Monday, March 14, 2011

FOX News Isn't Just Biased

Fox News has a well known bias towards reporting the news that conservatives prefer. That isn't something I'm inclined to rant about since it is usually an editorial bias concerning which stories to run. So they skip coverage on things that embarrass their allies or emphasize coverage of their enemies, big deal.

Where I have an issue with Fox News is when they intentionally misrepresent the facts of a story, distorting the news to align with their political agenda. That isn't just editorial bias. It is deliberate misinformation being passed off as news. It is lying.

Today's example of "creative use of the truth" concerns the tragic case of Canadian Baby Joseph who is dying of a neurological condition and has been transferred to a hospital in the US. Fox is presenting this story as a clear case of the evils of socialized medicine, with a brave American pro-life group stepping in to rescue the baby from certain death by bringing him to the US for medical care that the Canadian system refused to perform.

Here is a quote from the Fox News article: "Priests for Life staff toiled through the night for many nights, working in concert with dozens of people to make this possible," Father Pavone said in a statement. "Now that we have won the battle against the medical bureaucracy in Canada, the real work of saving Baby Joseph can begin."

The trouble is that the FOX News angle on this story is incomplete and very misleading. Some quick research into other sources reveals a different story that despite being covered by many journalists still produces a consistent narrative of verifiable facts that is at odds with the coverage by Fox News.

For example, Baby Joseph's parents aren't currently disputing that their little boy is dying. The procedure they wanted was not intended to be life-saving. The dispute between the parents and the hospital apparently revolved around whether or not to do a tracheotomy which the parents feel (against medical advice) will help Baby Joseph's inevitable death be less traumatic.

The hospital in Canada was refusing the tracheotomy, but had offered to bring Baby Joseph home while still connected to life support systems. So that there at home he could be disconnected and die in the arms of his parents. But the parents still wanted the tracheotomy and have accepted the financial help of Priests for Life who transferred Baby Joseph to SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis, Mo. It is unclear whether Baby Joseph will now get the procedure his parents wanted. 

This is more than a case of interpreting the news in a different way. This is more than simple bias. FOX News left out important facts and created a completely new narrative in line with right wing politics. This degree of misinformation isn't harmless. It isn't just poorly researched journalism. It is deliberately dishonest. It is propaganda that cynically takes advantage of a family's tragedy to promote an ideology with lies.

[Note: I've used screen captures of websites in this post, so that you can refer to the articles I read as they were when I read them. Sometimes articles get rewritten or revised and a link would go to the most up-to-date version, which might be very different from the version originally I saw.]

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