A reader recently asked, “Do you watch Fox News?” The answer: “Not if I can help it.” In fact, I’ve launched a one-woman campaign in my local area to get businesses that stream Fox News on their wall-mounted televisions to change the channel. I prefer not to subject myself to an atmosphere polluted by a steady stream of negativism, hostile rhetoric, aggressive body language, and extremist right-wing propaganda.
That said, I know that the negative emotionalism typical of Fox broadcasting appeals to many. In fact, I think it may even be addictive. Fox listeners often also find their way to right-wing, anti-establishment rants on the radio, listening to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Lou Dobbs. There’s nothing like a steady dose of outrage to get the adrenalin flowing, and it’s a fact that some people become addicted to the rush.
Extreme right-wing rhetoric has found legitimacy in this country, largely because of Fox News and its cousin-in-print, the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. Together with hate-mongers on the radio, they’ve coined the phrase “liberal media” and made it stick to pretty much all media outlets that are in the least bit objective or balanced in their reporting of current events, lumping mainstream and left-wing sources together in an “us-against-them” world view.
Where do I get my news? From a wide variety of so-called “liberal media” sources—which is to say, anywhere but Fox News and the WSJ. (I do read articles from the WSJ when someone sends me a link; however, I pass if the author happens to be someone whom I consider to be completely unqualified on the subject or lacking in intellectual integrity.)
One reader has asked repeatedly where I get my information, so for the sake of full disclosure, what follows is a fairly comprehensive list—for now, anyway. (Those who don’t care may wish to skip the following paragraph.)
I like to begin my evening with a nice roundup of the day’s events on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. His “Making a Difference” segment, focusing on heroic actions by ordinary people, is always positive and up-lifting. For analysis of partisan politics, I often tune in to Rachel Maddow, who has a knack for explaining complex issues in plain, simple language. For in-depth analysis and news about science, technology, and the world, I listen to NPR. (I always make a point to be driving around at noon on Fridays, when “Science Friday” is on.) I like CNN’s in-depth reporting of big events, like the earthquake in Haiti. I’m rather obsessive about reading news headlines and articles on my mobile phone, regularly surfing sites like politico.com, Yahoo! News, Media Matters, The Week, and—yes—Fox (whose mobile news service tends toward some kooky human interest stories). I subscribe to a number of online newsletters from various organizations, including The Progress Report, salon.com, and The Southern Poverty Law Center. I get RS feeds from a variety of columnists (left, right, and center), including Thomas L. Friedman, Kathleen Parker, and Mike Madden. I occasionally check out the web sites for members of Congress who happen to catch my attention. For an outsider’s perspective on American culture and politics, I often read news from France and listen to the BBC. When I want background for something I’m writing, I may consult books or look for in-depth articles in magazines like The Atlantic or The New Yorker.
As for knowing what’s going in the alternative universe of Fox News, I sometimes log on to News Hounds (“We watch Fox so you don’t have to”) and catch unavoidable glimpses of the streamers when the channel is on in public places. Apart from that, I have a few right-wing friends who can usually be depended on to let me know how the spin doctors in the conservative media are interpreting national events.
I see and hear enough hard-core conservative talking points to understand how habitual consumers of extreme right-wing messaging might suffer from cognitive dissonance when exposed to mainstream media. It’d be enough to make anyone uncomfortable—and people who are uncomfortable tend to get angry. Perhaps the only way habitual Fox News watchers could really understand how the rest of us view the world would be to go cold turkey for a few weeks and watch and read exclusively news that hasn’t been—as the British like to put it—“sexed up” to please the conservative palate.