Fox News Isn’t The Problem, The People Who Watch It Are

news roomMan, it seems like every time you turn around, Fox News is doing something else that is absolutely “OUTRAGEOUS” or bigoted, or… well, you get the point. Whether it is blaming Secret Service incompetence on gender equality or playing the six degrees of separation with Benghazi on almost any news story, you can bet that at any hour of the day, they’re doing something that will be addressed with shock or laughter on The Daily Show or elsewhere. In fact, you could probably make a living just reporting on all of the ridiculous things they do over there, and there are sites like that are set up for that exact purpose.

Recently, Allen Clifton wrote an article titled “The Only Way To Fix Our Government Is If Conservatives Stop Watching Fox News,” which seems like a good idea, but it’s not just as simple as that. While it would certainly be great for conservatives to stop watching Fox News, there’s still a plethora of even more outrageous and even more insane right-wing media sources out there that would gladly fill the void if Fox suddenly went off the air. Some of these shows and websites are so wacky, they’d make Megyn Kelly look like Rachel Maddow in comparison. I kid you not.

Anyhow, if Fox News disappeared tomorrow, we would still have problems with our government – and blaming conservatives alone doesn’t get to the root of the problem. We like to complain about how utterly incompetent Congress is and the approval ratings for Congress show just how low our opinion is of them. The contempt for Congress doesn’t just come from those of us on the left; many conservatives are also disgusted with their representatives, and if you don’t believe me, just go take a look at Speaker Boehner’s Facebook page where he takes a lot of flack from both sides.

Let’s stop blaming Fox News for all of the ills in our government because Fox News is a symptom of the greater problem, not the actual problem itself. While it certainly can be argued that the daily dose of propaganda that they put out is responsible for the current dysfunctional state of our political system, biased and sensational reporting has been a part of that same system since the beginning of our country. It’s easy to lay the blame on Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, or even Rupert Murdoch himself – but these are just people delivering a product that the audience wants. There’s a demand by Fox News viewers for an answer, honest or not, for why the United States is different now from what it was in those days that their audience remembers as the “Good Old Days.” There are people out there who really are angry that a half-black man is President of the United States or that two people of the same sex can get married, and there are talk shows and websites ready to cash in on filling that demand. There’s a demand for someone to tell them that liberals are destroying America, that there’s a war on Christmas and where there’s a demand, someone will create a supply.

On the left, there’s also the same demand for outrage, often supplied with hyper-partisan political commentary that is of as little substance as the latest viral kitten video. While the quality and veracity of the programming on MSNBC is often better than what you will find on Fox, I’ve stopped watching it for the most part (except for Rachel Maddow) because it seems like most of the shows end up talking about how bad Republicans are, and very little else. Oh, and have you ever noticed Koch Industries and other advertisements on MSNBC that appear on Fox as well?

Our country isn’t the way it is because of Fox News, or MSNBC, or the media in general. Our current state of affairs is because we stopped paying attention to the things that mattered and let ourselves get distracted by angry headlines and the pundits who present them. Don’t believe me? Just take this story which I wrote and used the headline “Ann Coulter Blasts Sarah Palin During Shocking Fox News Interview” to confirm what I already knew, which is that folks want to be outraged and see those that they don’t like get put in their place regardless of their relevancy to current events. It got probably 10x or even 15x more views and comments than anything else I had written around that time, based solely on the title alone.

Ever noticed how your local TV station posts viral videos and tear-jerking stories from somewhere else in the country that has no bearing on local issues, but barely mentions local elections or other stories that actually impact you? That’s because they know what gets ratings and the precious commodity of the Internet, web traffic and clicks. The media is only responding to demand and providing more of what their audience pays attention to in order to stay in business. So if we want to fix the hyper-partisan atmosphere in our country, we have to change that ourselves. Change the channel and focus on things that matter. Have I mentioned recently that there’s an election coming up?


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