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Monday, May 03, 2010

Sophistry, FOX News Style

Greg Sargent calls it one of the "Great moments in Fox News." Others call it a straw man. FOX ran the headline "White House Fends Off Specter of Katrina in Federal Response to Oil Spill" yesterday -- for a story that included no real comparisons to Katrina. FOX is famous (or infamous) for their use of the rhetorical straw man "some people say" -- as in "some people say President Obama is a Communist" or "some people say President Obama was born in Kenya." Of course, it's not untrue, some people do say these things. But those "some people" are ideologues, lunatics, and rightwing media blowhards. Some people also say that the sun orbits the Earth, but no one gives a damn what these people think, because they're crazy.

That word you may be trying to remember from your school days right now is "sophistry." Sophistry is -- in a broad sense -- the use of rhetorical tricks or near-logical arguments with the intention to mislead or deceive. Some people do say that the oil spill in the gulf is Obama's Katrina, but those people work for an organization called "FOX News."

This is another little trick FOX pulls -- FOX News interviews FOX News and confirms for FOX News that FOX News agrees with what FOX News is reporting. Huckabee, like Hannity, hosts a FOX News show. It's at this point that "sophistry" may be leaving your mind and that "circle jerk" is probably entering it.

"Fox claims [the] White House is 'fighting off a growing perception' that the Gulf spill is 'Obama's Katrina,'" Greg Sargent comments, "a perception that Fox is of course doing its best to encourage."

FOX isn't alone here. The entire rightwing media has launched a campaign to get people to think this is "Obama's Katrina." Rush Limbaugh has also made the comparison -- that'd be the same Rush Limbaugh who said that the chaos following the flooding was basically the fault of blacks in the area, not Bush's slow response. Of course, because he doesn't have to defend Bush anymore -- or because he knows his audience has the memory of a goldfish -- he can pretend that he always said the catastrophe was all the president's fault and that Obama is now just as bad as Bush was. It's a minor victory; at least Limbaugh is finally, though indirectly, admitting that the nightmare that was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was Bush's fault. That is, until he needs it not to be again. Conservatives' memories can be very protean that way. One narrative morphs into a completely different one, then back again when re-revisionism is required.

So how true is the oil spill-Katrina comparison? Not very. Unlike FOX, I won't leave you to rely on my say-so by interviewing myself. Media Matters has a good timeline of the oil rig incident, as does Talking Points Memo. But Michael Shear makes the case simply in a Washington Post article:

The gulf oil spill is no Katrina, in which 1,836 people died amid the near total devastation of one of America's great cities. In the case of the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, 11 people perished, but the worst impact of the oil on animals and shorelines have yet to be fully felt.

There will be no armed gangs committing racially motivated murders. There will be no incidents of police brutality. Thousands won't be trapped for days in a sports arena without food, water, or medical attention. As bad as this oil spill is -- and it's bad -- it can't compare to the chaos after Katrina. Anyone making the comparison is insulting the victims of that national tragedy, both the living and the dead.

I often say that the right is without shame. And it's propaganda campaigns like this that lead me to that conclusion. Anyone willing to look at the "Obama's Katrina" claim objectively can see that the argument is a hot, steaming bowl of BS. But right doesn't care, because the people they're talking to aren't interested in being objective, they're interested in seeing their biases confirmed. And, if that confirmation requires an astonishing leap of logic and a complete abandonment of personal and national memory, then so what? It's not like they give a crap about truth. If they did, they wouldn't watch FOX News or listen to Rush Limbaugh. They tune in because they get the lies they want to hear. You want to hear about how Barack Obama is actively trying to kill us all? Great! We've got Sarah Palin talking about Death Panels after the break.

Maybe the White House did screw this up -- I have no problem believing that. But so far, all the evidence I've seen shows that BP was lying every step of the way. If the White House failed to get a handle on this early, it's because they made the mistake of believing a corporation with literally billions of dollars of legal culpability on the line. To say this would be an error in judgment would be a titanic understatement. Corporations, like the rightwing media that serve them, lie -- it's what they do. Expecting them to be forthright about it -- with that much money on the table -- would be a mistake you couldn't adequately describe without a lot of swearing.

But to say this is Obama's Katrina goes beyond hyperbole and exaggeration and into insult. It's an insult to our intelligence and it's an insult to an entire region of this country.


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M said...

"Leaking Oil Well Lacked Safeguard Device"

This is inarguably Bush/Cheney's self-regulating philosophy still fucking over the planet, haunting the American people like an administrative ghost of fuck-ups past.

Anonymous said...

FOX news is playing with itself - that's a dirty little no no

K-Mak said...

LOLZ @ Huckabee saying that "[this is Obama's Katrina] only if the news media wants it to be."

Hidden agenda is not so hidden.