The final stage of the evolution of capitalism in western societies – agrarian to industrial, industrial to post-industrial – is self-parody. And we've reached that point. We now unironically celebrate a complete lack of job security as the market giving us "freedom." We rejoice that we've advanced beyond the primitive days when jobs had benefits. We return functions of the state (which can't be trusted) to the benevolent guardians of Wall Street (who can). We pat ourselves on the back for avoiding the horrors of European socialism – they'll never know the pleasure of $30,000 student loan debts while they take their productivity-sapping 6 week vacations. It has become self-parody; we take every pitfall of the unrestrained market and celebrate it as an achievement.
I mention this because of the parallel one could draw (and what the hell, I think I will) with the media. The final stage of their evolution – newspaper to radio, radio to TV, TV to cable, cable to internet – is self-parody. Look no further than Fox News – or, hell, any of the 24-hour cable competitors which now look shockingly similar – to see nothing short of a complete parody of journalism. All the while, more Americans get their Real News from a parody of the news than from the Real News itself. The Real News is the parody, and the Parody News is real. I think my cerebellum just fell out.
But stick with me. I'm going somewhere with this.
Now that outlets like Fox News have strayed so far from legitimacy and so deeply into parody, their job actually becomes easier. Once one has embraced parody journalism as journalism, worrying about credibility becomes unnecessary. In fact, it's downright counterproductive. Verifying sources, treating government sources skeptically, worrying about "facts"…all these things just get in the way of the new Parody Journalism. Who cares if the commentators don't "make sense" or their arguments aren't grounded in reality? That's so 20th Century!
No, our friends at Fox News (the highest-rated and therefore best network, for the market is the sole arbiter of quality) have led the charge into this final stage of evolution.
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They've done away with reality in its entirety and created their own: FoxWorld. Pity the old journalists, stuck in their ways, who can't adapt to the new reality – it doesn't matter what actually happens in the world since the job is no longer to report that.
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You simply decide what you want to say and then say it. Why limit oneself to stories that are actually about terrorism when you can just make every story about terrorism???
Following their example, I no longer feel it necessary to stick to actual logical fallacies so I make up my own: Argumentum ad FoxWorld. It is defined as an argument that is internally valid and logically consistent…in the alternate reality that Fox News has created. In FoxWorld journalism is about driving home an ideological message, so coming up with creative ways to do so is the highest accomplishment in the field.
I give you Neal Cavuto. Mr. Cavuto recently decided that, goddammit, he didn't want to have to choose between fearmongering about terrorists and bashing universal healthcare. In FoxWorld, those two things are actually the same issue! Isn't that amazing? Who knew.
Let's do a quick review of Mr. Cavuto's logic:
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Therefore, universal healthcare would bring terrorists into the country. Why stick to debating the actual issues or reporting on real events when you can go from any topic to terrorism in five easy steps or less?
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I know that Mr. Cavuto's logic doesn't "make sense" and isn't really "plausible." To what extent his points do make sense, they require gargantuan leaps and unfathomably unlikely assumptions in order to connect them. But that's not the point. Fox has long since disregarded any concern about being considered legitimate and credible. Instead, they've embraced what they are and decided to take it to its logical extreme. So what we see here is everything that used to be antithetical to journalism – all of which is now desirable. The old pitfalls of journalism are now its noble purpose.