A real journalist, Keith Olbermann, proved that Glenn Beck lied at least once during his “Restoring Honor” rally. During the rally, Beck claimed he touched George Washington’s Inaugural Address, during a visit to the National Archives. As a real journalist would, Keith Olbermann looked into it. Seems the National Archives don’t allow anyone but specially trained people to touch the documents.
This is particularly interesting consider that Beck told this lie during his “Restoring Honor” religious rally. For one thing, it looks like for all his emphasis on obedience to God, he disobeyed one of the 10 commandments. One also wonders what lying has to do with restoring honor, or for that matter whether it’s honor that you restore with lies. But I digress. Why would Beck lie about something like this? Well apparently, Beck lied because it’s easier and well you don’t want to confuse Beckbots with too much information – certainly not a religious rally.
Of course, Fox’s proponents and defenders will see any criticism as an attempt to censor them and take away their freedom. They’ll talk about the first amendment and once again seek to demonize their critics. They’ll even go so far as to say that they’re just fighting “Liberal Bias” in the mainstream media. Challenging people you disagree with using facts and evidence is fair game. Lying is not – even though, for some, it may be easier.
Everyone knows that Fox is the epitome of distortion, propaganda and yellow journalism. Fox is to television what the National Enquirer is to print journalism. Both engage in sensationalism for profit, big profit. Both are a source of frustration (to put it mildly) to real journalists who recognize that journalism is about providing factual information, as a result of research and interviews. The owners of Fox and The National Enquirer profit greatly, at the expense of others.
The differences between the National Enquirer and Fox are not lost on me. While the National Enquirer’s harm is to the individuals they maligned, and the privacy they invaded, the harm from Fox is far greater. Fox engages in yellow journalism to further a political agenda. While they talk the talk of freedom and liberty, they behave like the state controlled television of totalitarian regimes.
In contradiction to the meaning of news, Fox relies on distortion and lies to titillate their viewers. More importantly, they operate like a political dis-infomercial. This is all in the name of “saving the country” or “taking the country back” be it on the talking picture box or at a political rally disguised as being a religious retreat about honor.
Reading a political parties talking points, demonizing your opponents, lies and distortion. What does any of this have to do with honor?
There is much more at stake then partisan politics. The press is guaranteed freedom under the first amendment, freedom from interference by government. But it goes further than that. For a press to be free, it also has to be independent of political influence. When there’s a press that considers the facts “incovenient” and lies “because it’s easier” in the name of furthering a political agenda, it betrays the very spirit of the first amendment.
Update: Mother Jones also caught Beck on this lie. It’s another example of the difference between real journalism and what Fox does.
Clarification: @bob_calder on twitter made the point that the National Enquirer has a fact checking process, which therefore makes it better than Fox. First, I thank Mr. @bob_calder for his observations. In fact, the National Enquirer does have a fact checking process, as noted in the Columbia Journalism Review article on the National Enquirer’s fact-checking department. It’s also true that The National Enquirer established this department after Carol Burnett won a judgment in libel suit against the publication in 1981. Actually, I agree with @bob_calder’s conclusion that The National Enquirer is better than Fox for the reason he stated as well as those I stated earlier in this post. I stand by my previous comments regarding the use of sensationalism to titillate their respective audiences. In retrospect, I could have and should have written that portion of the post more clearly.