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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Frank Rich on Fox News

Frank Rich manages to show how not to analyse data and to contradict himself with two sentences. "As a pair of political analysts wrote at Reuters last year, “When the mainstream media reigned supreme, between 1952 and 1988, Republicans won seven out of the ten presidential elections,” but since 1992, when “conservative media began to flourish” (first with Rush Limbaugh’s ascendancy, then with Fox), Democrats have won the popular vote five out of six times. " Then advises "You’d think they’d be well advised to leave Fox News to its own devices so that it can continue to shoot its own party in the foot." The evidence (such as it is) does not support the conclusion. Rich claims that Fox News is bad for the Republican party and that Democrats shouldn't draw attention to Fox News. Honest debate requires us to confront our most effective intellectual adversaries. Good political strategy requires the opposite. If Rich is right that Fox News is good for Democrats, his advice to "leave Fox News to its own devices" makes no sense. The power of Fox withing the Republican Party helps Democrats win elections. Separately attention paid to Fox News convinces swing voters that Republicans are insane. It makes no sense to advise a party to not draw attention to something which benefits it. However, the evidence (such as it is) is laughably feeble given the small number of presidential elections, and the almost complete arbitrariness of the dates 1952 and 1988. The years were clearly chosen based on the outcome of Presidential elections. I'm sure Rich is smart enough to understand both of these criticisms. I think this is a case of the pundit's fallacy. Rich thinks ignoring Fox would raise the level of debate (I agree). So he argues that it would serve Democrats' partisan interests. Brevity is the soul of wit, successive sentences which contradict each other are impressive, but Rich manages to totally contradict himself in one 12 word sentence "Rather than waste time bemoaning Fox’s bogus journalism, liberals should encourage it." OK quick what would be a better way than "bemoaning" for liberals to "encourage it" ? It isn't as if Rich had neglected to note that liberal hatred is useful to Fox News "Fox News could once again brag about its power to set an agenda for its adversaries even as it also played the woebegone ­victim. " Somehow I imagine Frank Rich's grandfather arguing that Democrats should stop talking about Herbert Hoover who was no longer in office. I think I understand the issue. Rich cares about reasoned debate more than Democrats' winning elections. But his plan to convince Democrats by arguing that bemoaning Fox is an alternative to encouraging it manages to be both naive and cynical at the same time. Rich gains neither profit nor honor from his dishonest arguments for honest debate.

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