This being a holiday weekend we just got around to Sunday’s viewing, which always includes Reliable Sources. Some time ago Joe Concha, one of the savviest Cable Gamers around, took a few shots at old Reliable, fearing that it was a getting a bit heavy on the “non-stop Fox bashing.” Almost like he was determined to prove Concha right, host Brian Stelter included another Fox segment in Sunday’s hour. The Cable Gamer doesn’t recall Howard Kurtz going after CNN on a systematic basis, but these Fox segments have become one of the most reliable elements of Reliable Sources.
At the top of the show Brian Stelter promised viewers the scoop about “a campaign at Fox News” against Black Lives Matter. And when they got to the segment Stelter had a fair and balanced panel to discuss the issue: Cornel West and Marc Lamont Hill. In other words, the fix was in. After the obligatory, carefully edited montage (intended to represent all of Fox News) and a clip of Black Lives Matter protesters calling for “pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon,” the guest experts weighed in:
CORNEL WEST: Anytime you have black rage expressed based on black suffering in the face of white fear grounded in white privilege, that clash is one in which you’re going to get, in fact, some hyperbolic rhetoric. There’s no doubt about that.
MARC LAMONT HILL: Every struggle I’ve ever been part of, there are always outliers, there are always occasional folk who show up who often co-opt and twist the message.
Cue another one of those famous Brian Stelter questions:
BRIAN STELTER: So, do you feel the FOX News hosts were seizing on these comments in order to paint with too broad a brush? What do you think happened this week? It seemed like FOX had a narrative very clearly.
This is going to require some unpacking. Besides having a virtual blinking arrow pointing to the desired answer within the question itself, you also find “the FOX News hosts” referenced. Which ones? The three who were in the montage? All the hosts on the channel? Everyone in the building? Maybe the stockholders too? Don’t expect the chyron to clear it up: “Fox News vs. Black Lives Matter” pretty much sidesteps any nuance.
Meanwhile CNN’s montage, largely confined to clips featured on anti-Fox sites like Media Matters, strikes Stelter as having “a narrative very clearly.” But whose narrative is it—Fox’s or CNN’s? People say the medium is the message, but sometimes the message is the montage.
HILL: They did have a narrative. And it’s very different than the narrative they had when the Tea Party had people with racist signs and people who had Obama looking like a monkey. They said, oh, those are outliers. They don’t represent the Tea Party movement as such.
Just to avoid complicating things, Professor Hill doesn’t exactly say who “they” is who had the narrative. Neither does he gives examples of people dismissing Tea Party “outliers.” But a person who shows up at a protest holding a racist sign is not the same as an entire gathering calling in unison for dead police officers. The first could well be an outlier; the latter is the statement of the entire protesting group. Did this not occur to host Stelter?
But questioning Prof. Hill’s cockeyed analogies would not advance the purpose of the segment. Hence Cornel West’s presence to second Hill’s comments, so Brian Stelter could move to the next leading question:
STELTER: You made a comment earlier, Cornel, about Dr. Martin Luther King. You suggested the same attempts were made to delegitimize the civil rights movement in the 1960s, that you’re seeing now?
STELTER: Marc, have you found this to be effective this week, the new rhetoric from FOX News and from conservative commentators describing Black Lives Matter as a literal hate group?
It’s also coming from law enforcement, but the purpose here was to reinforce the Fox-conservative meme so mention of the police was saved for later. It’s worth pointing out that Marc Lamont Hill was, for quite some time, a contributor at Fox News, until his firing—publicly announced by Rupert Murdoch himself. Being let go is never pleasant, though Hill was apparently taken by surprise and not at all happy with the way it went down. The firing was said to have been triggered by Hill’s support for a convicted cop killer. Now there’s a coincidence.
Was any mention made on Reliable Sources of Hill’s messy departure from FNC, which could clearly suggest a bias in his opinions about Fox News? None whatsoever. How about his sympathy for cop killers? Nada. Brian Stelter’s sources are reliable, dammit, regardless of what conflicts or personal animus they may hold, so no disclosure for you!
So take a highly edited montage, add some leading questions with two guests guaranteed to take the same anti-Fox position, toss in some undisclosed conflicts…and it all adds up to Brian Stelter throwing loaded dice like a back alley craps dealer. As the discussion came to a close, our host teased the upcoming segment:
STELTER: My behind-the-scenes reporting from “The Late Show,” next.
The Cable Gamer has her limits. Click.