iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Steven Weber

GET UPDATES FROM Steven Weber
 

Disservice Industry

Posted: 06/22/2012 4:46 pm

A product is usually created to improve people's lives, otherwise, why buy it? I'm no genius, but I am an American and gosh-darnit I consume, so I know what I'm talking about.

And I've bought stuff with the strict understanding that whatever I bought would notably improve my life, or the many sub-categories contained therein. Detergent, clothing, electronics, candy, drugs, that goat-thing, all sorts of stuff -- if it helps me feel better in the moment or somewhere down the line, or if it helps me do things more efficiently, I've gone and purchased it. And so should you! Hell, you probably already have! See how much we have in common? Hands across the water.

I mean, why feel perpetually crummy? Why remain an inept boob? Just buy (fill in appropriate product here) and watch those crummy, booby things go away!

And ever since Consumerism officially replaced Citizenship as this nation's imperative, it would be unpatriotic to question the contract -- both implied and declared -- between advertised products and American consumers. Hell, to do so would question capitalism itself! And WE DO NOT DO THAT! (Ooh I get so mad!)

Conversely, once a product ceases to improve the life of the person buying it, that person would -- ipso facto with alakazam on top! -- stop buying that product and the savvy, civic-minded maker of the now defective product would pull it from the shelves faster than you can say "My wish is to serve you! With products!"

Hell again, that product might even hurt consumers and those consumers might just sue the collective pants off the maker of that product if the maker didn't do right by the pissed-off peeps and knowingly kept that deficient -- and possibly dangerous! -- product on the shelves to dupe consumers into continuing to consume that product, regardless of the blatantly deceptive advertising!

Take Fox News.

Now don't get me wrong: by all means watch Fox News!

Even I wouldn't be so stupid as to openly engage this much feared and powerful organization and tell people not to consume their product. It's a business that employs thousands of good, hard working people and no job killer I! I might as well tell people that Jujyfruits (my favoritest candy) will cause your mouth to flood with saliva with its positively orgasm-inducing gummy texture and give you a sugar high that makes you swear you can see Zeus's nuts dangling beneath the hem of His toga, but then causes you to come crashing down to earth with the realization that you've probably just shortened your life by several years. I would never do that.

But now see, where Fox News is concerned, there's a problem. It seems that what that particular product advertises right up front is at odds with the reality of what it does. And a lot of consumers buy it thinking they're going to get one thing but what they are really getting is something else entirely. It's like people are being duped into buying it. Can you effing imagine?

It's advertised as "news" but it feels like the vast majority of what it delivers is really not "news" in the sense of impartial data gathered in an unbiased way and then presented in a straightforward format which serves only to distribute that data to the trusting folks who expect -- in the product's implied and declared contract -- unbiased, impartial, straightforward, fair and balanced information.

And people have always consumed the product known as "news" to improve their lives.

After all, knowing the news makes you smarter, less of a boob and it makes you smarter. And less of a boob and makes you not feel, you know, crummy and stuff.
America has a long journalistic tradition and, while there have been notable exceptions ("yellow journalism," certain theatre reviews, the weather) our nation prides itself on the maintenance of a robust and rigorously honest fourth estate.

But Fox News seems pretty light on the "news" part and awfully heavy on the "fox" part.

And while it clearly makes the people who consume it feel good, so do large boxes of Jujyfruits, which I spoke of most eloquently, some several sentences ago. Many studies (along with casual observations by even mildly sentient amateurs) confirm that this "news" organization is the journalistic equivalent of a delightfully destructive and possibly life-shortening candy. And the bottom line is, is it doing what it says it does? Does it really improve people's lives as actual news is supposed to do? Is it making people feel less crummy, less booby?

I don't think so. But then, I'm not a fan of fear and anxiety which is really what Fox News seems to be selling. The factual content of their "news" is minimal, but the fear and anxiety content -- especially when dispensed by one of their many great looking, intimidating and very confident spokespersons -- is off the charts! And the charts are scary, too! Big and scary, with colors and designs calculated to put the fear of Bob into whoever's watching. Even Fox's fonts give me the jitters. They put the "hell" in Helvetica!

And it's brilliant, possibly the most brilliant product devised and sold to the American people. If only Coca-Cola had had the kind of message to accompany its addictive deliciousness that Fox News has, we'd all be speaking Cokelish today. But Asa Griggs Candler, the marketing whiz who bought the recipe from a guy who invented it for medicinal use, only saw its potential as a universally appealing drink. What a small thinker. What Roger Ailes has done with the product known as "news" dwarfs Candler's Coke, at least certainly in terms of sociopolitical ambition.

Ailes has taken something Americans have cherished and respected and subtly reworked its innards while putting a glossier sheen on the face. And his own ideology aside, which Fox espouses minute by terrifying minute, the real genius is in his usurpation of the existing infrastructure to deliver his product: the public's trust had already been won a century-plus earlier, the newest and farthest-reaching technology was already in place and corporations politically aligned with Ailes had already purchased powerful broadcasting facilities. Ailes's product -- Fox News -- could not fail to succeed.

So really, the only thing wrong in this whole story is what Fox News purports to be. It says it's "news." But wouldn't "manipulation to reflect the political beliefs of the product's inventor" be a more accurate product description? But then, if people knew what they were really getting, they wouldn't buy it.

The funny thing is, none of this is really news, now, is it?

 

Follow Steven Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheStevenWeber

FOLLOW MEDIA