Sunday, October 25, 2009

Not Exactly the Mercury Theatre on the Air

At least the damage was minimal, Frank Rich suggests in this morning’s New York Times. It’s not as if the “balloon boy” fraud led the country into invading a sovereign country in search of nonexistent WMDs, or into investing in dot-coms with no business plans, or into buying oversized homes with no-income no-asset loans.

But “balloon boy” is this generation’s “War of the Worlds” hoax, Rich believes, “the inevitable product of this reigning culture, where ‘news,’ ‘reality’ television and reality itself are hopelessly scrambled” — a culture in which media snake oil salesmen are as likely to be suckered as their audiences, if not more so.

Rich observes,
As “balloon boy” played out, the White House opened fire on one purveyor of fictional news, Fox News, where “tea party” protests are inflated into a national rebellion rivaling the Civil War and where Glenn Beck routinely claims Obama is perpetrating a conspiracy to bring fascism to America. But the White House’s argument is diluted by the different, if less malevolently partisan, fictions that turn up on Fox’s competitors. On CNN, for instance, Lou Dobbs provided a platform for the nuts questioning Obama’s citizenship. When an ABC News correspondent insisted that Fox was “one of our sister organizations” in an exchange with the president’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, last week, he wasn’t joking.
Not that anyone around him would have gotten it if he were.

(Crossposted from Scrutiny Hooligans)

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