Pop quiz: can you see anything in this screenshot from their web page which looks like it might be biased?
The real question is, do you see anything that’s not biased? Seriously, I think the red banner citing closing times for polls is maybe the only content on that page that’s not laughably prejudicial.
In particular, note the photo: Fox seems to have found the only image of a line of voters which doesn’t have a single black person in it. Not only that, but note the lawn chairs—meaning that this photo was taken before the polls opened, meaning that it was not a problem where people had to wait for 6 to 9 hours, but instead just a lot of people getting ready early in the morning. Two solid bets: one, that the line shown here abruptly ends just out of frame on the right, and two, that once the polling place opened, the line quickly disappeared. Looking back at their web site, they show similar photos in place of that one—but all are of whites only, and all photos are only of small segments of lines, obviously from short waits made to look long.
The headlines are almost comical. Three stories on how a voting place in Washington D.C. has a mural of Obama on the wall, as if it’s some vast conspiracy to sway voters… when it’s an elementary school in a predominantly African-American district, the mural (along with another of Oprah Winfrey) having been voted for by students three years ago. The image of Obama was covered, but Fox, which minimized the fact that it was a school to make it sound more like someone had just painted a mural on a stark municipal building wall or something, made a huge deal about how, at least at one point, the Obama logo was still visible. As if this, and not tens of thousands of legitimate voters illicitly knocked off voter rolls, was the big story of the day.
Then there’s the massive invasion of marching armies of Black Panthers intimidating voters… no, wait, in fact it’s one guy, and he’s a duly appointed poll watcher. Definitely worthy of national headline news. Then there’s a story on union shenanigans, alongside a story about how Super PACs really aren’t so bad.
Like I said, comical… and yet, not so comical once you realize that millions of people look at this site and somehow come away feeling that they are being given unbiased news coverage.
I’ve known people like this, people who look me straight in the eye and insist that Fox’s coverage is, in fact, fair and balanced, not a hint of bias.
Here’s the thing: when I visit sites like Talking Points Memo or Washington Monthly, I know they’re biased to my point of view. I can also tell that sites like Five-Thirty-Eight are not biased. If I see the headline lineup, shown at right, from NBCNews.com, I can tell there’s a left-leaning slant due to the specific positive quotes for Obama and Biden, the neutral story about Ryan, and the story on corporate money in the race. It’s easy to tell that NBC is not nearly as slanted as Fox, but I can see and freely admit that there is a slant, and take that into account when trying to register what’s what.
Too many right-wingers, however, seem to take the slant as truth. They have real problems admitting there’s a bias at work. You see the right-wing talking heads on TV confronted with this, asked to admit that there’s even a little bias, and they immediately shift focus and start talking about something on a tangent, or else they get this sudden inability to talk, as if they know they should say something to sound like they are at least open-minded, but can’t find any words to express such a thing. It’s like a very specific kind of aphasia.
But the fact remains that there is a very significant Reality Distortion Field at play here. Fox News is weighing down the scales on the right so much, it really has created a separate, artificial reality, a lens through which tens of millions of Americans now see the country and the world. There is a liberal false reality as well, but let’s face it—it is nowhere near as pronounced. There is no equivalency here; the difference is as stark as PBS pledge drive and a Ted Nugent concert—where the people getting the tote bags understanding fully well how dorky and stodgy they’re being, while the Nugent fans think it’s perfectly defensible to publicly suggest the president suck on a machine gun.