From the Fringe to the Mainstream
I can’t recommend this analysis piece at American Journalism Review enough to fellow lizards. It covers the way that kookspiracies arise, and the fauxtroversy assembly lines. It also contains several great tips for journalists. Please read from start to finish, don’t let the lead in with Orly Taitz throw you off because this is much much more than a simple birther debunking.
But Ari Rabin-Havt, vice president of research for the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America, says conservatives have a highly refined media assembly line for manufacturing scandal and partisan outrage. Stories that start with a few influential bloggers (Rabin-Havt cites Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit, Alex Jones of infowars.com and a related radio program, and anti-Islamist blogger Pamela Geller as particularly influential) get amplified by Matt Drudge’s heavily visited Web site and talk-radio programs hosted by Glenn Beck, Michael Savage and others. The last and most important stage, according to Rabin-Havt, is when Fox News picks up the story. “Fox is the gold standard,” he says, because of its visibility and its devoted following among conservatives. “The question is, does [the story] break out of Fox News” and into the rest of the mainstream news media?
The answer: Not always. Some scandals (or “scandals”) never gain enough oxygen from the mainstream media and die. Social conservatives, for instance, have clamored for the removal of Kevin Jennings, an openly gay educator whom Obama appointed last year as his “safe schools” czar at the Department of Education. Fox’s Hannity has repeatedly denounced Jennings as a “radical” who once pushed for the introduction of “sexually explicit” material in schools and criticized Jennings because he did not contact authorities about a teenage boy who had confided that he was having sex with an older man. But the story never got much traction elsewhere. Jennings remains in his job, and Hannity seems to have moved on.