Here’s a potential for a modern-day etiquette dilemma. I’m at my gym, running on the treadmill or on the elliptical, and some older gentleman comes up next to me, clutching the remote control for the overhead TV. He asks if I mind switching the channel. Usually, I’m only sort of watching the TV. Often I’m reading, so I don’t care that much about what’s playing the TV.
I shake my head, no, I don’t mind. But actually I do.
Invariably, unless it’s a weekend and the 49ers are playing, he switches it to Fox News.
I don’t have to listen to it. The set-up for these gym TVs is that you plug in your own headphones, and that gives you the sound for the TV of your choice.
Still, you don’t have to hear Fox News to be visually blasted by its culture of outrage, paranoia and ideology. The faces of its Ken and Barbie news bots and puffed-out pundits seem to always be twisted into expressions of fury and resentment. Boy, are these people angry all the time, and they certainly can beat a subject to death.
I recently told one of these Fox News fans: “Fox news gives me a headache.” He was taken aback that there was someone in the gym who would actually speak out against drinking the Fox News Kool-Aid.
To be “fair and balanced,” I’ll say that all the broadcast and cable news shows are pretty outrageous in how they try to seize your attention with their news crawls and flashing “breaking news” headlines. The broadcast network morning shows also bombard you with images of their lengthy and oh-so important interviews with celebrity skanks like the Kardashian sisters.
But Fox News screams the loudest to be heard.
“I need to get my news,” another of these guys was saying to one of the staff people, who was showing him how to use the remote. Really? By turning to Fox News?
Well, if you’re an older white guy, you fit the demographic of key supporters for the Republican Party and Fox News.
Fox News is an activist conservative propaganda machine, dressed up as a news network. Its true intentions became embarrassingly clear on election night, when its flustered news panel, led by Karl Rove, tried to scramble together their own numbers to deny the fact that the popular and electoral votes were swinging to President Obama. Anchor Megyn Kelly, in that moment working as a journalist rather than as a Foxbot, asked Karl Rove “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better or is this real?”
Sure, MSNBC has its liberal agenda, trying to copy Fox’s agenda-driven business model. CNN is mostly just pathetic these days. In general, cable, broadcast and local news aren’t the best sources for what’s happening locally, nationally or internationally. I say that as someone who has worked in the news business, and seen the behind-the-camera ways TV outlets gather information and deliver it. That’s not to say individual reporters or stations don’t have their moments and do great work. But, for the most part, if you really care about becoming informed, go online and read news articles from reputable publications. Like TV news, these publications are attracted to stories that are sensational and that sell conflict, but they will at least provide more than surface context.
TV news’s only real value to the public is during major breaking news events, such as a national election. That is, unless you are Fox News.
And, back to Fox News playing at my gym. It’s just interesting and maybe a little disturbing that there are these guys who continue to look to it as a trusted source of information, especially following the Karl Rove debacle. I doubt they are watching Fox News to get a laugh, as many viewers across America did on election night, seeking out the real-time, reality-show-worthy meltdown that enveloped its coverage. No, for my fellow gym members, Fox News might serve as comfort TV. It gives them the illusion that they are nourishing themselves with good information — because these gentleman like to think of themselves as good citizens. It also assures them that their view of America — circa 1980s or before — still exists.
As I said, I don’t have to listen to Fox News if some old guy on the cardio machine wants to switch to it. I’ll just need to work harder to avert my eyes.