Bryan Fischer on CNN


And once again I have to ask the question: How much of a crazed loony do you have to be not to get on CNN these days? Even Bryan Fischer, who deserves nothing but scorn and ridicule, was on to spout his anti-gay hatred recently. On the other hand, I’m all for exposing these guys as exactly what they are. But I wish the show hosts would actually ask some hard questions instead of just presenting the two sides as equally reasonable.

Comments

  1. grumpyoldfart says

    But I wish the show hosts would actually ask some hard questions

    They call it NEWS, but it’s just light entertainement.

  2. says

    It does not happen only in the USA, it happens everywhere. Mainstream media invites misogynists, homophobes,religious fanatics to spread their bigotry. They use their freedom of expression to silence others.

  3. justawriter says

    And once again I have to ask the question: How much of a crazed loony do you have to be not to get on CNN these days?

    Wrong question. You should ask how sensible you have to be not to get on CNN.

  4. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    I wish the show hosts would actually ask some hard questions instead of just presenting the two sides as equally reasonable.

    Managing producers have an ethical obligation as journalists to both inform and not misinform their audience. I can easily discern what reporters/journalists/hosts/moderators know and don’t know about certain topics, so there is no justifiable reason why a managing producer for a particular set of shows also isn’t cognizant of this if this entity is actually practicing journalism.

    So for these producers to meet this remedial and minimal obligation of their profession, they should always have an expert guest on which can clarify the relevant context and facts when their respective shows have guests where we know in advance those guests will attempt to misinform viewers. I think this obligation extends to Bill Maher and Jon Stewart as well, where if they pull the comedian card as their excuse as they’re wont to do, I would argue they still have a moral obligation to do the same, e.g., Bill Maher’s attempt to defend climate science is embarrassingly bad.

    So when you have Sen. Jim Inhofe where we already know he’s a global warming denialist and which arguments he uses to deny reality, you also have a climate scientist on who represents the near-monolithic position on the state of the science who also knows in advance the set of lies Sen. Inhofe promotes.

    This next recommendation is presented humbly since it might violate certain ethical standards within certain fields: These media sites should pay experts on retainer to insure their experts can’t just articulate the consensus position of their field, but also have sufficiently prepared in advance to refute the lies by those who seek to misinform the public. In spite of the proliferation of cable news and fragmentation of the news, along with the rise of the Internet, we rarely see actual practicing experts in the media. And we do, they’re frequently not prepared to counter the argument of the global warming denialist, the creationist, the Christian Nation propagandist, or the conservative politician discussing economic factors and results.

    For a Bryan Fischer type who distorts nearly every topic which makes him infamous, the producer should bring on an expert or experts specific to the topic being addressed on the show and keep the topics narrowly tailored, unless they become so famous you pay a generalist to focus on the lies of a particular person across a continuum of issues, i.e., CNN should have someone on retainer who serves a generalist able to dispute the specific shtick of a Michelle Bachmann or Mitt Romney. I don’t think one is needed for Barack Obama, instead they need to have a constitutional expert on where there already several of those, e.g., Jeffrey Toobin. In addition producers should automatically cut off the mike of their demagogue guests as soon as they ask the expert a question given these demagogues are often still capable of getting their lies out without the audience hearing the truth by talking over their rare encounters with experts.

    I’ve never been a journalist and have had almost no contact with the media, so it’s frustrating that even I can promote a couple of simple remedies that would greatly improve these news sites’ ability to inform their audience rather than misinform them. I realize this incapability raises the notion they’re not really journalists but instead part of a nefarious conspiracy to promote consumerism, which I reject. I instead perceive journalism similar to how I perceive the K-12 teaching industry: unprepared, unqualified, ill-developed, and focused on the wrong objectives.

  5. Shawn Smith says

    Michael Heath,

    I suspect that a possible reason your suggestions are not considered is that the program producers have a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders of the parent company. Without a large audience, advertising dollars dry up pretty quickly. Unless they want to move to a public broadcasting model (asking their audience and corporate and government donors for funds), I don’t see the move toward more popular (and stupid) entertainment changing.

    The demise of The Learning Channel (to TLC) and the dumbing down of The History Channel and The Discovery Channel I believe provide evidence that a factually accurate protrayal of the world just isn’t popular enough to justify its production. Yeah, you can get niche programs like Mythbusters, Dirty Jobs, Nova, Nature, Frontline, Modern Marvels, The Universe, etc. that can stay on the air in a fragmented and niche oriented cable/satellite television market, but it just isn’t enough to populate a full time broadcast television channel.

  6. slc1 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #4

    The clowns on cable news are not journalists, they’re entertainers.

    However, since Heath mentioned Jeffrey Toobin, I have to say that he has, on at least one occasion that I know of, been guilty of poor reporting. In his book about the OJ Simpson case, he asserts that Simpson is mentally deficient, based on his poor writing skills. Toobin was, apparently, unaware that Simpson is dyslexic, as reported by Lawrence Schiller. As a matter of fact, Simpson was given an IQ test by a psychologist from Colorado hired by the defense and scored 124, hardly evidence of mental deficiency.

  7. says

    Come on, enough with the homosexual lobby already! When is Fischer going to go after the much more dangerous homosexual elevator? At this rate it will be decades before he reaches the homosexual suite, where the real action is.

  8. Michael Heath says

    Shawn Smith:

    I suspect that a possible reason your suggestions are not considered is that the program producers have a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders of the parent company. Without a large audience, advertising dollars dry up pretty quickly. Unless they want to move to a public broadcasting model (asking their audience and corporate and government donors for funds), I don’t see the move toward more popular (and stupid) entertainment changing.

    I’m cognizant of this and was when I wrote it. For reasons of brevity I didn’t attempt to preempt this argument. It’s my position there would be far greater entertainment value convincingly taking down demagogues than merely allowing them to spout. So I reject the premise my position would generate lower profits. I remain convinced the problem with the media is incompetency.

    For example, a current controversy in my neck of the woods in Northern Michigan is a state law prohibiting hunting ranches from having feral pig populations. The most popular rebuttal to this new law is by these hunting ranch owners who object is, “it’s unconstitutional!!!”. The answer to the following question is to ask which constitution this law is in violation, Michigan’s or the U.S. After getting that answer, the obvious follow-up is which clauses and how this law violates those specific clauses. I’m confident there’s not even a need for an expert for this sort of question since I’m confident these people have no idea what the constitutionality of this law is and would instead just start sputtering and change the subject. But taking down liars seems to me to have enormous entertainment value.

  9. redmann says

    Two (2) internets to timgueguen. I’ve been up and down all morning but you really gave me a lift.

  10. Michael Heath says

    slc1 writes:

    The clowns on cable news are not journalists, they’re entertainers.

    My comments were not focused exclusively on cable news so your criticism doesn’t even address my argument. In addition I don’t perceive CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and Anderson Cooper as clowns but instead as journalists. Mr. Zakaria largely features experts and is knowledgeable enough to ask the right questions to his politician-guests. Mr. Cooper’s show frequently does yeoman work fisking liars without experts though still not to my standards. I doubt you can make a case either is merely an entertainer so I perceive your argument failing on its own merits even if I had defectively addressed only cable news.

    Given my point to Shawn Smith above that I think my format would yield entertainment value, I do want to make clear neither follows the format I propose above. Therefore I’m not making a case their respective lack of ratings challenges my argument fisking liars is entertaining. While Mr. Zakaria frequently has experts on, he doesn’t have a format where a public official is in the same segment with the expert where the expert fisks any lies told by the official.

    I’m surprised I haven’t seen an argument yet challenging my proposed format because you wouldn’t get access to the liars, who once they realized the gig wouldn’t do the show anymore in order to avoid embarrassment and avoid being a foil.

  11. sumdum says

    It does not happen only in the USA, it happens everywhere. Mainstream media invites misogynists, homophobes,religious fanatics to spread their bigotry. They use their freedom of expression to silence others.

    Not here in the Netherlands. In fact, I’d say public broadcasting channels are decidedly left wing.
    But I’ll say this though, they really don’t cover subjects in depth. For example, you barely hear anything anymore about the Occupy movement, and when they do they barely scratch the surface. They show the movement exists, that they occupy some place here or there, but they never go in depth into WHY they are protesting, or take a good look at their arguments and show why they are legitimate or not.

  12. unbound says

    @Michael Heath – While I do appreciate the sentiment, and, in an ideal world, the suggestions might even be implemented. Alas, we do not live in an ideal world and the suggestions just don’t work.

    News stopped being a service to the people for 3 or 4 decades now (perhaps more). News is treated like any other aspect of their respective network. They are expected to generate profit by virtue of selling commercial spots. The price of those commercial spots are set by viewership, not accuracy of reporting. Viewership is obtained by making the issue exciting and controversial, not by pointing out fact or pretty well settled science. Alternatively, viewership can be obtained via comedy by poking fun at the obvious issues.

    As Shawn Smith pointed out, this has resulted in the dumbing down of what used to be good channels / programs. There just wasn’t enough audience for real history or real science (and even Mythbusters is sloppy enough to not be that great of science on more than a few occasions in favor of excitement).

    And it isn’t going to get any better anytime soon. If you look at message boards that teens and young adults visit, you’ll see the ultimate expression in short term attention span… tl;dr (too long; didn’t read). We have a generation coming that if it isn’t quick and simple, they just aren’t interested. So actual depth in a subject, real debate on a subject, true discussion of what is happening is increasingly being frowned upon. Basically, they aren’t interested in being informed…only reacting to whatever issue of the day pops up.

    Finally, there is the issue of the expert. Who will vet the experts? And how do you separate the demagogues from the up and coming sciences? Dr. Marshall (the physician that discovered the role bacteria played in many cases of ulcers) would have been laughed off the stage by the majority of physicians (experts in their time) in the early 80s. Yet, Dr. Marshall was proven right (eventually winning the Nobel prize for his work).

    The reality is that truth involves a lot of knowledge and discussion which takes up time. Time is not something that works well with any television program.

  13. slc1 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #10

    Anderson Cooper, whom I have cited on several occasions on this blog, is an exception who can get away with being a real newsman because he is independently wealthy and doesn’t need the money. Since he is the most popular personality on CNN, giving him the heave ho would be shooting themselves in the foot.

    As for network news, I haven’t watched any of the 1/2 hour CBS, NBC, ABC news broadcasts for a long time. It is my impression, based on extensive commentary on the Internet, that the days of Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, etc. are long gone.

  14. says

    I don’t know how to fix the problem of bad TV here in the US, but I’m at least ‘voting with my dollars’ by getting my news elsewhere. I should probably get into the habit of streaming science and history documentaries on Netflix, even if it’s just to have it running in the background. The invisible hand of the market might just notice if enough people do stuff like that.

  15. Michael Heath says

    slc1 writes:

    Anderson Cooper, whom I have cited on several occasions on this blog, is an exception who can get away with being a real newsman because he is independently wealthy and doesn’t need the money. Since he is the most popular personality on CNN, giving him the heave ho would be shooting themselves in the foot.

    Other journalists are wealthy, not just Anderson Cooper. Plus we have ample evidence being provocative yields success, so your assumption that being a cowardly journalist is the only avenue to success also fails a basic test of logic. Repeating this point doesn’t make it any more compelling than the first time you made it.

  16. Michael Heath says

    unbound asserts I’m naive to think my ideas would work:

    [News TV shows] are expected to generate profit by virtue of selling commercial spots. The price of those commercial spots are set by viewership, not accuracy of reporting. Viewership is obtained by making the issue exciting and controversial, not by pointing out fact or pretty well settled science. Alternatively, viewership can be obtained via comedy by poking fun at the obvious issues.

    I’m a business man; everything I think about business is channeled through the profit motive. I’m also a professional, which means I have ethical obligations developed by my industry which I’m obligated to abide by. Making money and acting ethically in one’s profession are not nor have they ever been in conflict when one looks at the forest (the state of the industry) rather than the trees (individual players).

    And contra your argument citing facts isn’t entertaining, we already know that embarrassing a powerful liar/demagogue is far more entertaining than just letting liars rant like they do now on most outlets. For example, Jon Stewart is very entertaining leveraging the clips broadcast by other shows and riffing of them in a way that disparages the liars in an incredibly entertaining manner. In fact countless clips of his have gone viral. So I reject the premise that journalists can’t make money by refuting lies or can’t be entertaining by moderating a segment which does such. We already have exemplars to benchmark which require little modification.

  17. Michael Heath says

    Me in the prior post:

    For example, Jon Stewart is very entertaining leveraging the clips broadcast by other shows and riffing of them in a way that disparages the liars in an incredibly entertaining manner. In fact countless clips of his have gone viral. So I reject the premise that journalists can’t make money by refuting lies or can’t be entertaining by moderating a segment which does such. We already have exemplars to benchmark which require little modification.

    To pile on to my own point. Not only is this entertaining and I think effective, but it’s young people who gravitate most to Stewart’s show. So the argument I make here has an increasing audience with a growing appetite for this type of format, rather than a demographic whose dying.

  18. slc1 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #15

    As an heir to the Gloria Vanderbilt fortune when she dies, Mr. Cooper is better fixed then all the other toilers in the various newsrooms put together.

  19. says

    About getting experts, I know in my field it’s difficult for producers to get anyone to agree to appear on any of these programs. I used to get called at least once a month, if not more, but haven’t been called in a couple of years. The last time anyone called was something for the learning channel.

    There was nothing unusual about receiving these calls because only a tiny percentage of people who are asked are willing to appear. The producers are often desperate, so they’re glad when they can develop a stable of regulars who will say yes, but often the people who say yes are seeking celebrity more than they’re interested in genuinely contributing as experts. Typically, they’re not people who are respected professionally and often, in my field, their credentials are even suspect.

    It’s fine to roll around in the mud anonymously, like in my blog, but if we’re talking about professionals and academics, most see no professional upside–at least not any upside their interested in–to going public in an adversarial forum, let alone an adversarial forum where the other participants and much of the audience are nitwits who aren’t interested in genuine, thoughtful discussion. Most people I know would regard it as a degradation because no matter what you say, it’s going to be sensationalized or framed as ideological warfare. There is no interest in the kind of nuance that actually interests experts.

    As for those producers, most of them sounded like kids–maybe interns or just beyond interns. They had no idea what they were doing or how to judge the experts on a particular subject. The calls for experts are a job relegated to the lowest and least experienced.

  20. Michael Heath says

    slc1:

    As an heir to the Gloria Vanderbilt fortune when she dies, Mr. Cooper is better fixed then all the other toilers in the various newsrooms put together.

    Which has nothing to do with the financial security of many other journalists.

    I assume you’ve had no training in logic, otherwise you’d be incredibly embarrassed by your repeated argument that Anderson Cooper’s motivation to do a good job of factchecking is solely because Mommie’s rich. In spite of the fact many other journalists are financially secure and you’ve provided no causal relationship this is a general motivating factor amongst journalists in general or explains why they don’t do a better job. Nor have you established this is Mr. Cooper’s sole reason as you repeatedly assert.

    [Italicized phrases below are logical fallacies]
    Your argument explaining why Mr. Cooper factchecks and challenges interview subjects doesn’t even achieve the failure of mistaking correlation for causation since your sample size is a mere one. I.e., you’ve yet to validate a correlation even exists, let alone establish a causal relationship. Instead I observe you making an argument from selective observation, aka ‘cherry-picking’, which again doesn’t even meet the standard of failure in an argument by generalization. I do think your repeated assertion fails as an argument by scenario where your certainly employing a reductive fallacy and a false cause.

    So from my perspective your single premise challenging my entire argument is not in any way compelling and instead has me more focused on you than reconsidering my own conclusion.

    Phrases and definitions here: http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#scenario

  21. Michael Heath says

    Dr. X,

    I’d appreciate your input on my humbly presented recommendation they pay their experts, both on retainer and when they appear. I think my motivation directly mitigates the very reasons you present are the current symptom set of why many experts are reluctant to appear, or aren’t even asked given the ignorance of those asking. Especially when it comes to securing the most credible experts rather than ones who are more prone to misconstrue the consensus view, and because it’s not in their professional interests being the two you raised.

    Dr. X writes:

    As for those producers, most of them sounded like kids–maybe interns or just beyond interns. They had no idea what they were doing or how to judge the experts on a particular subject. The calls for experts are a job relegated to the lowest and least experienced.

    I know, which is exactly why I didn’t refer to producers setting my recommended standard but instead referred to managing producers, who oversee a show or shows. Producers generally assist the talent and book guests, I was referring to those production managers who are responsible for the show itself. In the case of CNN, I assume they hire their guests from a level within the organization well above the management of any set of particular shows. In addition I was discussing a systemic change, not more of the same since I find the same fatally defective and stated as such.

    From this perspective producers would merely seek out experts who were already approved from a systemic perspective, e.g., Ben Santos for climate change issues having to do with climate change forcings as a CNN-paid consultant (he focuses on factors which are heating and cooling the planet), along with a couple of back-ups also in reserve. Dan Fairbanks, Ken Miller, or Jerry Coyne when it comes to evolution within the framework of a creationist talking. Not just because they know how to communicate the relevant issues, but also because all four have demonstrated they already are willing and capable of rebutting of denialist claims.

    A generalist who presents absolutely devastating arguments against creationists’ political and religious ambitions while falsely posing as pushing objective truth is Barbara Forest. Yet I’ve only seen her on TV a handful of times. She is one of the heros of the Dover trial; her testimony not only clearly illustrated that creationists viewed their creationism as part of their religion, but she also clearly revealed the defense attorneys were morons and their clients were ignorant liars.

    The Dover Trial was compelling drama and is illustrative regarding why TV and the movies love fictional courtroom drama narratives. Journalism could easily present this drama on the news shows, the talent is there on the expert side. They merely need the motivation and a system to apply it; where I think the motivation is clear – profit by presenting more dramatic content which has the added benefit of informing the audience rather than being a venue for demagogues to vent the same ‘ol same ‘ol we’ve all heard far too many times. E.g., “I believe marriage is between a man and woman”, as if that’s an argument we should criminalize gays living their life and enjoying equal rights. I think it’s way past time we stop depending on Jon Stewart for an after-the-fact response and instead go face-to-face or least have the news do what Stewart does with experts rather than comedy, where the difference between the arguments from the demagogues and the experts is comedic in itself.

  22. Michael Heath says

    Charles P. Pierce in an interview with Amazon on his book, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free:

    The conflict between intellectual expertise and reflexive emotion—often characterized as “good old common sense,” when it is neither common nor sense—has been endemic to American culture and politics since the beginning. I do think that my profession, journalism, went off the tracks when it accepted as axiomatic the notion that “Perception is reality.” No. Perception is perception and reality is reality, and if the former doesn’t conform to the latter, then it’s the journalist’s job to hammer and hammer the reality until the perception conforms to it.

  23. davedell says

    Michael Heath and company. I have rarely read something so timely. I just watched a Fareed Zakaria GPS segment on the possibility of turmoil and purges in China’s leadership. Actual news combined with nuanced discussion. It was a refreshing change from the 24/7 spin cycle.

    I’m going to have a great time following some of the links, researching the people mentioned and reading “Idiot America”.

    As a regular viewer of Stewart and Colbert it’s refreshing to know their following is a younger audience desperately in need of exposure to critical thinking.

  24. eamick says

    Mr. Cooper’s show frequently does yeoman work fisking liars without experts though still not to my standards.

    Unfortunately, to my bafflement, he also hosts an inane and excruciating syndicated daytime talk show.

  25. slc1 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #20

    I see what the problem relative to Mr. Cooper is. In no way, shape, form, or regard am I claiming that he is motivated to perform as a genuine newsman because of his wealth. I assume that his motivation is the same as it was for people like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. What his wealth does is enable him to perform as a genuine newsman without the fear of unemployment, a luxury that most other employees of the lamestream media don’t have. This was much less of a problem 50 or 60 years ago, before news became entertainment.

    Can Heath even conceive of the lamestream media taking on somebody like Joe McCarthy today, like Murrow did more then 50 years ago? Not hardly, in the current regime of he said she said. Can Heath conceive of the lamestream media producing a program segment like, “Harvest of Shame”? I would advise him not to bet the ranch on it.

  26. Michael Heath says

    slc1 writes:

    I see what the problem relative to Mr. Cooper is. In no way, shape, form, or regard am I claiming that he is motivated to perform as a genuine newsman because of his wealth. I assume that his motivation is the same as it was for people like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. What his wealth does is enable him to perform as a genuine newsman without the fear of unemployment, a luxury that most other employees of the lamestream media don’t have. This was much less of a problem 50 or 60 years ago, before news became entertainment.

    Every response I provided to you was based on me perfectly understanding this was your position from the very first time you made this argument. So this response in no way rebuts my criticisms of your position nor I think, lets you off the hook for any of the logical fallacies I observe in your argument.

    Repeating the same argument which depends solely on logical fallacies not only fails to increase acceptance for the argument, it further reinforces the absurdity of the argument itself and points attention to what’s wrong with the person making such a fatally flawed argument.

  27. slc1 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #26

    I am afraid that Heath and I are going to have to agree to disagree on this topic, hopefully not disagreeably.

  28. Michael Heath says

    slc1,

    My perception is we haven’t earned a credible disagreement on the merits. That you are not dealing with the fallacies I’ve asserted @ 20 regarding your argument. In fact you aren’t dealing with them since you failed to even address them.

  29. flex says

    @ Micheal Heath and others,

    While I’ve been cognizant of the dilution of CNN for some time now, I suspect that a number of factors contribute to it. Most importantly I think their downfall was in part due to their success.

    I recall, twenty years ago, when Gulf War I made CNN the network to watch for the news. Before Gulf War I CNN was all news, all the time, and it was very successful in it’s niche. During Gulf War I, CNN maintained it’s all news format and people learned that CNN was the place to get the news.

    I believe that this success encouraged a lot of people who wanted to be real journalists, or were already in journalism but wanted to be seen as more professional, to want to join CNN. So it attracted the attention of successful reporters, interviewers, and most importantly, producers from other networks. These producers brought with them their notions of what people wanted to watch.

    Probably not all of the producers were so blind as to realize that the reason CNN was successful was because it simply told the news. CNN didn’t show human interest stories. CNN didn’t air fluff interviews. CNN didn’t have personalities who were more important than the content. But some producers had spent enough time in the television news industry to think that personalities were more important than content.

    How could CNN as a network tell producers with 30+ years in the industry that their viewers didn’t want human interest stories, that their viewers didn’t want personalities? CNN had made an investment in these producers, buying their expertise in news coverage. I’m sure that CNN assumed that these people who survived in the corporate news world so long did have the knowledge to expand CNN’s market share. So the CNN brand was diluted with personalities and irrelevant talk shows.

    But CNN’s original success does suggest that there is a market for good journalism, good reporting, tough interviews. It occupied that spot successfully for a dozen years.

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