Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fox News' Deceptive Manipulation

Jon Stewart has caught Fox News in another lie.

(See: Crooks and Liars: Jon Stewart totally busts Sean Hannity for using old footage to inflate size of Bachmann's teabagger rally.)

In a broadcast on a recent rally at the steps of the capital, Sean Hannity used footage from a previous rally where there was a much larger audience, and presented it as if were footage of this rally. At the same time, fellow commentators made exaggerated claims about the numbers of people present – numbers consistent with the deceptive footage shown at the same time.

The problem is not with this one act. The problem is with the values expressed in this one act. The type of person who would do such a thing is a type of person who has no personal aversion to manipulating others through deception. It is somebody who does not care whether he gives the people the truth. He cares about other things – such as personal profit – and is willing to deceitfully manipulate others in the pursuit of those other things.

In exhibiting these values themselves, they teach these values to others – such as our children. Sean Hannity’s message to people is that manipulating others through deception is a perfectly acceptable act – and that people in general ought not to be concerned. People who praise and reward Sean Hannity or fox News for this bit of deceptive manipulation are ALSO telling people (particularly children) that it is a virtue to engage in these types of practices.

Those types of attitudes are responsible for a great deal of avoidable pain and suffering. Those who care about their own well-being and the well-being of others will be intent to see to it that deceptive manipulation is not met with praise and reward, but condemnation and punishment.

(Standard disclaimer: The right to freedom of speech limits the response to immoral speech acts of this type to condemnation and private actions – such as refusal to purchase services from or refusal to purchase services from supporters of those who perform such actions. Specifically, it prohibits violence as a response to immoral speech acts of this type.)

For everything that gets put on the screen and every line of text that is read or statement that is spoken, we have proof that the agents responsible for those images and text are people who have no aversion to putting lies in front of the American people. Agents with an morally responsible aversion to lying would not have put those images into the report or exaggerated the numbers. Agents who put those images into the report and exaggerated the numbers are agents with little or no aversion to deceptive manipulation.

Decent, respectable, moral individuals will look on these antics at Fox News and say, "How dare you adopt values that put America and Americans at risk? How dare you think it is permissible to try to manipulate us with distortions such as these? Without an apparent ounce of embarrassment or shame - without a twinge of conscience that we can see - you sit back and count your money while your victims act on the lies that you have fed them.

People are manipulated by lies when one wants to do something that they would not do if they were given the truth.

People act so as to fulfill the most and strongest of their desires given their beliefs. Lies aim to manipulate people to act to in ways that fulfill the most and strongest desires of the liar, sacrificing the desires of the person being lied to. A liar is like a parasite who feeds off of the effort of others. He fools others into thinking they are fulfilling the most and strongest of their own desires, when, in fact, their own desires are being thwarted by actions that fulfill the desires of the deceiver.

This is the role that Fox News is playing in our society today – manipulating people into doing things that are harmful to those being manipulated or harmful to others, but which helps to fulfill the most and the strongest of the desires of those at Fox News.

The company who sells products through Fox News is showing that it shares the values of Fox News - the value of deceiving and manipulating others through profit. It might not be a surprise to find so many companies that can turn a blind eye to deceit and manipulation for profit. However, the fact that it is surprising does not make it good or right. The fact that it is not surprising does not change the fact that Americans have many and strong reasons to condemn those who value the deceitful manipulation of others.

If somebody is seeking evidence that America is not a great nation, they can find it in the fact that this type of manipulative deception for profit, causing its citizens to act in ways harmful to themselves and others, is generally accepted. Whereas a great nation would condemn these types of actions (and the motives behind them), America raises little or no objection to these manipulations and deceptions.

In fact, Americans continue to heap praise and rewards on the deceitful manipulators – it allows lying deceivers are allowed to succeed even when they are caught. That which is rewarded will grow and prosper, it is of little wonder in this country that deceitful manipulation is a growing industry in this country. The more deceitful manipulation we get, the more examples we can find of Americans acting in ways harmful to themselves and others.


Baconsbud said...

What I find the most sad part of this is a comedy show is the one that seems to be breaking these types of stories. I haven't seen the so called main media make a single comment about this.

anton said...

Isn't this example similar to the late night news broadcasts that say they are bringing you a "live report from the Middle East" and the reporter is pictured in front of a backdrop of a late-night sky when, in reality, it is morning there? It is particularly "deceptive" when the news announcer engages the mid-east reporter in a "live conversation" with no "time gaps". I guess its called "packaging the news" for an ignorant population that needs to think that if its night time in US America, its night time all over the world.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


While I will criticize it as deceptive, it is not the same thing. The specific act does not have any implication on policy decisions. Fox News was likely trying to promote an agenda by making it seem more popular than it is in fact.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Note: Anton, your account is similar to that of news organizations that overdubbed video of the Challenger disaster with the sound of an explosion.

(1) Challenger did not explode. It was torn apart by aerodynamic forces. Note the fact that both solid rocket boosters survived the 'explosion' substantially intact.

(2) If it had exploded it would have taken several seconds for the sound to travel from the site of the explosion to any microphones that would have picked up the sound.

It is a different class of deception - not one meant to influence policy but one that is meant to entertain. Worthy of condemnation, but not for the same reasons.

Luke said...

"The type of person who would do such a thing is a type of person who has no personal aversion to manipulating others through deception."

Perhaps it would be fairer to say that such a person has "little" personal aversion to manipulating others through deception.

Many people have an aversion to deception, and yet this aversion is defeasible, and so they do sometimes engage in deception.

That said, the people at Fox News appear to have very little aversion to manipulating others through deception.

anton said...


Once a broadcaster such as Fox News is able to "manipulate" a population's perception it can "move in with a political agenda". If a broadcaster gets away with packaging the news, he starts to create the news . . . and the myths that sometimes survive for eons.

Unknown said...

A fact which is most ironic is that synonyms of the word Fox are "trick", "deceive" and "to fool". That seems to be the motive behind their broadcasts, to trick and deceive and create fools.

Unknown said...

While Jesus walked the earth he stated: " Why are you looking for sawdust in your brother's eyes when you have a plank in your own eye?" ( Bible verse Matthew 7:3). Persons who I believe are deceptive are aetheists? Could an atheist please explain to me how all the cycles in life work- our human blood cycle, breathing cycle with plants, sunrise/suset cycle, seasonal cycles. If you an aetheist believed in a God and you thought FoxNews was doing something wrong you could pray to your God. Finally I don't believe children would want to watch FoxNews when there is the cartoon channel.