Those who watch the media to look for examples of bias don't have a very hard time coming up with examples. Both make it out to be worse than it is for them, but people being people... bias is going to get through. But even with the nakedly liberal MSNBC, and blatantly conservative Fox News, you rarely hear about segments that go as far as a recent segment on Fox and Friends that is getting some deserved attention.
Besides the occasional clip that someone shares on Twitter, Facebook or email, I haven't watched much cable news in the last several years. I stopped throwing my money away on cable television a long time ago, but the real breaking point for me on cable news was during the 2008 campaign, when I saw a transition scene between segments on on MSNBC.
First you saw a dour looking McCain with dark colors and graphics around him, before a bright colored background and messianic looking Obama came on screen, coupled with inspirational music. I was still an Obama supporter back then, and even I was disgusted by how blatant a supposed news organization was displaying such obvious bias. From my understanding, it's only gotten worse since, most notably with the rise and fall of people like Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann. At least those two jokers are off the air.
But this new four minute segment, which aired on the network's morning show Fox & Friends is pretty bad. Those who are calling it a four minute long attack ad, the sort of thing that a shadowy conservative Super PAC might make, are spot on. The Fox & Friends website took it down, and a senior Fox executive has called it 'unauthorized.'
See it for yourself here:
But... my reaction to seeing this was a bit different that what I could find other people talking about. Sure, this is a new low for a morning news-ish show, even for Fox, but it's not a low for cable news in general. The substance of the segment is standard material for the sort of shows that are on prime time on both MSNBC and Fox. They selectively look at the history of a candidate, pick the worst things, spin them in the worst way they think their audience will digest and then gin it up with some entertainment factor
The only real difference here is packaging. It's a produced like an advertisement, rather than some blowhard like Ed Schultz or Sean Hannity blathering the same garbage at a camera.
Are people really shocked at how bad this is? Have they not seen the nutty things that Maddow, O'Reilly, Hannity or Schultz (especially the last two) say from time to time? Should anything shock you coming from a station that would give a lowlife like Al Sharpton a show, or a station that would give give Glenn Beck a platform for a few years?
People are treating this latest low as if it were some kind of jumping the shark moment, where they finally broke the camel's back with the log above. I don't see how people don't see that as having happened years ago. This doesn't shock me at all. Very little does coming from the hacks who run MSNBC and Fox News.
In a way it sort of surprises me that millions of people still watch that infotainment junk, but really it just depresses me a little. If there is any consolation, it is in the little reported fact that broadcast nightly news viewership actually went up last year for the first time in ages, and still positively dwarfs that of cable news. The kind of network news, NBC Nightly News, for instance, averaged about five times as many viewers as Fox News does in prime time (and Fox has more than CNN and MSNBC does in prime time, put together). At least there's that.