Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fox News and Health Care Emails to the White House

I'm not going to put up the clip of the FoxNews segment where the supposed "news" reporter harangues the Deputy White House Press secretary over the White House's efforts to disabuse people of myths regarding the health care plan, but you can see the clip here if you are so inclined.

This clip proves to me that FoxNews, as if anybody had any doubts, is NOT a news service, but rather an ideological propaganda outlet masquerading as a news provider. This FoxNews "reporter" did not just seek to get information from the Deputy White House Press Secretary. Rather, it is clear that she brought in a strong ideological agenda. She was out to fight an ideological and partisan battle, not to report news.

Second, I found her criticism to be somewhat schizophrenic. Here she is trying to claim that the right to public free speech is somehow compromised when it is distributed to the most public of sources: government. What is even more ironic is the fact that this FoxNews reporter likely supports the government's ability to intercept private communications secretly and without court approval -- to really put together an "enemies list" that happens beyond the scrutiny of the checks and balances of our democratic system. So, the secret capturing of private communication by people the government itself, and secretly, decides is an "enemy" is somehow acceptable and actually "defends" freedom, while pronouncements intended to be part of a widely-circulated public information campaign against government policy is somehow "chilling" to free speech when this widely-circulated public information campaign is actually presented to the government which is the supposed target of the campaign. These people want to engage in a public whisper campaign against the government and then cowardly want to avoid any kind of accountability for their public "free speech." Maybe they should start wearing masks and bring fake IDs when they attend these town hall meetings on health care so as not to be accountable for their "free speech." It's kind of terroristic, if you ask me. The contradictions of this FoxNews reporter's arguments are astoundingly obvious and make her look not only blatantly partisan, but also insanely stupid.

Third, a news outlet's campaign (a news outlet that laughingly proclaims to be "fair and balanced") to invoke McCarthyite claims that the government is putting together an "enemies list" is breathtaking in its evident insidiousness. And it's abhorrent, too.

The depths to which the rabid, reactionary rightwing has sunk is jawdroppingly stunning. I don't think I have seen anything like it. Ever.


Eric said...

The White House had to have expected some backlash when they asked people to forward "fishy" emails to them and then waited a week to provide much explanation as to what they intended to do with those emails. As a news consumer, I'm interested in knowing what the White House does with these 'fishy' emails after they receive them, and she practically had to club the guy into giving her a straight answer (in fact, he never really did).

I don't think there is anything nefarious going on w/ the emails (although I'll be the intimidation aspect was discussed and duly noted in White House meetings), but I do think this is an example of the White House doing things they know people will have extreme reactions to just so they can point and say, "Look at those extremists! They must be crazy, so don't pay any attention to anything else they have to say!"

BTW, I'm not a Fox disciple... can't stand Hannity, don't watch O'Reilly, and agree with a lot what Glenn Beck says but the guy just annoys me. I don't get much of my news from television (Interestingly, I have found the news feed on my duaghter's Wii to be one of the most varied, unbiased, and informative sources for daily news). I think most of what passes as television news 'coverage' is pretty worthless, but I think this clip is just a case of a government official obfuscating when asked a legitimate question (something Republicans and Democrats both do with pinache).

Huck said...

As a news consumer, I'm interested in knowing what the White House does with these 'fishy' emails after they receive them, and she practically had to club the guy into giving her a straight answer (in fact, he never really did).

That's just not true. He was clear and straight not only on what they were doing with these emails -- trying to counter the myths therein contained -- but also what they were NOT going to do with these emails -- create some sort of "enemies" list. What he refused to answer was a baited question about whether or not the White House was going to purge and delete these emails. Knowing very well that these emails could not by law be purged and deleted, the intention of this newscaster in asking such a boneheaded question was specifically intended to imply some insidious, sinister motive on the part of the White House for NOT deleting and purging the messages. If the dude had said, "No, we cannot delete and purge these emails because the law prohibits this," the smug response would certainly have been something like "A-ha! So if you're not going to delete these emails and protect the sender's identity, then it must be true that the only reason you want to preserve these names is to create an 'enemies' list from them!" The man, rightly in my mind, simply refused to take this absurd bait. But as for what the White House was (and was not) using this information for, the WH spokesperson could not have been clearer, given that he said it over and over and over again.

but I do think this is an example of the White House doing things they know people will have extreme reactions to just so they can point and say, "Look at those extremists! They must be crazy, so don't pay any attention to anything else they have to say!"

That's heading into wacky conspiracy theory territory, Eric. I think a more likely explanation is that the White House was caught off guard both by the extremely hostile reaction we're seeing regarding the healthcare reform and by the blatant and malicious falsehoods that this hostile reaction is engendering. And this "send us these 'fishy' emails" campaign really was a scramble to try, as the Deputy Press Secretary said repeatedly, to get a rapid handle on the myths being circulated out there and to facilitate and method for it to respond to such myths.

Eric said...

"That's just not true. He was clear and straight..."

Were we watching the same clip? If he'd have just answered her the first time with something like, "No, we aren't purging the emails becasue federal law won't let us do that." that would have been a clear and straight answer... but he tapdanced around the question, hemmed and hawed, tried to change the subject two or three times, and just flat-out refused to answer until she got hostile and brought up the federal law. It was potentially just a softball question that he ineptly turned into a tar baby. When Sarah Palin screws one up this badly, you crucify her.

"That's heading into wacky conspiracy theory territory, Eric."

I think it is a much more likely theory than to believe the most marketing-savy White House in history was caught off guard by a hostile reaction to their request to have supporters forward suspicious sounding emails to them. Can you imagine the reaction from the left if the Bush administration had used a similar method for trying to correct the volumes of misinformation about the Florida vote counts that were flying around after the 2000 elections? There are a variety of ways the Obama White House could have handled combating rumors about healthcare reform, but they chose the most controversial way possible to do it. It would be naive to think there were no discussions about the intimidation and 'kook baiting' aspects of such a plan. That's not to say they did anything illegal, or to say it is a wholly partisan tactic, but I think it requires a pretty big leap of faith to believe they just never even considered the idea that there might be an extreme reaction to this thing.

Huck said...

Eric - He answered the question of what they were doing with the emails clearly and forthrightly. I thought that was the purpose of this woman's questions, which went something like: "You're collecting these emails, so what are you going to do with them?" And he answered them. The question about whether the White House would purge or delete these emails was a clear effort to bait this guy, and he wasn't taking the bait. Let me ask you, Eric, what was the purpose of asking a question that the newscaster and any other sentient being already knew the answer to, if not to try to set the guy up for some smear? Usually, when I ask a question, it's because I think there is ambiguity, uncertainty, or a lack of knowledge about the answer. She knew what the answer was and wanted this guy to be the one to say it so she could then indicate that the real purpose of collecting these emails must be to create an enemies list and thus "chill" free speech, and not for the reasons the guy repeatedly claimed over and over and over.

And though I don't agree that this whole "send us your fishy emails" ploy was "kook baiting," it gives me a certain amount of amusement to think of it that way; for if it really was "kook baiting," then what does that say about this woman who swallowed the bait hook, line, and sinker, if not that she (and by extension the whole darn Fox network) kooky. And I would wholeheartedly agree with that!

Eric said...

"what was the purpose of asking a question that the newscaster and any other sentient being already knew the answer to, if not to try to set the guy up for some smear?"

Newscasters ask questions that they know the answers to every single day, for the purpose of letting public officials explain it officially.

It seemed to me like she was just trying to get the guy to say what they both knew, that the government can't purge these emails, so that it would be out there and on the record, and he tried to evade the question, so she hammered him.

I understand you have a searing hatred for Fox News, but I think in this case it is blinding you a bit, and if the same exchange had taken place on CNN or MSNBC, you'd be talking about what a boneheaded move the Deputy White Houre Press Secretary made.

Huck said...

Eric - I might agree with you if it weren't for the fact that this woman was clearly coming at this thing as an ideological hitman and not as a journalist. This woman so obviously wasn't interested in doing anything but try to hammer this guy. There was absolutely not even a pretense at journalistic objectivity in this interview. She even said herself that collecting controversial emails that could not be deleted and purged cast a "chill" on free speech. That's not seeking to get a public official on the record officially about a standard protocol, that's pontificating and editorializing on what this standard protocol means.

I ask again, Eric: why is it important for the dude to go on record about a standard protocol? In the context of this interview, it was so crystal clear that this journalist wanted to fabricate some reason consistent with her own kooky conspiracy theory than what the Deputy Press Secretary kept telling her about why they were collecting these emails. And the only way she could make her kooky conspiracy stick was to present the standard protocol as a nefarious and devious trick to create an enemies list. You and I both know what this woman would have said if he had answered the question by saying that it was against the law to delete and purge any emails. She would have used this fact (which she ended up doing anyway) as the basis to support her kooky "chilling" of free speech conspiracy.

Yeah, the guy could have just answered the question. But knowing the malicious intention of the journalist in asking the question, especially in the way that the question was asked, I don't blame the guy for avoiding the question. She could have asked: "How do you think the fact that such emails legally can't be purged or deleted will play out among the administration's opponents? Did you even consider that this would be spun as some effort to create an "enemies list"? But no. Instead we get the asinine question: Is the White House going to purge or delete these emails to protect the privacy of the authors?

Yeah, I may be a bit blinded by my disdain for FoxNews, but I don't think it's that out of line for me to see this kind of faux-journalism as a hit job and react accordingly.