Politics: Extremism Cannot be Fought With Censorship

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I received this e-mail from a campaign that I’m somehow subscribed to:

Dear Sean

It’s happened to all of us. You’re in a public place and FOX News is on TV. You sit and simmer, or pack up and move on. You can’t bear the idea that the lies, distortions and race-baiting that FOX News uses to divide our country are being promoted as mainstream news.

FOX is poisonous — and it spreads and is legitimized partly through public TVs. It’s why CREDO is joining with Color of Change to launch Turn Off FOX — a massive campaign to get FOX turned off in stores, restaurants, and other public places.

Will you join us in calling on businesses in your community and across the country to stop airing FOX, and declare your own household a “FOX-free zone”? With thousands of our signatures to back them up, Turn Off FOX members will visit local businesses that play FOX, explain how divisive and dangerous it is, and ask them to turn it off.

Please take a moment to add your voice — you’ll get a FREE “Turn Off FOX” sticker, and we’ll tell you how to get more involved.

Some people watch Fox at home because it reflects their view of the world; but there are others who see it on TV in public places and assume that it’s legitimate news. FOX News is often on in bars, restaurants, airport lounges, stores — appearing to be real news, while spreading lies, hate, division and promoting the political agenda that was confirmed with FOX parent company News Corporation’s $1 million contribution to elect Republican governors.

The goal of Turn Off FOX is to reduce the number of public TVs showing FOX News, while spreading the word about FOX’s poison (and how it works) to those who don’t know.

Signing up for the campaign is just the first step. We make it easy for you to tell us about businesses playing FOX. If you’re willing to talk with them, we’ll provide you with straightforward materials that explain why they shouldn’t be a party to what FOX is doing. And if there are businesses you know that want to tell the world they would never play FOX, you can help them declare themselves a “FOX-free zone.”

As businesses Turn off FOX and stand up as FOX Free, and as we encourage our friends and family to do the same, we’ll help make clear, to people across the country, what FOX is about. And we’ll reduce their ability to do harm.

Thoughts on this:

  • Both sides need to be heard in a debate.
  • The best way to battle Fox isn’t to censor them, it’s to highlight the flaws in what they say.

The e-mail I sent back:

As a moderate, this campaign concerns me. I don’t like Fox, and I certainly don’t agree with 99% of its content, and agree with the statements made about its divisiveness.

However, the way to further an agenda isn’t to tune fox out of the public consciousness – that simply won’t happen. The way to change the tide of opinion, if anything, is to use fox to open up public discourse on the things that it does wrong. Point to examples, provide facts. Don’t limit Fox’s airtime – that seems like a half-hearted, slightly disingenuous way to counter the news.

Get Fox out there on the TVs or start a “fox watchdog” group to fact-check and exploit the way that fox reports news. THEN you’ll have my support. Heck, I’d even help you plan / run it.

But a word of caution to you: limiting either side of a conversation is never a way to make sure that your side is heard. Those are the tactics employed by, well, places like Fox.

The way to win in the fight against Fox is not to attempt to silence the network – it’s a multi-million dollar corporation and the bottom line is, you’re not going to get it turned off. The way to fight Fox is by making sure that when Fox says something divisive or incendiary or false, someone is there to counter it with well-reasoned argument (which is to say, not partisan hackery of the opposite end of the spectrum, either).

Social change comes not from tactics, but from activism, the key here being that you can’t go around the mountainous obstacle that is Fox – you have to go through it.

Thoughts? Leave ‘em in the comments.


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