Fox News, knee-jerk reactions, and out-of-context statements

If my previous posts in which I declared my support for Obama and for civilly-recognized gay marriage weren’t enough to convince my church friends that I have become a heathen leftist Commie pinko, I’ll probably do it with this post. Why? Because I’m going to be mildly critical of Fox News and of those who blindly follow it.

Yesterday I linked to a Rod Dreher column entitled “I was wrong about Sotomayor speech”. (Yeah, there’s an article missing somewhere in that sentence, but live with it.) To catch anyone up who hasn’t heard about it, the controversial statement from Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was made in a 2002 speech at Cal Berkeley, where she said this:

I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her
experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

There was (as one might expect) immediately a lot of noise made by conservative groups like the Judicial Confirmation Network and bloggers (I’ll link Michelle Malkin here as just one example), and when I was on the treadmill at the gym for 30 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, Fox News host Glenn Beck had that quote up on the screen seemingly every minute of his show. And let’s face it: as a stand-alone statement, it seems bad. It’s not the sort of thing that a “judges apply the law, they don’t make it” conservative like me likes to hear at all.

So back to that Dreher article I linked. Conservative columnist Rod Dreher candidly notes that after reading the full text of the speech in question, he says he is

…still a bit troubled by the remark, but not in any important way. Taken in context, the speech was about how the context in which we were raised affects how judges see the world, and that it’s unrealistic to pretend otherwise. Yet — and this is a key point — she admits that as a jurist, one is obligated to strive for neutrality.

And then he quotes another passage from Sotomayor’s speech, one that didn’t ever make the screen at Fox News:

While recognizing the potential effect of individual experiences on perception, Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law. Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum’s aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases.

Now, that puts a whole different spin on things, doesn’t it? All of a sudden Judge Sotomayor sounds a lot less like a radical legislate-from-the-bench sort of judge and more like an idealist who nonetheless understands the role of the judge in the three-branch governmental system.

At this point I have to put a disclaimer in, because just as my support of civilly recognizing gay marriage caused friends to think that I no longer believe homosexual behavior is sin, this post suggesting that Judge Sotomayor isn’t quite as radical as Fox News suggests will cause some friends to think that I’m soft on abortion. So here’s the disclaimer. Judge Sotomayor does not appear to be the type of judge I’d prefer to see picked for the Supreme Court. I much prefer the staunch conservative views of Justices Roberts and Scalia, and the late Chief Justice Rehnquist. And abortion remains a heinous sin. OK? Are we cool? So let’s proceed.

Here’s the thing I want to get to in regard to Fox News: if you watch it and for a minute think that you’re really getting a “fair and balanced” view of the news, think again. Is it truly “fair and balanced” to hammer on Sotomayor for the one line that sounds bad, without bringing in the other line from the same speech that balances things out?

So next you’ll say to me “OK, Chris, we’ll admit that Fox News is biased towards the conservative viewpoint. But all the other networks are biased towards the liberal side, so why can’t we have our one network?” And that’s OK, I guess, as long as you recognize the bias. Because, let’s face it: if your only news source is Fox News, you wouldn’t even know they have a bias. (Me personally? I don’t watch TV news at all. But my news sources of choice should really be the topic of a separate blog post.)

So my plea to my friends this morning: read, watch, and listen widely. Think about things and come to your own conclusions. Don’t just assume that if it shows up on Fox News, it’s the gospel truth. (Don’t assume that it isn’t, either.) Be willing to see shades of grey in areas where there isn’t a black-and-white standard. And be gracious and loving to all as you do it.

5 thoughts to “Fox News, knee-jerk reactions, and out-of-context statements”

  1. Hey, Chris. I agree with most of what you said – except I would take exception in that I do think most of us who watch Fox News regularly actually do listen to and watch other news sources. I think we have a much broader knowledge of what is going on in the world. No one should listen to just one side. I have not passed a final judgment on Sodomayer for the reasons that you stated above regarding Fox News – I need to hear more on both sides, and frankly I think more people to listen to Fox are way more educated on what is going on in the world, expecially when we question everything and look further. Plus, most people in our country have no clue about our nation’s history – I did not have a good understanding until I started reading history books, the Constitution and commentaries in the past few years. Right now, the things I am reading about her temperament (pushy, aggressive, bullying) from people who worked with her automatically makes me not like her. People like that are not good team-mates, not good listeners, and generally cause dis-harmony in a group. Her idea and Obama’s idea of “empathy” on the bench is absolutely ridiculous & dangerous. I am a constitutionalist all the way. I am in favor of a 3rd party being formed, as the demos & repubs are pretty much one and the same & that is scarey. There is my 2-cents worth.

  2. Kathy, thanks for commenting! I certainly wasn’t trying to imply that all folks who watch Fox News don’t watch anything else. (You’re a great example of that!)

    But I have personally talked with several folks who have that “if Fox News said it it must be true” mentality, and I’m sure they’re representative of a much larger group. They’re the ones that kinda scare me. 🙂

    If you haven’t already, Kathy, I’d encourage you to go read the whole post by Rod Dreher. He has some good thoughts in there about the appropriate place for “empathy” within the judicial system.

  3. I never saw FoxNews until I started going to the gym in March. I only had to see one show to see how biased it was. Even for a conservative like myself, it is uncomfortable, even embarrassing, to watch.

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