No, Fox News isn’t Terrible Because They Have a “Viewpoint”


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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162 Responses

  1. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    But this isn’t everyone, is it? From what I can tell, there are several publications that continue to produce good journalism and are in fact doing pretty well financially. The New Yorker comes to mind, and they don’t even rely on a paywall.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Oh, bull fucking shit! The New Yorker publishes promotional articles just as much as the next magazine. (What’s a promotional article? When the PR flunkie writes the article, and kindly lets the journalist put his name on top, without editing it in the slightest.)Report

  2. Avatar CK MacLeod says:

    If the post provided some – any – evidence for the following statements, it would be more powerful and credible. Instead, we would have to go track them down to establish whether whatever items being referenced are also being properly characterized:

    As I have also noted, at various points during the President’s first term Fox News reported — either by their own anchors and reporters or by invited and unchallenged “experts” — that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, was raised in a Madrassa, was the illegitimate sone of Malcolm X, was a sleeper agent of the Muslim Brotherhood, used the word “whitey” to describe caucasians, was replacing tenured FBI agents with Muslim terrorists, was creating a Nazi Youth program to brainwash children, was secretly importing 100 million Muslims for some nefarious purpose, had conspired to turn over US territories to Vladimir Putin, was planning on outlawing synagogues and Christian churches immediately after reelection, had faked Bin Laden’s death, had his gay lover deported, had Andrew Breitbert killed, had his Kenyan grandmother killed, and was preparing to fake his own assassination attempt.

    The prior post that is linked includes one Fox News report which does not, in my opinion, support the title it’s given, and in any event doesn’t deal with any of the above directly, except for a mention of Obama’s well-known childhood/filial ties to Islamic culture.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I’d have to join in this criticism if it weren’t for this now three-year-old list, each line item of which I seem to have about from people I know who only watch FOXNews:


      …And the beat has gone on continuously since then. If the exact particulars of Tod’s accusations are incorrect, although I don’t see any reason to dispute them, either, the timbre is on pitch.

      Tod’s insight — that this is driven principally by profit rather than ideology — is not an argument I encounter often, though. And it’s an observation I find at once psychically calming (because BSDI and I can understand profit and I can imagine ways that actual journalism might happen notwithstanding profit-driven newstainment) and more deeply bothersome (because the profit motive is ubiquitous).Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Burt, I’d add that Tod’s thesis is bolstered by a V (5) (five) part series he wrote about the GOP and conservative media generally.

        On the other hand, what would constitute “evidence” to someone predisposed to disagree with the conclusions derived therefrom? We’ve seen all this played out before on a very big stage: folks who oppose “liberals” (edit: scare quotes added for elucidatory as well as dramatic effect!) ask for “evidence” at which point the evidence is discounted or analyzed away by either the presentation of competing and contra “evidence” or appeal to a liberal intellectual conspiracy to destroy all that’s holy on God’s increasingly not so green Earth.Report

  3. Avatar CK MacLeod says:

    As for the larger implicit claim, on some baleful effect on “public policy long term,” I wonder about the assumptions, and specifically whether cause and effect haven’t been reversed, and whether it’s not inane reporting that produces inane policy, but the pointlessness of policy or the inanity of politics that produces pointless reporting and pseudo-news. To me it seems as likely that the general inefficiency and corruption of “public policy,” as already expected according to one long American tradition, and believed to have been confirmed by experience, leads people not to care whether they’re getting what the post presumes would be good journalism (whether it ever really existed to a great extent is a separate question). If we had it, what would we do with it? So, we’d just as soon get entertainment, and otherwise get on with our lives. We presume that if and when events make serious political engagement seem like a meaningful and necessary activity again, we can and will re-engage (possibly with new versions of old unrealistic hopes for our engagement). If we do, we’ll make different demands on journalism, and the market will likely respond.

    There will of course be exceptions along the way, and people exceptionally interested in events – and claims of new exceptions that may or may not be borne out – but it’s worth considering whether the perceived relative meaninglessness of politics, and therefore of political reporting, for most people most of the time, is inevitable – and possibly desirable compared to the alternatives: the “interesting times” problem in all its forms, in other words.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      So, we’d just as soon get entertainment, and otherwise get on with our lives.

      Well sure. That’s the American way, just so long as we American-freely choose to get entertained and then get on with our lives. But where does that sentiment come from? Is it just yewman nature? (Other countries marvel at American’s general ignornance about … well … everything.)

      During the teens, twenties and thirties LC (last century), there was a very concerted effort by capital to dismantle the local labor oriented presses. There was a concerted effort to change the prevailing (at the time) view that collectivism was a better way to go about all this “social-engineering” business (said with the caveat that all the “smart guys” at the time believed that public sentiment amounted to social engineering, one way or the other, and as far as I can tell they weren’t wrong). European countries, provided the luxury of having been decimated by a couple world wars, were exempted from the more serious challenge of shaping the freely chosen views of an electorate exempt from carpet bombings, mustard gas, trench warfare(!!), and genocide.

      Fact is, it worked out pretty well. So well, in fact, that Murcins now can’t be bothered to learn about the world, and think their expectation of entertainment amounts to a personal right (or privilege!). Course, post war resconstruction had a lot to do with according a sense of economic luxury to Americans about all that …Report

  4. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    As it happens, I can usually say with a high degree of confidence where I get my news from, since I generally compile and update my Flipboard every day. I draw from: Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, LA Weekly, KCET, New York Times, Roll Call, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, BBC, AP, and National Journal. Also, and, um, here.

    …When I’m not on vacation in the High Sierras with a very intermittent internet connection, that is.Report

    • San Francisco Chronicle

      I used to read the Chron pretty much cover to cover every day. I still get annoyed at people who think that Dan White murdered Harvey Milk out of homophobia, and reason is that I didn’t learn about it from a damned Hollywood docudrama; conscientious, dedicated local reporters dug out the facts and presented them to me in detail. Anyway, the last time I bought a paper, a few years ago, the parts that seemed worth reading didn’t even occupy me for a half-hour ferry ride, and even that was almost all wire service stories.Report

      • Avatar Zac says:

        “I still get annoyed at people who think that Dan White murdered Harvey Milk out of homophobia”

        Yeah, c’mon, don’t people know it was because of Twinkies?Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      For me, it’s
      – A bunch of RSS feeds managed by ReadKit
      – Twitter
      – Facebook
      – whatever’s here

      Additionally, I have subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the New Yorker, and The Atlantic.

      Um, and Woodcraft Magazine.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Personally, I see it as evidence of some sort of inability to change anything.

    Imagine, if you will, the House and Senate switching sides come 2016 and, I dunno, Rick Perry becoming president.

    What would *NOT* change? Imagine if the Republicans swept everything. What would *NOT* change? Imagine if Clinton won and Team Blue won the House and won the Senate? What would *NOT* change?

    Make a circle over all of the things that would not change.

    Does anybody, from any news network, cover *ANYTHING* in that circle?Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      And yet, given all the inability to change anything, change still happens. Regularly.

      (Remember when there was no “three strikes and your OUT!” rule? Change!)Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Which party might have been able to prevent that one? Which party ought we vote for and make a majority party state-wide if we wanted to say “let’s get rid of Three Strikes!”?

        I wasn’t asking about the things that did change, Still.

        I was asking about the things that wouldn’t have.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Well, the things that wouldn’t would be … uhhh … the things you think wouldn’t. People who think they would … ummmm … think they would.

          More seriously, tho, what’s your point other than “gummint sucks!”? Plays well for folks who agree, plays poorly for folks who don’t.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Or this:

            IS it possible for you to imagine crime and punishment reform occurring in the US?

            If not, what’s your answer? Reject and dismantle gummint?

            If so, then …Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Eg, the current position of both the White House and Congress to end the gummint’s collection and storage of phone records.

              I gotta be honest, I never saw that one coming. Couldn’t even imagine it!

              Props to Sen. Paul, yeah?

              And even if the policy reverts back to the Great Ole Days, it’s still progress. And change.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Well, my main thought is “End The War On Drugs”.

              Now, granted, the legalization of Marijuana in Colorado *DID* result in the closure of several prisons which then, in turn, resulted in a non-zero number of arguments about the importance of stuff like “unionized prison guard jobs” but, seriously, I have high hopes for some weird amalgam of ideologies that might (MIGHT) result in stuff like the end of the War On Drugs.

              Granted, the numbers related to “WE’RE NO LONGER IMPRISONING THIS MANY PEOPLE!” probably won’t play as well to the rubes as “LOOK AT OUR PROSECUTION NUMBERS!” did… but I’m willing to have to overcome that particular obstacle.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Your war on the war on drugs is a war on American culture, dude. Not gummint. Not even politics. Just a war on people who don’t think like you do.

                It’s all changing. Your persistent mantra that it’s all hopeless unless we reject government just isn’t supported by the facts. Hell, Nebraska just banned capital punishment. Nebraska!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So if we, as a country, want to have a government more like Nebraska’s government, what ought we do?


                Is there anything that you think won’t change if we start voting, as a country, similarly to how Nebraska votes?

                Anything problematic, I mean. I don’t mean stuff like drones killing American Citizens or anything like that.Report

              • So if we, as a country, want to have a government more like Nebraska’s government, what ought we do?

                Unicameral legislature, no filibuster?Report

              • Avatar Zac says:

                Damn, you beat me to it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’d be down. How do we go about getting that?

                Do you think we’d be able to get Fox, CNN, or MSNBC to start reporting on how this is one of the important things that we, as a country, need to start considering?Report

              • It would be easy to get Fox to do that. Just have Obama criticize the idea.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                That pretty much applies to all the mouth breathers in the GOP actually.

                Cleeks law: conservatism today =def opposing whatever liberals believe today.Report

        • Avatar SaulDegraw says:

          You mean that some change is harder than others.

          Since Obama was elected, the ACA was passed and millions of people have healthcare. The stories about premiums going up are because people
          are seeking medical treatment and this costs money.

          DOMA is unconstitutional and potentially because the Feds went against it.Report

      • That had to be a hell of a long time ago. Richard Hershberger probably knows the details.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          If memory serves, it was advocated by Joey “swing and a miss!” Stevenson, a nephew of the commish at the time, who lobbied for a few more strikes before getting sent back to the dugout.Report

        • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

          Three strikes for an out goes back to at least the 1790s. What constitutes a strike has evolved over the ensuing years, and arguably still is. How this applies to the political metaphor is left as an exercise for the reader.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Well, there is the argument that if partisan control over everything changed, public policy wouldn’t actually change all that muchm or the degree to which the policies proved malleable was inversely proportional to the degree that they Really Mattered.

      Not sure I buy into that theory 100%. But I’m pretty sure I buy into it about 50%. Obama couldn’t close Guantanamo Bay. Took him a very long time to “end” the war in Iraq and look! we’re back at war in Iraq today. monetary and fiscal policy seem mostly constant.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        This makes sense to me.

        If it’s true, then the argument that the news has been captured is an argument that remains an argument that has not yet been falsified.

        If the news is a distraction, then it’s one hell of a distraction. Fox News would be chief among sinners.

        The only problem that I have with this argument is that it assumes a level of competence that I have no reason to believe exists.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        If that theory was 100% true, then we wouldn’t see any change in anything for the existence of the US. We’d be in exactly the same situation we were in … uhh … whatever year.

        It’s easy to focus on all the stuff that stays the same while missing all the stuff that changes. Not too long ago the US was fully protectionist (at extortionist rates, according to some); now for the most part tariff free. Then there’s gay marriage; the ACA; less recently SS/Medicare/Medicaid/minimum wage/40hour work week/etc.; on the down side, private prisons (don’t see how libertarians or conservatives can bitch about how poorly this turned out); charter schools (not doing so well either, conservatives and libertarians); some insurance reforms; some finance reforms; on the upside, preventing Comcast from buying TimeWarner (heh); on the downside (or maybe not?) using drones rather than ground troops to fight the war on terrah….

        Fed policy is still focused primarily on inflation rather than employment, tho. So I’ll give ya props on that.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          You keep focusing on the things that have changed.

          What has *NOT* changed?

          Perhaps more interestingly, what would not change no matter whether Team Red nor Team Blue got elected? In any given election, I mean. I’m not asking you to compare the winner in 2016 to the loser in 1996. I’m more asking you to meditate upon the whole “what doesn’t matter whether or not we vote?” question.

          And, after meditating, think upon whether the news devotes time to these issues.

          And then think upon why that may be.

          But, again, my problem with this train of thought is that it assumes a level of competence…Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            What has *NOT* changed?

            Nothing. If you take a long enough view of the short history of America. (Except the inheritance tax. 🙂Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            what would not change no matter whether Team Red nor Team Blue got elected?

            What difference does red or blue make if it won’t change? By that I mean, if it won’t change then why place to blame on red and blue? The politically intractable emerges from culture. People just don’t give a shit about what you give a shit about. But blaming people for caring about something different than you care about (while ignoring that thing) amounts to a war on people for not caring about what you care about. Not a war on politics or policy or gummint.

            Unfortunately, lots of white people – people in power or people who aspire to power or who identify with the privilege of being white, whatever – think the war on drugs is good policy. Politicians are just going along for that ride, dude. They’re not imposing that shit in anyone. (Tho I’ll give you prosecutors’ resistance to changing the policy. For a good example of that read Will’s linky to Nebraska’s abolishing capital punishment.)Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              They’re not imposing that shit on anyone.

              Heh. Well …Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Well, I’m back to meditating upon how the most intractable of problems in the country have *NOTHING* to do with how people vote or, for that matter, what conclusions they reach from watching the news.

              And about how much of a problem that indicates.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Oh, I’ll grant that many of our problems can be attributed to the media.

                But I’m also the guy who’s been saying for a long time – whenever the topic comes up! – that our news and our news media engages in propaganda on a regular basis.

                What’s the antidote? State control of media? (I kid…) It goes back to cultcha, dude, and the intractibility of Murcins. And the accidents of history and geography. In my view, anyway. Changing it is a long slow slog.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                It also goes back to little things like the rejection of campaign finance restrictions rejected in Citizens United…Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So part of the problem is that we don’t allow the government to ban books?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I don’t even know how to respond to that, actually.

                Here I was thinking we we’re engaging in an actual discussion.

                I fell for it again! (This is the LAST time tho…)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Sorry, I thought you were talking about the Supreme Court case “Citizens United v. FEC” in which the FEC argued that it should have the power to ban books, if it came to that.

                I should have assumed that you were talking about a different Citizens United, I guess?

                One in which “Citizens United” was found to not have the various rights it was found to have?

                This is one of those things that I suppose I ought to have asked Schilling a while back. I suppose I can ask him (and you!) now.

                Assuming that we’re not talking about the various things that were actually being argued in the Supreme Court case, what do you mean when you use the shorthand “Citizens United”?Report

              • Avatar Zac says:

                “This is one of those things that I suppose I ought to have asked Schilling a while back. I suppose I can ask him (and you!) now.”

                *shakes head* Another potentially fruitful conversation derailed by a lack of Schilling points.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Zac, please assume that I don’t have a fixation upon Schilling points and answer the question as though it were asked straightforwardly of you.

                It will probably result in you being disappointed, sure.

                But maybe it won’t.Report

              • Avatar Zac says:

                I was making a game theory pun. Maybe it was little too obscure?Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                @zac I’ve been reading backwards through this thread for like 15 messages trying to figure out what’s going on. I still don’t know, but it was all worth it for the Schelling point pun.Report

              • By “Citizens United”, I mean a Supreme Court decision that went well beyond the case before it, in such a way as to allow unlimited amounts of money into the election process.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Well i’m sure the lack of ability to affect long term problems has nothing to do with a system that has a zillion veto points and people willing to require a super majority in congress for almost every bill.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So the problem is that we don’t allow 50%+1 to choose policy?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And here I was thinking that when you said

                I’m back to meditating upon how the most intractable of problems in the country have *NOTHING* to do with how people vote

                I thought you were talking about something distinct from red v blue politics.

                But … I’m not a free speech absolutist like yourself, so I don’t feel the banning of a politically motivated oppo movie (not a book) within 30 days of an election is all that big a deal. The bigger problem is that the SC decided – unfortunately – to extend the scope of the case beyond the merits to ban the banning of certain types and amounts of campaign contributions. Which in effect undermines your italicizes comment.

                I’m sure you can see the concepts linking them.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Let’s say that I am too stupid and/or too partisan to see the concepts linking them.

                Could you explain to me why the government ought to be trusted with the power to limit such types and amounts of campaign contributions?

                Please assume that I’m really, really stupid.


              • Avatar Zac says:

                I feel like John Paul Stevens already did a pretty good job of it.


              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Is this the same JP Stevens who argued for the whole banning of burning flags?

                Let me check the article you linked to, take quotes out of context, and then ask you if you really believe these things that I’ve taken out of context rather than dealing with the points you’ve made yourself. Cool?

                Cool. See you back here in 10.Report

              • Avatar Zac says:

                “Is this the same JP Stevens who argued for the whole banning of burning flags?”

                I dunno. What does that have to do with the court case that’s actually at issue?

                “Let me check the article you linked to, take quotes out of context, and then ask you if you really believe these things that I’ve taken out of context rather than dealing with the points you’ve made yourself. Cool?

                Cool. See you back here in 10.”

                Well, first off, it’s not an article, it’s the dissenting opinion Stevens penned from the case itself. Second, last I checked I haven’t made any points at all yet, other than I guess pointing out there was substantive disagreement with your implicit assertion that the government can’t be trusted with campaign finance regulation.

                This is beginning to feel a little like showing up to play tennis only to find that my opponent doesn’t have a racket and is holding a volleyball for some reason.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, do you want me to quote from the article that you, yourself, quoted as a counter argument or would you prefer that I didn’t?

                Because, seriously, I’m at the point where Stevens said “they could have used these really good counter-arguments and they didn’t.” and I was seriously going to quote that point as a preliminary step to making the argument that the case was decided correctly but then I read your post and now I’m not sure.Report

              • Avatar Zac says:

                “Well, do you want me to quote from the article that you, yourself, quoted as a counter argument or would you prefer that I didn’t?”

                If you wanna quote from it, sure, whatever floats your boat, dude. The reason I specifically did not was because, as you yourself pointed out, I didn’t want to come off like I was cherry-picking a bunch of quotes; better to let it be read in full context, hence the link.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, how’s this? We’ll both agree that, without quotations and arguments, it’s useful only as an argument that it was a 5-4 Supreme Court decision and not useful any more beyond that.


                Of course, after we agree to that, we might have to go back to any points that you used “Citizens United” as the primary piece of evidence in your argument… but I’m sure you’d be cool with that, right?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Wait a minute, Jaybird. Are you actually suggesting that the relevance to referencing an SC opinion in an argument is limited to the vote count of the Justices? That the arguments have no bearing on our views about the issues in play?

                And here I thought you were a person who opposed certain SC rulings based on their effects given the arguments provided.Report

              • Avatar Zac says:

                Yeah, I was gonna say pretty much the same thing.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Are you actually suggesting that the relevance to referencing an SC opinion in an argument is limited to the vote count of the Justices? That the arguments have no bearing on our views about the issues in play?

                Well, my argument that the government shouldn’t be passing laws censoring movies tends to be ignored for the benefit of shouting “Citizens United!” and “Corporations aren’t people!”

                If we’d like to argue about the speech that the government should be allowed to prevent on your behalf, then, by all means, I’d love to hear the argument.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well, the thing you’re too stupid to understand has no relevance to the thing you asked me to explain.

                Maybe that’s part of the problem with our discussions.

                The first issue: the concepts linking them are that insofar as money determines electoral outcomes, the interests of money will be preferentially supported in legislation.

                The second issue (the question): you don’t trust government. Why would you? I don’t.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, the thing you’re too stupid to understand has no relevance to the thing you asked me to explain.

                Well, then. Please explain *BOTH* rather than explaining to me how stupid I am.

                Imagine the glory that exists on the other side of having done so! Dude, you could totally make me be embarrassed by pointing out how Justice Stevens was RIGHT. And he’s totally a Supreme Court justice. This is, like, easy.

                Man, that would be awesome, wouldn’t it?Report

              • the interests of money will be preferentially supported in legislation.

                You say that like it’s a bad thing. What are you, some kind of whatever “socialist” means these days?Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

        I use the “steering a ship” metaphor. No one can change the direction of the ship quickly, because it has a lot of momentum and the lateral forces available are limited. But the direction can be changed slowly, and once changed the next guy will have the same difficulty changing it back. Consider that (some elements of) the Right has dreamed for some eighty years of killing social security, and hasn’t managed it even when in control of most of the federal government.Report

  6. Avatar zic says:

    Tod, You’re right; we don’t know what news (or reporting) is anymore; we confuse news with opinion and entertainment.

    Fox News (the network,) has several formats of shows. Some news (Shep Smith is actually a pretty good TV reporter, for instance, and appears on an actual news broadcast); but it also has many more hours of entertainment — opinion, talk, and panel shows, thinly disguised as a news broadcast, and so generally consumed as news.

    The network’s news shows, themselves, are prone to stupid and misleading errors; labeling Mark Foley (D) when reporting on his sexting-with-interns, for instance.

    I think accuracy also may vary by topic; for instance, according the The Union of Concerned Scientists, MSNBC has the most accurate coverage of climate change, with only 8% of their reporting presenting misleading science; CNN’s reporting was misleading 30% of the time, and Fox 7%.

    But referring back to my earlier point, 53% of Fox’s misleading statements about climate change occurred on a single show — The Five, which is on at 5:00 p.m, a slot that coincides with traditional (read old folk’s) news programs, and is the new home of former News Hour reporter, Jaun Williams. Now I don’t watch any cable news, I don’t have a cable connection anymore. (I recommend this, too!) In reading through a few transcripts of The Five, it’s obvious this is not a news show with reporting, it’s a talk show about topics in the news.

    Bartlett’s piece is also not reporting; it’s an opinion piece, though his opinion is a highly informed one. In fact, one of the hallmarks of reporting is that it does not have an opinion. For actual reporting, bias is not the facts; it’s in the facts that one opts to report; and that’s an editorial decision. The reporting ought to be facts, events, what other people say. With very few exceptions, the reporter or the reporter’s opinion should never be obvious in the story.

    You know I’m a liberal. Secretary Chou, who ran VETS for GWB, never knew that; she (or more likely, her staff,) thought I was a safe, sound GOP supporter and Bush voter, and made sure I got several invitations to fundraising events were I might hear the president speak, she invited me to tour Walter Reed with her and offered access to wounded veterans there, though the press was forbidden from the place and from speaking to the people being treated there. I was not dishonest to Secretary Chou or her staff; I just understood my opinions didn’t matter to my job, which was to report on veterans issues magazines and to report on how small businesses did business with the dept. of defense or magazines that were paying me to cover those topics.

    That’s how I was taught to write, not in J-school, but by newspaper and magazine editors who are now retired because they’re old. At the risk of yelling get off my lawn, I’ll say that the first time I was told to go get a dissenting opinion in a story that didn’t really merit one — the ‘fair/balanced’ method of reporting which seems to have infected not only the news but how we train reporters, I was shocked.

    I’m not anymore. This is, I think, a combination of things; but mostly, it’s the draining of advertising dollars away from news organizations, in part, because of the internet and the shifting of news broadcasts to entertainment that looks like news, and to Rupert Murdoch’s profound reshaping of the way the business is conducted.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I’m pretty convinced there is an inversely proportional relationship between the quantity and quality of advertising a given news outlets has and the quantity and quality of their news.

    Case in point: Breitbart still has popups. POPUPS!Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      The odd thing, is, this is even true as silly as something as wrestling news.

      The sites that completely make up stuff (ie. random Diva has naked pics, this wrestler is leaving the WWE, etc.) is a complete mess of a website with random ads, popups, web design out of 2002, and so on, and so forth.

      OTOH, while it’s not exactly Vox, the Wrestling Observer, widely thought of as the best wrestling newsletter (even Frank Deford of SI praised the guy that’s run it for 30 years now) has a straight forward website. Yeah, there’s banner ads and such, but when you click on something, it’ll take you where you think it is, not to another website or bring up 72 popups.Report

  8. Avatar Patrick says:

    I am dealing with this right now on the local level.

    There is a gadfly in the district with strong opinions about how everything is terrible, and he reports second-hand innuendo and even completely made up garbage about things that are happening in the district.

    This matters. It’s fostering unnecessary distrust. I don’t mind folks airing their legitimate complaints, I’m glad to hear them, and I encourage them. I can’t answer legitimate complaints if I don’t know what they are.

    But I do very much mind people making stuff up for the sole purpose of fostering page hits on his blog, when the collateral damage is the public’s support for the schools. I mean, that actually hits kids, right in the resources. It makes it harder to do anything.

    And countering his completely made up garbage is exhausting, because there are things that I can’t say in public, either because it involves personnel, or it involves matters discussed in closed session (like lawsuits), or even just because the Brown Act forbids me from saying things in limited public forums; I have to discuss them at full board meetings or not at all. Which, of course, a lot of people with concerns don’t attend… because they’re time consuming.

    To some extent this is part of the gig. I don’t advocate censoring the guy. But I really do wish there was someone who was providing a more fact based viewpoint with the same frequency.

    No money in it.Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      There is.

      Change the law so it allows you to do so. Change the rules so you’re allowed to do so.

      That it’s too hard, too long, don’t have the budget for it, or whatever the rest of the excuses are, is irrelevant. It CAN be done. If the value judgement is that it’s not worth the effort. Well then, stop bitching about it.

      Note Patrick, this isn’t a criticism of you or your situation, just a point that things CAN change if pushed enough.Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        what an odd response. What law should Patrick change? What rules?

        @patrick one thing you can do is have the school district’s attorney review the blog for possible slander or defamation; and if there’s evidence of it, send the blogger a letter to that effect. This would be particularly true if he’s writing mistruths about specific people working for the district.

        We have a right to free speech, but that includes facing the consequences of our speech.Report

        • Avatar Damon says:

          Since I’m not a lawyer, nor do I deal with children in a school system, I’m not the one to make recomendations, but I’m sure someone has the expertise.

          But I’ll take a swing anyway…”because the Brown Act forbids me from saying things in limited public forums; I have to discuss them at full board meetings or not at all. Which, of course, a lot of people with concerns don’t attend… because they’re time consuming.”

          I googled the brown act and there’s lots of stuff on open vs closed meetings. You could change the law that drives the brown act. duhReport

          • Avatar zic says:

            This is specifically to keep boards from holding secret meetings.

            @patrick I think you might want to revisit your interpretation of the Brown Act; I think the limit is discussing board business with other board members outside of meetings; not with discussing concerns with the general public who are not on the board.

            That’s from reading this bulletin on the Brown Act.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      This matters. It’s fostering unnecessary distrust. I don’t mind folks airing their legitimate complaints, I’m glad to hear them, and I encourage them. I can’t answer legitimate complaints if I don’t know what they are.

      Trust of government decision-making and trust of the people making those decisions requires a level of both transparency in that process as well as an effort by the individual to demonstrate to his or herownself that the process and people are worthy of trust. It takes some effort on the part of the Engaged Citizen.

      It also requires being in some sense ideologically “in” the process and accepting of the purpose of that process. A person who exists outside that system and justifies their distrust by appeal to an a priori principle or a deeply felt emotion (whatever) and also actively confounds the functioning of that system simply cannot be reached by a reasonable appeal from those within it.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that a (edit) fully general distrust of the purpose and process is different than distrust of practices within that purpose and process. THe former is destructive (and not necessarily creatively destructive!) while the latter is constructive.Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod says:


      If you read some histories of ancient Rome and Athens, you might find much detail that resonates for you, but no Fox News or blogs.Report

  9. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Ironically enough, I was just discussing a lot of what you’re talking about here with my mother, who is a committed Fox News viewer. Not so much about Fox News, just about how nakedly the profit motive seems to drive fishing everything now.

    “You might not remember this,” she told me, underestimating my historical sense, “But there was a time when you were kids and we were still married that people just weren’t so damn greedy! It’s like all anyone cares about anymore is money!” Of course, she then told me that, at least, Fox News has integrity. So, we disagreed a bit about that. But, she’s like the fifth older person in the last week to tell me about what the world was like before we entered the Post-Integrity Era.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      It also might be generational, sorry to say. Another friend in his 60s was telling me about a local collectively run market that a woman he knows started in the 70s that is still thriving and how the 20-somethings who’ve started running the place can’t talk about anything except “branding” and “franchising” and “five year plans”. They’re driving her nuts. He said it’s the same with his younger neighbors. They hear that he’s been in the same house for 25 years without “flipping” it and look at him like an eccentric.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        It isn’t clear to me if you agree with these folks or not. I do think our society has a problem in that we seem to value financial profit above all else. I don’t know what we do about it.

        This isn’t to say there is something wrong about maximizing value. It’s just that money isn’t the only thing with value.

        I think this is best evidenced in conversations about wages and their effects on prices and employment. “If we raise the minimum wage, companies will hire less people. And goods and services will cost more and price certain people out.” But is that necessarily true?

        A little Googling tells me that Walmart made $129.9B for the fiscal year ending April 30, 2015. I also see that Walmart employs 2.1M people world wide. If my math is correct, that means Walmart could give each of its employees an approximately $66K raise, keep all other costs the same, and still be profitable. (It probably wouldn’t be quite that high as certain costs — primarily payroll taxes — would necessarily go up; then again, it’s possible that such a bump in pay would lead to greater workout output and more revenue to bolster profits.)

        Anyway, the point is that Walmart could pay its employees more without raising prices OR cutting jobs. It would just mean that their profit would go down. But most companies will never do that. Because of the emphasis on financial profit and value.

        But there is value created beyond money. Walmart — and most companies/individuals — simply don’t concern themselves with that. Their job — hell, I’ve heard it said they have a legal responsibility to shareholders to maximize profit, though I’m never really sure what this means or how this works — is to make as much financial profit as possible. So we see Walmart engage in the types of business practices that it does and many of us shake our fists.

        It doesn’t have to be this way though. If the people who ran Walmart said, “I’d rather have $65B in profit and know that all of my employees can put food on their table and a roof over their head than $130B in profit and put employees on government assistance,” they would still be seeking to maximize value — it’s just that they would be valuing things other than money.

        And I, personally, would rather see a shift away from the financial-profit-motive through a shift in societal values than through laws and legislation. I just don’t know how we get there.

        Note: I recognize that not all companies/businesses operate with the margins that Walmart does and that some will necessarily have to raise prices and/or cut jobs if wages go up. This is another reason why I’d rather see things done through value shifting rather than laws and legislation. It would allow individual businesses to respond to their particular circumstances. Plus another benefit in value shifting is that consumers might be more willing to pay increased prices because they similarly wouldn’t be focused on getting as much as possible for as little as possible.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Thanks. This is a great comment. Let me respond a little.

          “It isn’t clear to me if you agree with these folks or not.”

          I do. I absolutely do.

          “I do think our society has a problem in that we seem to value financial profit above all else. I don’t know what we do about it.

          This isn’t to say there is something wrong about maximizing value. It’s just that money isn’t the only thing with value.”

          Right! Maybe it’s because I was raised not to talk about these things, but I’m startled at how often I have to ask people my age or younger, “please can we talk about something other than money”. I think what’s happened is you’ve had a few generations now raised in societies where all of the dominant institutions are driven by these values and loudly announce the fact and people just can’t think outside of it anymore, like the Matrix or something. I sometimes feel like we’re back in Medieval Christian Europe and I’m asking someone “Do you think there might not be a God?” when I suggest we might take part in some project without any intention of turning a profit.

          And, hey, I work at a family-owned restaurant and a university that are both run about the same as Wal-Mart. My boss at the first is 29 and all he talks about is opening more restaurants and cornering the local market. Admittedly, I have lots of friends who are bohemian weirdos and when I started floating the idea of getting an MA in Philosophy, all of them asked, “But what can you do with that?” Well, lots of things. Just not make money. So what?

          I remember someone once saying that if there were no people ever willing to be judged insane by their peers, we’d all still be living in caves. But, it has to be said, no culture can survive this way forever. I absolutely agree there needs to be a societal shift, not just in our political thinking, but culturally, and really how we think about life. We have to ask why are we here? It’s not just to make money.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          @Kazzy Wal-Mart’s after-tax profits have been around $16-17B pretty consistently for the last three years. You can go to Yahoo finance, type in their ticker symbol (WMT), and click the “Income statement” link in the left sidebar to see. I don’t think any company has made $130B in profit in one year, ever.Report

          • Avatar Zac says:

            Yeah, I think you may be confusing income with profits, Kazzy. I mean, I agree with your overall point, but I think you might be operating with some incorrect numbers.Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

              They had a gross profit of $120B. I believe that, for a retail store, gross profit is basically the markup on the stuff they sell. That’s before subtracting out stuff like payroll, depreciation on buildings and equipment, and interest on debt. Gross profit is an accounting term that helps management and analysts better understand what’s going on with the company. It’s totally possible (even common, I suspect) to have high gross profits and still be losing money.

              Actually, I guess their pre-tax profit is more relevant than their post-tax profit, since if they pay their employees more, they’d have a smaller tax bill. That’s usually around $25 billion. So by giving up almost all of their profits, they could give each employee a $10,000/year raise ($5/hour if full-time, or maybe a bit more since they have so many part-time workers).

              Here’s the thing, though: Wal-Mart is offering their employees a better deal than anyone else is. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be Wal-Mart workers. Wal-Mart literally bears less responsibility than anyone else in the world for Wal-Mart’s employees’ financial problems, and there’s no reason they should have any more obligation than anyone else for helping them.

              That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t, necessarily, but there’s a word for helping someone to whom you have no particular obligation: Charity. So should Wal-Mart give its workers charity? Well, let’s see what GiveWell has to say.

              Huh. Doesn’t even merit a mention on their site. They’re all hung up on malaria and kids with worms living in them.

              This is why I think it’s weird that Warren Buffett complains that his taxes aren’t high enough. When Warren Buffett pays taxes, you know who suffers? Not Warren Buffett. His consumption is invariant with respect to his taxes. If the government taxes him more when he sells his stock, then he just sells a bit more stock to make up the difference. The people who suffer when Warren Buffett pays taxes are the people to whom he would have donated that money if he hadn’t had to pay taxes.

              Essentially, Buffett is saying that the government should tax the third-world poor to subsidize middle-class Americans.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                This is such weird logic though because they’re pretty much all paying the minimum wage, right? So the issue people have with Wal-Mart is really that people can’t support themselves now on a minimum wage job. Honestly, the problem they have isn’t with Wal-Mart, but with the minimum wage laws.

                But therefore you think it’s “charity” if Wal-Mart pays more than the other companies paying the minimum wage? As opposed to just getting better workers out of it? Or even heading off government raising the minimum wage? And wouldn’t it be equally charity if the other companies paid more? And what do you call it when everyone else pays higher taxes so that Wal-Mart employees can get food stamps?

                I mean, it seems like a reasonable societal expectation to tell people what I was told: if you want to have a decent life, you need to get a steady job and work hard at it. But, to change that to you need to get a steady job, work hard at it, get some roommates, and go on food stamps just seems nuts.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                To your point Rufus, Costco has quite famously paid their workforce significantly more (almost twice the national average) without “taxing” the third world poor or granting “charity” to its employees. Course, a clever MBA will look at that business practice and conclude Costco is leaving profits on the table by not putting the screws to the labor force by squeezing every possible wage concession outa the market.Report

              • The usual argument is that Costco get the best employees by paying that much. It doesn’t scale to the whole industry, because there are only so many hard-working, enthusiastic people. Of course, this assumes that being paid barely enough to get by on and treated like crap has no effect on how hard people work or their level of enthusiasm. I mean, it does for educated people, like us, but not for the sort of people who work at Walmart.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                I’m pretty sure Wal-Mart does pay more than the minimum wage. Apparently just under half of its retail workers make at least $25,000 per year, and they recently raised the starting wage to $9/hour.

                But therefore you think it’s “charity” if Wal-Mart pays more than the other companies paying the minimum wage?

                If they do so specifically with the intent of sacrificing profits for the welfare of their workers, yes. What else would you call it?

                And what do you call it when everyone else pays higher taxes so that Wal-Mart employees can get food stamps?

                Welfare. And please, let’s not repeat that canard about how welfare is a subsidy to low-wage employers. It makes no economic sense whatsoever. In fact, the most likely result of ending welfare would be workers having to work more hours to make ends meet, which would result in even lower wages.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                If they do so specifically with the intent of sacrificing profits for the welfare of their workers, yes. What else would you call it?

                I’d call it investing in their work force. If Wal-Mart pays, say, two dollars more an hour than all these other places- as opposed to paying the same, but just hiring all the time- they will soon have the best workers in a given location, and be able to retain them. This just seems self-evident. Just because it also improves the welfare of their workers, that doesn’t cancel out the gains they get from it.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                Reread Kazzy’s comment that started this subthread. The entire premise here is that Wal-Mart should sacrifice profits to pay higher wages. That’s what I was addressing. If it makes them more money, then they’re not sacrificing profits.

                Also, I’m inclined to give the management of the world’s most profitable retail chain some credit for knowing what they’re doing. I doubt they’re leaving money on the table and paying low wages just to spite its employees. And as noted above, Wal-Mart does pay well above minimum wage for its median store worker, and recently raised the starting wage to $9, presumably in response to a tightening labor market.

                Besides, if Wal-Mart starts paying more so they can hire and retain the best workers, what happens to the not-best workers who used to work there?

                A lot of people seem to have this idea that nobody’s labor can really be worth less than whatever they consider a “living wage.” But it’s not really clear why there should be a connection there. Given that nobody is offering Wal-Mart’s employees a better deal (and some employers are offering worse), it’s hard to see on what grounds you can claim that their labor is worth more than that.Report

              • Also, I’m inclined to give the management of the world’s most profitable retail chain some credit for knowing what they’re doing.

                Because they’re very successful, you assume that everything they do is correct? I’d consider Warren Buffett very successful too, but you were slamming him pretty hard just a few hours ago.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                Because they’re very successful, you assume that everything they do is correct?

                If I had meant that, I would have said that. If I had very good reason to believe that Wal-Mart would benefit from raising wages, I would consider the possibility that I was right and they were wrong. I do not, in fact, have any reason to believe so.

                This isn’t a question that can be answered based on a priori reasoning. It’s very much an empirical question that requires a thorough understanding of Wal-Mart’s operations and local labor market conditions. The management of Wal-Mart has that knowledge, and I don’t, nor do you or Rufus. I have absolutely no reason to question their judgment here.

                I’d consider Warren Buffett very successful too, but you were slamming him pretty hard just a few hours ago.

                Warren Buffett knows more about investment than I ever will, and I certainly wouldn’t question his judgment in that area without very good reason. But I wasn’t talking about investment strategy, was I?Report

              • Walmart have shown immense acumen in supply chain management. Does that mean they make the best use of their workforce?Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Besides, if Wal-Mart starts paying more so they can hire and retain the best workers, what happens to the not-best workers who used to work there?

                They go get other jobs somewhere else… why is that a problem?

                At both of my current jobs, I work harder than a lot of my co-workers. At one of them, I most often get asked to cover other people’s schedules when they’re sick or on vacation. From this, I actually know that I can do the schedules of two workers and about half of a third schedule in an eight-hour shift. If they had two workers like me, which they do, we can do the work of five of their slower workers. Why wouldn’t it make sense to fire the slower workers and pay the harder working ones a dollar or two more?

                You’re right that they pay more than the US minimum wage, I can acknowledge that. It looks like about 2 bucks more in the states.

                I can’t tell though if you think they’re offering a much better deal than anyone else around or pretty much a standard deal for retail but less than Costco. I’d also note that this was the first thing that came up in regards to Wal-Mart and the minimum wage:

                My point remains that it’s not clear to me that people work for Wal-Mart because they’re getting a better deal as workers than they would anywhere else, like you said. It might well be that they’re giving a standard deal and just always hiring. Around here that’s the case.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Following up on Ruf here,

                Besides, if Wal-Mart starts paying more so they can hire and retain the best workers, what happens to the not-best workers who used to work there?

                Well, they go find other jobs, just like everyone who’s been laid off or let go or downsized or whatever. You weren’t worried about the fortunes and futures of those folks when management makes decisions leading to the exact same outcome but for different reasons.

                Which makes me think that the “what happens to them?” question is being used in this case very selectively.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:


                It’s real a puzzler why people attribute “FYIGM” to libertarians when they say things like paying workers more than minimum wage is “charity” and not market forces at work.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                It seems to me that in the context of Brandon’s comments, he is saying that paying workers more than the minimum wage is charity if they are doing it solely for the benefit of their employees. If they’re doing it to get better employees, or an investment, then it’s not charity.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Ah. That better matches my picture of Brandon.

                Thus does my universe return to it’s natural order.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                To expand a step further, a lot of heavy lifting is done on why you’re asking Walmart to raise wages.

                If you’re saying…

                #1) “Walmart should raise wages so that it’s employees can live more decently” then, to anyone who doesn’t think that employees are owed that by employers, it’s going to come across as charity. (I personally see it as more complicated than that.)

                #2) “Walmart should raise wages because taxpayers are closing the gap” then it can come across as saying “We think that these people should have such-and-such standard of living but we don’t want to pay for it so we want you to.” (It comes across to me as saying exactly that.)

                #3) “Walmart should raise wages to attract better employees and reduce turnover and that will be better for the company” comes across, to me, as saying “I know what’s in your company’s best interest better than you do.” (I am a bit torn on this one. I’ve seen companies act in ways that I believe is very short-sighted. On the other hand, people saying this often make arguments I don’t believe are particularly true.)Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                I realize 1 is personal sentiment. I don’t believe people should work for a company that doesn’t pay them enough with regular hours to pay their rent, bills, and eat. I also realize that people do what they have to in order to survive.

                Yes on 2: call me selfish, but I don’t want to pay for their employees to eat. I don’t think raising their wages will necessarily reduce the welfare rolls, but if someone works a steady job in my area and is a good employee and a hard worker and they still can’t afford groceries, it bothers me that I have to buy their groceries.

                And yes on #3: I think it’s stupid the way to run a company on a model that expects a high turnover over employees with an idea that all workers are about the same. I live in an economically lousy city and I work for an employer that pays 3 bucks over minimum wage. I applied there because many people told me it was one of the best places to work in town largely because of that salary. I work my tail off because I want to move up to a more steady position there. I don’t have a problem with saying I think their business model is short-sighted.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Regarding #2, my view is primarily that if we want them to have a higher standard of living than they are worth to their employer, then it’s on us to pay for it rather than requiring that they foot the bill. Secondarily, needs are context-dependent. How many earners in the household? How many kids? The EITC and food stamps and so on (while far from perfect) allow us to better target circumstances, while demanding higher wages is a really broad hammer.

                Regarding #3, I simply don’t have enough information as it pertains to Walmart. Higher wages can definitely benefit an employer, but not always. It depends on how cogified the jobs are, what the local job market looks like, fault tolerance, and 100,000 other factors. I’ve worked at employers where I’ve thought they were boneheaded for not paying their people more, but I’ve also worked for one or two that I think probably could have gotten by paying its people less. Which category is Walmart in? Not sure. Different from Costco’s, though, which is different from McDonald’s…Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                I think you need to consider the multiplier effect here, and how those wages stay in the local community, get spent at local businesses, and change hands many times; where as the money spent inside a big-box business like Wal-Mart generally leave the community.

                I don’t support a higher minimum wage simply because a of the cost to taxpayers, but also because of the cost to small, regional economies.

                If anything, I’d structure some sort of progressive wage support that decreases as the size of the employer increases.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Regarding #2, my view is primarily that if we want them to have a higher standard of living than they are worth to their employer, then it’s on us to pay for it rather than requiring that they foot the bill.

                At some point, aren’t we just niggling over how the cash flow is going to work? We can (a) levy taxes and buy medical services and food for Walmart employees, or (b) levy taxes and give money to Walmart employees, or (c) we can require Walmart to pay higher wages (which requires Walmart customers to pay somewhat more). I think I’ve listed those in order from least efficient to most efficient from the perspective of the size of the government bureaucracy required to implement them.

                The fundamental question on these matters is always “Are we as a society going to establish a floor under economic outcomes?” At least in his younger days, Hayek thought we should. I think we should. I admit that there are philosophical arguments to be made against guaranteeing a floor, but suspect that the end result of not doing so is always torches and pitchforks, which is bad for everyone. If a society decides to have a floor, the rest is niggling over how high and how the cash flow works.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I don’t object to there being a floor and support the existence of a minimum wage (and am not opposed to raising it… cautiously) . It should just be a low floor. “Enough to live on” means different things to different people. That shouldn’t be the basis, nor should the need of government to supplement income.Report

              • the end result of not doing so is always torches and pitchforks, which is bad for everyone.

                Won’t anyone think of the manufacturers of torches and pitchforks?Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Won’t anyone think of the manufacturers of torches and pitchforks?

                If they ever make the position of “head of industrial policy” an elective office, you’ve got my vote.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                @rufus-f Again, Wal-Mart pays most of its employees well above minimum wage. Their pay is pretty standard for the retail industry. So part of your objection here is simply based on incorrect information.

                That said, it doesn’t always make sense to pay more for better workers. Somebody has to hire the workers that Costco doesn’t want. Maybe Wal-Mart has a business model that works just fine with those workers.

                Also, aren’t their stores generally located in lower cost-of-living areas outside the city center, where wages and prices are lower in general? $10/hour goes a lot farther in suburban St Louis than in San Francisco, or even than in Seattle.Report

              • Avatar LWA says:

                “Walmart should raise wages because taxpayers are closing the gap” then it can come across as saying “We think that these people should have such-and-such standard of living but we don’t want to pay for it so we want you to.”

                Isn’t this about the point where it is pointed out that companies don’t have to pay this extra cost, since they will just pass it along to the customer, which ends up being that we indeed do pay the cost regardless?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Only those who shop there. People who don’t shop there need not worry.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Given Walmart’s business model, it’s their suppliers who’d have to worry.Report

              • This one makes no sense to me. If you say that it’s impossible to tax businesses, because they’ll just pass the cost along to their customers, you have to explain why if they can raise prices whenever they like they didn’t already do it.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                If they have competition, they’d all have to raise their prices together or whichever one didn’t would have a price advantage. We know how much people are willing to pay for oil, but no supplier can charge that much right now because people would just buy from someone else.

                If you raise business taxes, everyone has to raise prices or make cuts. Same goes for raising the minimum wage, typically.Report

              • Only companies with significant numbers of employees earning the minimum wage (or close to it) would see their costs go up and suddenly be at a disadvantage.


              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Mike, The disadvantage would tend to be towards industries, specifically low-margin outlets. Restaurants being an example. It would be lumpy. Large employers would better be able to compensate, and they already pay their employees more than their competitors. And, of course, places that employer fewer people would be at less of a disadvantage over places that employ more people (Walmart would be more hurt than Amazon, for example).

                LWA, I’m not the guy to argue against the existence of the minimum wage, since I don’t have a problem with it. If you want to talk about dramatically raising it, though, I have a bit more to say. The concern there is that as wages increase it would favor establishments that rely on fewer people, encourage employers to find ways to get by on fewer people, and a lot of the benefits would be eaten up by higher prices.

                I don’t really oppose a modest increase in the minimum wage. In fact, I’m not even really opposed to the larger increases in Seattle and Los Angeles. I’m mostly interested in seeing how things turn out. I don’t know that $12 an hour is the wage-point where really bad things start happening, or $15 an hour. There isn’t much question it occurs at some point, and it’s not just libertarians and conservatives who think $15 is too high, it’s Thomas Piketty.

                But I’m just going to wait and see and be glad the experiment isn’t occurring on my turf. We can follow suit, if successful.Report

              • Avatar LWA says:

                Which is where people like me fail to grasp the opposition to minimum wage- if it applies to all businesses, forcing all of them to raise prices, and we as citizens decide that paying an addition few pennies for products is worth the social benefit of workers living in dignity, whats the objection?

                The opposition never seems to be grounded in empirical evidence like “They raised the minimum wage in Shelbyville and everything went to hell!”.

                Instead the opposition always seems to be some sort of abstract econometric analysis painting a picture of a hypothetical. Which makes me think the opposition is actually grounded in a ideological concept of how the work should work instead of how it really does.Report

              • The fact that they might service a machine more often than strcily necessary to keep its efficiency up but wouldn’t dreaming of raising wages for similar reasons is irrelevant; they’re still job creators.Report

              • Also, since the wealthy wouldn’t have as much money to donate to their pet causes, the real victims would be opera singers.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                Thanks for correcting me regarding Walmart’s financials. I think the point still stands that Walmart COULD pay more without needing to raise prices. And let me make clear that I’m not anti-Walmart: I personally don’t like shopping there because I find the experience cruddy but I have mixed feelings about their business model. I was just using them as an example.

                What is interesting about your comment is the implication that charity is somehow a bad thing. Or, more precisely, that companies shouldn’t engage in being charitable with regards to their employees vis a vis their profits. I think that points towards the phenomenon I’m describing, namely that the financial profit motive often seems to be the sole driver in our society. Why can’t we value other things? How did Walmart’s owners reach a point where they think, “$17B in profits is better than $15B in profits and happier employees?”Report

              • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

                How did Walmart’s owners reach a point where they think, “$17B in profits is better than $15B in profits and happier employees?”

                That’s about $900/worker. Is the median Walmart worker just $900 per year away from happiness? (I’m not saying they aren’t. I’m just wondering.)

                Edit: I’m realizing now that you wrote “happier” not “happy”, and even I would be happier with an extra $900/year, but that is something that would be true of literally any positive number. What’s the actual criterion we use to determine what is fair and just and proper and all other good things?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well, if the calculus is “all things equal, more money is better than less”, then the argument applies equally to both investors looking to maximize for ROI and laborers looking to maximize ROL. Seems pretty silly to argue that Walmart workers aren’t gonna be happy with $900 more for the same work when we’re talking about billions of dollars on the investment side.

                Will the Walmart heirs finally be happy if they can just get another billion socked away for a rainy day?Report

              • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

                Stillwater: Will the Walmart heirs finally be happy if they can just get another billion socked away for a rainy day?

                Probably not! Which is why happiness is generally weird and why no one really asks that original question of trading off two billion dollars for a bunch of happiness. They might concern themselves with retention and having a competitive offering in the labor market, but even then it’s unlikely to be framed as “let’s give up $X of profit for some amount of happiness.”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                I agree. That’s why I thought it strange when you accepted the “happy” metric but rejected the pay increase on the grounds that $900 more a year wouldn’t get folks over the unhappy hump.

                Adding, it sounded like you were saying those poor folk are just fine right where they are…Report

              • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

                It’s not that they are just fine. I might have said the same thing if they were earning $3/hour or $30/hour. I guess what I am trying to communicate (badly) is that I’ve given up on the idea that things are priced in any sort of moral way. No person looks at Walmart’s revenues and allocates them to the government, suppliers, employees, creditors, and shareholders based on any sense of fairness. If Walmart were losing $17 billion each year, it wouldn’t necessarily mean they could lower wages or payments to suppliers or creditors. There’s no one out there looking for fairness, so people will be frustrated if they go looking for it.

                And actually, I’m still not that satisfied with this clarification. Maybe I’m not clear myself as to why the question caught me as a non sequitur.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                I was just pulling numbers out of the air.

                But how much happier are the Waltons with $17B (per year!) than $15B?

                What I’m trying to understand is why do they have such a need to maximize profits? What is driving that for them? And is the adoption of that mentality a good thing? I think @rufus-f and I contend that it is not — not to the extreme we currently see it. Though I think both of us are stopping short of saying what can/should be done about it.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                Coming at it from a slightly differently angle…

                A counter argument to raising wages is that it will drive up prices. But that is not necessarily true. In Walmart’s case, it is only true if they insist on making $17B in profit. If they do not insist on that, they can raise wages and keep prices consistent. Yet we operate under the assumption that they will not do this (unless it is economically advantageous to them to do so). Maybe that is a false assumption but if it is not… why does Walmart (and other companies!) behave this way?Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Oh, I have ideas on how to change that mentality to something more moderate and reasonable. Start by saying unreasonable things to the other extreme and keep saying them loudly. Make unreasonable demands. Follow up on them. Things will shift towards the more reasonable center.

                I mean part of the issue here is this weird assumption that critics of these companies are talking about wishy washy ideas of fairness and niceness and their defenders are talking about solid and realistic things like money. I’m really saying something like keep to this course and you can expect people to be throwing trashcans through plate glass windows within a generation or so. If they don’t want a decade or so of social upheaval and riots, then they can give a few inches now.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                Yes. I meant that you and I aren’t necessarily advocating this sort of social/value change through legislation. I do think that laws can help changes hearts and minds. I’m just not sure sure that A) it will in this case and B) even if it could, that it’d be the preferred route.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                wallmart is a monopsony in significant parts of america.
                Is having a job better than no job? Indubitably.

                Warren Buffet may not be an idiot, but a lot of people of his income class are. I’m certain I could pull the records on who donates a lot to the United Way, or other charity leeches.Report

      • Avatar SaulDegraw says:

        Do you know who else had 5 year plans?Report

  10. Avatar SaulDegraw says:

    I am not sure the Fox News stuff is a relatively new phenomenon. The New Yorker cartoonist, Jack Ziegler, has been
    Pointing out the differences between
    The Post and Daily News over the NY Times for decades.

    The tabloid press has always sold via lite feel good stories or hyperbole. Most people want this including intelligent people. There is a difference between
    intelligent people and intellectuals.

    A friend of mine works for a daily suburban newspaper. They seem to keep alive by being relentlessly happy
    and relentlessly local. The front page has stories like “what is the hippest town in the lower Hudson valley?” Why does this work? Because people can go out and look for restaurants and stores, reading about local issues is often dull and/or depressing.

    The other issue is that there seems to be an inverse relationship between people who care about in-depth journalism and people you can sell things to. The New York Times still does
    great in-depth reporting. They often have a story that took weeks or months to report on every Sunday. LGM will often discuss these stories. LGM will also hate hate hate on something in the Styles or Real Estate section like a photo spread of 2 million dollar homes.

    The problem is that the Styles section pays for the front news section and people hate that this is so.

    Magazines like TNR, The Nation, and the New Yorker, or the American Spectator and New Criterion have never been known for the size of their readership. They are known for the prestige and pretensions of their readerships.Report

  11. Avatar aaron david says:

    News has been a commercial venture for as long as people have wanted to do nothing else with their lives. And as we move further into the internet age, with all of its decentralization of resources and ideas, this will only further this fact. There is no longer a handful of sites (paper or broadcast) that everyone goes to. And as more people have gained 24 hour access to the news via work computers with unlimited internet, those who find politics and satire compelling will strive to fill this void.

    Fox arose out of the need for a conservative news source. Why was there a need for this? Because most other news sources were starting to noticeably drift the other direction. As Dan Scotto reminded us in his post, ‘Columnist and Fox pundit Charles Krauthammer cleverly described Fox as having found a “niche market” of “half the country.”’ When one cable channel can make that sort of inroad, it is clear to all who are not blind that there was a serious structural problem with the news as it was being presented.

    Fox arose out of a vacuum, a vacuum that still exists. This is what makes Fox a possibly bad news source. No one has stepped up to the plate to provide competition. And this monopoly is as bad for news as it is for government or business. Until there is a competitor for that half of the country Fox serves, it will always take the path of least resistance, as that is how all endeavors work and news is an endeavor like anything else.

    There is no impartial news, just as there are no impartial viewpoints. And with that fact there is a need for conservative viewpoints just as there is a need for liberal viewpoints. Having a news media that is solely made up of members of one political ideal is one of the worst things that can happen in a country that at some level believes in freedom of the press and good governance. We absolutely need a news source that will go after that list that @burt-likko recounts above. Every one of those things may be wrong and made up, but we won’t know unless a vigorous 4th estate tears into them. Thus letting us, the polity, decide the various truths and mendacities of an administration.

    From your piece, with its list of pejoratives against Fox, that as @ck-macleod points out above contain no linx for us to see for ourselves, it seems to me that you are falling into the same trap that you accuse Fox of.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      @aaron-david I will respectfully disagree with you here, at least on a rather important point of semantics.

      There is no real need for a news organization that reports innuendo for years that the President was born in Kenya when they are aware that he wasn’t. There’s no need to report that the UN is coming to get your guns when your own organization has already debunked that story, or that the president was raised in a madrassa when you know he wasn’t, or that the president attended a Pirate Day party you know he didn’t. There absolutely is a *market* for that, but there is not actually a need.

      As to your larger point, I still find it wanting.

      As I say over and over here, there is no shortage of corruption that you can find in the DNC, national Democratic leaders, and up and coming Democratic politicians. There really isn’t a need fro Fox to make s**t up if they were just going for a “fourth estate from a different point of view” kind of thing. But they *don’t*, and the reason they don’t is that they can’t really report on that kind of real corruption without also implicating the other side of the aisle, and their market won’t tune in to see that.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        “can’t really report on that kind of real corruption without also implicating the other side of the aisle, and their market won’t tune in to see that”

        That’s an indicator, as has been said before, that the “journalists” are more interested in “access” than they are either the truth, or the hard hitting story. It’s far more profitable to repeat a press release that’s emailed to you from “source” and rake in that 100k+ job than actually do reporting.Report

      • Avatar aaron david says:

        Well, let me drill down on what I want, and hopefully that will help clairify my position.

        I want an opposition 4th estate.

        I want a news media that will go after the administration the way that the last administration was gone after. I want it to sink its teeth into everything its leaders daughters may have drunk while driving, to pull its knives out every time they mispronounce nuclear, to rent the house next door to a potential VP to make sure they can go through the trash. I want Dan Rather out there with any and all possible accusations, I want bloggers looking at every single word to take out of context and present as racist. I want stupid conspiracy theories.

        I want all of this for every president, because I never want even a whiff of the idea that the press knew what was going on with John Edwards but didn’t report it because, “you know, he’s one of the good guys.”

        Because that is no longer news. That is propaganda.

        And if there is going to be propaganda, whether it is the loud trashy propaganda of Fox, or the softly whispered propaganda of NPR*, I want a counteracting force. And if they are a minority, I want them even louder and angrier.

        * Remember This American Life’s little ditty on Foxcon? Or Terri Gros’s water carrying for Al Franken?Report

        • Avatar SaulDegraw says:


          I find the idea of opposition for the sake of opposition to be kind of silly. There is plenty of stuff the left and right does disagree with. But I often get a sense that representational democracy just inadvertently ends up producing stuff like “Party x is for a. party y is against a, just because.”

          I can also think of plenty of ways you can have a full throttle 4th estate against Obama and have it come from the left instead of the right.Report

          • Avatar Damon says:

            “Can” Yes.
            “Do” No.

            And I find the opposition for the sake of opposition to be a good thing. It helps keep all the parties sharp. You never want to compete on an easy play-field. It makes competitors lazy.Report

            • Avatar aaron david says:

              @damon pretty much nails it. There is just too much buddy-buddy, too much quid pro quo for that. I love a liberal media when there is a conservative president. Because there is hate there. Hate makes them look under every rock and peep in each keyhole.

              A tabloid reported on John Edwards, who was primed to be our next president. A tabloid brought him down, over something that was kind of an open secret in the media. It’s those open secrets that worry me.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Those open secrets don’t worry me.
                Someone had an interest in dropping that hammer.

                The open secrets about pederasts and the sexual abuse of children?
                Those bother me, because nobody wants those to come out.
                Nobody wants to know how many children are killed each year because they got “too old.”Report

    • In the early days of TV, news was what was called a “sustaining” program, shown without ads, as part of the public service requirement for having a broadcast license. Of course nowadays the notion that a broadcaster has any obligations other than maximizing profits seems medieval, and if a station wants to show informericals 24/7 [1], more power to it.

      1. I am not making this up. Forbes did an article about a guy who bought a station, laid off almost all of the staff, and showed only paid programming produced elsewhere. It was a puff piece, focusing on nothing but the profits. As I’ve said before, Forbes is porn for people who get more excited by money than sex.Report

  12. Avatar Barry says:

    “Certainly, many liberals often look at Fox News choosing to cover a riot primarily from the government’s point of view rather than the rioters’ as either biased, manipulative, or politically driven. ”

    Compare and contrast with Fox News coverage of the Bundy affair.Report