Home > Arguments From Intimidation > Media Wars and the Argument From Intimidation

Media Wars and the Argument From Intimidation

Years ago my favorite cable news personality was on MSNBC.  It was Tucker Carlson.  Now he’s on Fox.  And remember when John Stossil used to be on ABC?  I don’t, but apparently he did….

I’m a little behind the news cycle but if you haven’t heard, Juan Williams was fired by NPR last week.  This came after comments on the O’reilly Factor following this incident on the View.  The state of the media is getting frightening.

First of all, the case of O’reilly on the View is a particularly insidious form of the argument from intimidation.  And let me say that I saw Whoopie Goldberg speak about it afterward and I think she was acting honestly.  That is, I think she was honestly furious and left to keep herself from losing her temper  any more than she already had.  I don’t think it was a calculated stunt on her part.  But that is why this form of the argument from intimidation is so powerful. 

The statement that Bill O’reilly was trying to make was prevented from reaching the minds of Goldberg and Behar years ago, probably decades ago.  Somehow, they have been conditioned on a subconscious level to immediately block out certain kinds of speech.  They have been taught that anyone who says certain things is evil and they must react with violent contempt the moment these things are said or else they are not good people themselves.  This reaction is not logical it is emotional, and it makes logical analysis of the subject impossible (at least temporarily). 

What’s more, the effect of this reaction, especially when it comes from multiple people at the same time, is to perpetuate the epidemic in others.  It says to anyone watching “you just heard something that is not to be said, and this is how people who break this rule will be treated.  You don’t want people to think you are a bad person do you?  You don’t want to suffer the scorn and outrage of your peers.  If not, then you better not say what he just said.  In fact you better not even think it.  You better not even consider whether or not it’s true (in this case it was factually accurate but that seems to be lost in this debate).  And it would be best if you acted outraged anytime you heard anyone else say it just so that we all know that you are on the level.  You wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and think that you could ever consider such a thing.”

Now the bigger part of the story is Juan Williams.  Williams also said something that is not to be said.  But his crime was much greater because he is a “liberal.”  Juan Williams is the kind of person who is the biggest threat to the left because he blurs the line between those to whom you are allowed to listen and those to whom you are not.  He was a liberal  news analyst on NPR.  That is to whom you are supposed to listen.  But he also goes on Fox News and carries on reasonable and thoughtful conversations with people like Bill O’Reilly.  This is not allowed.  In his own words:

They are taking bits and pieces of what I said to go after me for daring to have a conversation with leading conservative thinkers. They loathe the fact that I appear on Fox News. They don’t notice that I am challenging Bill O’Reilly and trading ideas with Sean Hannity. In their hubris they think by talking with O’Reilly or Hannity I am lending them legitimacy.

You see what’s going on here?  They have driven most of the reasonable conservatives and libertarians out of all the “mainstream” networks.  But they just keep ending up on Fox.   They have tried to bring Fox around or put them out of business by organizing boycotts and  cutting them out of the White House press pool, etc. but this hasn’t worked.  So they have to quarantine them.  They have to keep their loyal supporters from watching it.  They have to make sure that you don’t ever think to yourself “I wonder if there is actually a side to the news that I’m not getting that I could get on Fox?”  You must believe that they are only “pushing an agenda.”  But when well-respected liberals are going on there and giving their opinions and not being crucified as non believers it makes this argument difficult to make.  When those well-respected liberals also have a line to the left’s protected constituencies, then you have to worry about them getting the impression that Fox is OK to watch. 

To put it another way, their quarantine relies on you believing that only right-wing loonies are on Fox.  If Fox refuses to cooperate by only putting right-wing loonies on, then they have to cut off the supply of liberals (“Democratic senator _________’s office was invited on/asked for comment but we haven’t heard back from them” is quite the common refrain on Fox these days).  If some liberals insist on contributing to Fox, then they must be cut off from the sheep and made to look like right-wing loonies. 

Meanwhile the situation is turning into a public relations disaster for NPR.  This means that Ellen Weiss (Williams’ boss at NPR) who told Williams that the decision to fire him  “had been confirmed above her,” and also insinuated that he should discuss his views with his psychiatrist, is catching flack from all sides including within NPR.  I predict she will be gone by the end of the week.  Williams stood up for himself and his views and when he got fired he landed a lucrative contract with Fox.  Weiss probably thought that she was being a loyal servant to her bosses.  Let’s see what she has waiting for her after she takes the fall for this.  The dichotomy is worth taking notice of. 

Oh and by the way this happened the same week that George Soros donated $1.8 million to NPR.  I’m sure it’s just a coincidence though…

Update: It was actually NPR CEO Vivian Schiller who said that Williams should consult his psychiatrist not Weiss as I said.  Also, neither of them lost their job yet so I guess you are free to conclude the opposite of what I intended on that one.  This is kind of amusing though.

  1. ThinkAsTheyDoOrElse
    October 26, 2010 at 11:26 am

    by ThinkAsTheyDoOrElse

    Dark humor involving a bird, a wind turbine, and funny music

  2. February 6, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    -~: that seems to be a great topic, i really love it .”‘

    • Free Radical
      February 7, 2011 at 10:59 pm


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