Fox News and Kellogg’s Cornflakes

When I was in fourth grade, the teacher had us, her students, all individually write letters to the Kellogg’s [corn flakes] Company to correct an error of fact that had appeared on the back of a box of the company’s cereal. I now no longer remember what the fact was or in what context it appeared.

I do remember getting a responsive letter from someone important at the company; it was typed, on letterhead. I think that was the first letterhead-correspondence I had received in my life. The man thanked us, thanked me, for writing to the company and pointing out the error. (I grew up in the Sierra Nevada, region of mountains, canyons, and creeks, so I was also enchanted by the name of Kellogg’s town: Battle Creek, Michigan.)

Now, however, thanks to Fox News, et al., I know that the teacher’s assignment had nothing to do with writing for a real audience or correcting facts. It was all a plot to support the nefarious breakfast-cereal cartel. It was pure indoctrination and propaganda. We were being turned into Kelloggian Candidates.

That is the interpretation required by Fox Logic, anyway. One classroom of children singing a song about President Obama has been compared, seriously, to the strategies of Mao and the Khmer Rouge, and I wish I were kidding. We needn’t explore the problems with logic, history, evidence, and analogy in this Fox gambit; they are obvious.

Of course, MSNBC and Air America are not immune from the disease of telling propagandistic whoppers, but the business with the New Jersey schoolchildren and their teacher seems many degrees worse, so much worse that, arguably, the more interesting rhetorical questions may include these:

If Fox News (to take just one example) makes so much out of so little, has it lost all sense of proportion? If it makes so much out of so little and is believed, then who is its audience? Any person with a basic sense of history will not accept a Mao/Obama comparison and probably cannot even accept the analogy in terms of satire.

The same goes for the Hitler/Obama comparison seen at rallies and town-hall meetings. It is not the attempted degradation of Obama that matters so much—he is a politician from Chicago and has dealt with demonization before; it is the degradation of a fundamental historical awareness, as well as of a sense of propriety.

Presumably, even an ardent supporter of the GOP’s more conservative wing who has an adult sense of proportion and a basic knowledge of history may feel queasy hearing and seeing such comparisons.

And finally, if Fox News makes so much out of so little, where does it “go” next with its rhetoric? At some point, the hyperbole-balloon might burst. Or so one might have thought some years ago. Now I’m not so sure. Rhetorically, anything seems to go, even on alleged mainstream airwaves, and it often goes into an abyss–to trade the “out” of a hyperbole-balloon for the “down” of argumentative standards—and their disappearance.

But who is the audience? I am able to watch Fox News only for up to 10 seconds in those rare instances when I tune in, so I have to learn about its excesses indirectly. Who watches Fox News all the time?

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