Posted by: mbtrotter | November 22, 2010

The Simpsons gets Fox News good. Really good.

If you haven’t heard yet, Fox News (and a lot of news outlets) got absolutely trashed by The Simpsons last night. The show has parodied Fox News before, but frankly, I’m surprised the show was allowed to go as far as it did putting down a component of the same company. That’s not to say, however, that it was untrue.

There’s a lot to take in, in that two-minute clip, so let’s break it down into two categories to deal with: Fox News’ bias/racism and the way news media can take stories too far.

Is Fox News really biased?

Yes, and seemingly more than any other news source. That link is nine years old, which isn’t fair, so here’s some more recent examples of Fox News being unbalanced:

  • July 2010 — Fox News programming objects to President Barack Obama using NASA to foster relations with Muslim nations and the increasing number of mosques in America. Jon Stewart calls them on it, as well as ABC.
  • July 2010 — NewsOne writer Casey Gane-McCalla points out several stories where Fox News has allegedly created racist scandals.
  • August 2010 — Dr. Laura Schlessinger uses the “n-word” 11 times on her show. ThinkProgress reports Fox News didn’t cover it at all, while CNN and MSNBC did.
  • October 2010 — NPR fires Juan Williams for saying on The O’Reilly Factor he gets “worried” and “nervous” when he gets on a plane and sees people dressed in Muslim clothing. The next day, Fox News gave Williams a $2 million contract.
  • November 2010 — OK, just watch Stewart make fools of everyone at Fox News again, 3:05 into this clip. (Fox News needs some of those Daily Show fact checkers.)

Suffice it to say that calling Fox News biased — even racist — isn’t a stretch. Whether it’s meant to be that way, is that way due to an agenda or is just that way because of laziness doesn’t matter.

Do news outlets make up stories?

Making things up is a strong accusation, although it has happened. What that part of the clip points to, I believe, is overhyping stories, which is definitely common.

Sometimes it’s the result of jumping on hot leads without confirming them, which has happened several times with tips on Twitter. Other times there are several factors, as seen in MSNBC’s First Read list of 2000–2009’s Top 10 overhyped stories.

But, as the clip alluded to, the overhyped story is more common in health-related news. Popular Science has a great list of misleading stories on real scientific studies, some reported by major news organizations. Or, you can check out 2000–2010’s more general overhyped health stories. Remember all of those? How much does any one matter now?

Kudos to the staff at The Simpsons for really stepping up their game this season. From Banksy’s provocative couch gag to last night’s blasting of Fox News, this has been one of the sharpest and zeitgeist-aware seasons ever.

All video in this post is the copyrighted material of 20th Century Fox Television and was purchased by the author for not-for-profit use.


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