Sinclair and the Zombie Newscasters

Posted on 2018 April 8

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sinclair and the zombie newscasters zombie-tv

The Red Tribe and Blue Tribe have different narratives, which they use to tie together everything that happens into reasons why their tribe is good and the other tribe is bad. — Scott Alexander

Sinclair Broadcast Group owns more TV stations, roughly 200, than anyone else in America, and it’s growing bigger. This strikes terror into the hearts of liberals because Sinclair’s editorial policy is conservative — and, worse, it makes its news anchors recite right-wing editorials.

Never mind that less than 10 percent of the public watches TV over the air anymore, and that much of Sinclair’s empire involves lightly viewed UHF broadcasts. Sinclair has the potential to reach nearly three-fourths of all possible viewers, so it appears to Democrats as a massive monopoly. (MSNBC and CNN have access to well over 90 percent of Americans, but they’re on the Left, so, again … never mind.)

What got Progressives’ blood boiling was an editorial, read by dozens of Sinclair news anchors, that addressed fake news and asserted Sinclair’s policy to ferret out the truth and report even-handedly. This sleepy little policy statement wouldn’t have bothered anyone (many major news outlets have issued similar boilerplate), except that New York Magazine found a clever video that made it appear as if all the Sinclair anchors were drones intoning the editorial at the same moment in time, like zombies mind-controlled by some Lex Luther cabal. The implication was clear: the rest of us are next! Why, if Sinclair has its way, soon we’ll all be marching to their Fascist drumbeat!

The video took Sinclair’s coordinated event, which did have a certain creepiness factor, and exaggerated it into a brilliant piece of leftist agitprop. (I thought, “Whoever put this together is the next Michael Moore.”)

A discussion of this “terrifying” “fake news” event popped up on Facebook among left-wingers, and I was invited to chime in. (The invite: “Jim Hull let’s see ya spin this” — apparently they thought I was a conservative who would defend Sinclair’s evil plans. I’m not, but I did defend Sinclair, so maybe they had good instincts…)

Here’s what I wrote:

I don’t know about Sinclair (they don’t broadcast in my neck of the woods), and maybe they use anchors to pitch conservative agendas, but I don’t get what all the panic is about in this particular case. The piece the anchors read sounds like a generic statement of editorial values: “The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media”  — is this somehow meant to imply that false stories only come from the Left? (because that certainly hasn’t been the case) — and “Truth is neither politically ‘left nor right’” (that seems even-handed), along with a call for critiques from listeners, in case they detect any bias. What’s specifically conservative about that? I don’t see why a left-wing station couldn’t have said the same things (and then been excoriated by a right-wing magazine).

People have begun to distrust their news sources, so maybe the stations are just trying to reassure listeners that they’re not The National Enquirer? Or maybe it’s a dog whistle for their right-wing listeners, especially in the South, but I don’t know how to detect that. (In other words, I “don’t know the secret lingo”.) 

Is it possible, instead, that NY Mag uses “Sinclair” as a dog whistle for the Left? As: “When they say something even-handed, Sinclair just wants to lure you into listening to the rest of their conservative clap-trap!” Search me.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  *sigh*

This was mainly a conversation among liberals, so I refrained from uttering the obvious: “Isn’t this Sinclair scare story itself a form of fake news?” 

Media outlets can completely clean up their acts tomorrow, but we’ll still have fake news because each of us — insofar as we’re members of one side or another in the ongoing political battles — is quite capable of taking an ordinary news report and gin it up until it seems to condemn our enemies. 

In short, we’ll twist stories into fake news in our own heads … and then blame the other side.

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Posted in: Politics