Readings: Fox and Frauds

You can read the whole article in Rolling Stone‘s 2/11/16 piece by Reeves Wiedeman, “The Rise and Fall of a Fox News Fraud.” Here are some of the best schadenfraud [sic] moments:

The network has not explained how Simmons first appeared on the channel, or how he passed their vetting process, but one possible explanation lies in the fact that his early appearances were almost all on Saturday nights. “With weekends, the vetting goes away, and the pre-interview goes away, and just general thought of any kind goes away, other than ‘Who can I get in front of a camera?’ claims a former Fox producer.

First off, it’s adorable that “vetting process” and Fox News appear in the same sentence. At least the producer is honest about the fact that it goes away over the weekend, although as we all know: if you’re willing to compromise standard journalistic integrity at any point, then you most assuredly don’t ever have it.

More interestingly, though, is the conclusion as to why this farce lasted as long as it did:

No one had much incentive to probe Simmons’ past. Once he started appearing on Fox and had an audience, he became useful to the government; once he was useful to the government and was granted an audience with Rumsfeld, he became even more useful to Fox.

To Fox, yes, and the government, sure, but nowhere in there is there anything about being useful to news or to the public, which I’d argue are far more important things. If you ever wanted a clearer demonstration of how the networks have been putting profits and politics first, and why you need to apply a healthy dose of cynicism to anything you read (including my blog and Wiedeman’s article), this is it. It’s hard not to read a connection between the lax standards here, by the way, and those that led to the poisoning of Flint, Michigan, in which government officials (and/or corporate middle-men) willingly lied to the public, hoping that their insistence against actual medical fact (i.e., reason) would be enough to quell suspicions.

Look, conspiracies are hard to take seriously, but Occam’s Razor is not–sometimes the simplest explanation is the correct one, and when it comes to the slew and sludge of incorrect information that is largely unapologized for on Fox, it’s clear that they simply don’t care, and never will until it starts impacting their audience. The bigger fear, then, is that they’ve tapped into an audience that wants to be ignorant, and is willing to believe anybody with the confidence to tell them what they want to hear.

Oh, right. Drumpf.

EDITED to add a link to Alex French’s misleading titled New York Times article about the same subject, “The Plot to Take Down a Fox News Analyst.” There’s no evidence in there that I can see that vindicates Simmons’ operations or excuses his DUIs or explains away certain niggling facts, like his being offered a $20,000 contract with a sports team whilst he was supposedly five years into his career as a spook. The article suggests that it may have been unnecessarily difficult to verify Simmons’ employment history, given the CIA’s secretive ways, and I can understand them not immediately denying that people are retired members. But when the article refers to the government’s recruitment of “message force multipliers,” and you look at the track history of veracity on Fox News, Occam’s Razor still applies: the company willfully (perhaps ignorantly) uses talking heads who have no real business or expertise commenting on a topic, propping them up with false credentials in order to make their message seem more legitimate.

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