid, preparing for college, hearing become a journalist and change the world…huh! Dig deep and you can find the truth, watch PMSNBC, and be an uninformed mush-head.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, I think it's finished too, at least in it's present form. The only two things that kept journalism viable were (1) the ability to provide news and (2) the public's trust in their analysis. The first of those is gone because of the internet. The second they've squandered, and they won't get it back. So what's left to offer?

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