Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jon Stewart, Bill O'Reilly square off

In the 1970s, I used to play in a softball league composed of mostly reporters and editors from The Milwaukee Journal. It was called "The Synthetic Conflict League," named in honor of a line used by former Milwaukee Mayor Henry Maier who accused The Journal of creating "synthetic conflicts," all of which attacked him, he believed.

That came to mind in watching snippets of The O'Reilly Factor where Jon Stewart, who is turning into quite a media critic, took on host Bill O'Reilly, accusing Fox News of creating "a selective outrage machine here at Fox." You can read about the confrontation and watch clips on Mediaite.

To me, the point isn't whether Fox creates a "selective outrage machine" -- clearly it does, as anyone who views its coverage of the "war on Christmas" or any of its other phony issue attacks on Democrats -- the point is that what Fox is doing isn't new. Media have been creating "synthetic conflicts" (or at least being accused of it) for years. Frankly, I find the Fox stuff mostly entertaining (except for the apocalyptic rhetoric and downright lies), but wish Fox would admit its bias and move on.

I remember watching a debate during the Bush administration where one of my favorite commentators, Pat Buchanan, was arguing a point. After Buchanan made a particularly outrageous statement, the host interrupted: "Pat, you don't believe that! You know that's not true!" Buchanan couldn't help himself. A sly smile spread across his face, and he didn't bother to defend his clearly-false statement. That's one of the things I like about him. He fights hard, but doesn't try to claim he isn't biased. I don't hear that from Fox or its people. Fox will claim that the bias is only in its nighttime "commentators'" shows, but the same synthetic conflicts -- like the current flap over the rapper Common -- get repeated all day by its allegedly journalistic hosts.

Anyway, enjoy the clip. It was fun.

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