In Which Athena Assumes I Am Watching Something From The Onion, And Yet I’m Totally Not

Me: [Clicks on a YouTube video from Fox News complaining about how the White House doesn’t think it’s a real news station]

Athena (not watching but listening as she plays the Wii): Are you watching something from that fake news channel again?

Me: (pause, then) What makes you think that?

Athena: Well, just listen to them! They sound so fake. What if President Obama heard that? What would he think?

Me: I’m pretty sure he knows about it.

Athena: Hmph. (Goes back to playing the Wii)

Athena’s comments were before Obama actually came on to the video, incidentally. And no, we haven’t spent any time at all indoctrinating our daughter regarding cable news channels. I think ten years old is a little early for that sort of thing. Genuine spontaneous comment, delivered unironically and yet deeply ironic all the same. It’s fun when life is like that.

57 Comments on “In Which Athena Assumes I Am Watching Something From The Onion, And Yet I’m Totally Not”

  1. Yes, children know when something is fake. This is really a wonderful thing that we teach them to ignore as they grow up.

  2. As a Libertarian, I find Fox news to be horribly Left Wing. They are simply just not nearly as Left as the other chanels.

    It’s all a matter of perspective.

    My oldest Daughter is 8, she yells at the TV and tell it “no you’re wrong”. Yes it’s sopontanious, and a bit anoying when you are trying to watch someting.

  3. And a little child shall lead them.

    Perhaps we could pull a few neurons from Athena. With her consent, of course.

    Then we could weaponize them and turn them into an aerosol. We could pump the Athena Neuronal Aerosol out of small planes all over the south and have friendly workers put them in HVAC system at the Fox Broadcasting Headquarters.

    Or maybe make a powder and send it to Rupert Murdoch?

    Go Athena, goddess of the newswires!!

  4. On George Stephanopolous’s (Christ, who can spell his name?) show last Sunday Axelrod said they tended to view Fox News as more an entertainment source than news source, and would treat them appropriately. I would say the same thing about The Daily Show, although politically I’m more aligned with John Stewart. I do think the Obama Admin is cutting a very fine line with this, though.

  5. This is just like how Bush refused to consider The Daily show a real news program. Well… he probably never heard of it, but if he had!

  6. Also, if I was presinit, I would agree only to be interviewed by Rob Halford, or a sufficiently Metal replacement.

  7. Why did you tell her no? You WERE watching video from “that fake news channel.”

    Remember how they used to say that Subgenius was a hoax masquerading as a serious religion and Discordianism was a serious religion masquerading as a hoax? Well, The Daily Show is a news-and-commentary program masquerading as a goofy entertainment show, whereas Faux News…

  8. Xopher:

    In fact, I didn’t tell her “no.” I just asked her why she thought that.

    But more specifically, I’m not going to get into the dynamics of cable news with her at the moment; I think it would bore her, and in any event I’m content with showing her how to find news that’s not designed to grab your eyeballs first, and report factual events second.

  9. Cute? Yes. Endearing? absolutely. A thought that came from her without your influence? No. I’m sure you did not directly try to “indoctrinate” her, but children are so very observent of our behavior that we can’t help but influence. Whether we like it or not our children are reflections of ourselves; at least until they get much older.

  10. Tell Athena to google “journalistic standards” or “journalistic ethics”, if she becomes more interested.

    I’d encourage everybody to do that. Simplifies the issue a bit.

  11. John: right, right, sorry. I did actually read what you wrote, I just somehow spaced it by the time I commented.

    I wouldn’t blame someone for thinking I shave my head to make the brain farts less obvious.

  12. [in jest…] Since John says he isn’t indoctrinating Athena; maybe its the other way around, and she’s the one that has indoctrinated John. I mean, clearly, there just has to be some kind of indoctrination going on in that house. John was trying to watch Fox like any good rural midwesterner, and then he got caught and reminded that his brain was going to melt from watching all that evil hate-filled fakery. John, she hasn’t been trying to teach you a “mmm mmm mmm B.H.O.” song, has she? :)

  13. “I’m sure you did not directly try to ‘indoctrinate’ her, but children are so very observent of our behavior that we can’t help but influence.”

    Meh. I can pretty much guarantee she’s never heard me talk about Fox News one way or another; it’s really not much of a topic of conversation around the Scalzi Compound.

  14. I know what I was thinking before it got blown around by brain fartage and came out in that stinky form: what made you assume she meant The Onion’s fake news show? Maybe she recognized Faux Noise for what it is.

  15. Smart girl!

    I really can’t stand that because I’m Republican, I get associated with some of the personalities on this channel. The only program on there that I’d call newsworthy is ‘Special Report with Bret Baier’. And yet, half of that program is commentary and panel discussion. So, while the actual news reports seem solid, you’ve got a 50/50 chance of catching a commentator rather than an actual report.

    Trouble is, the whole network is afflicted by right-wing commentary. So, say I’m Joe the Plumber, and I come home after a very exhausting day, and I crack open my beer, and I want to see the news, so I flip on a channel called Fox ‘NEWS’. Logical, right? Then this guy says that my new President is a racist. And this other guy says that my new President is brainwashing the nation’s children at school. And yet a third guy says that the new health care legislation is going to haul grandpa up in front of a ‘death panel’. So, if I don’t know that these guys are ‘commentators/entertainers’, and I don’t know that I should take what they say with a block of salt, where does that leave me?

    In my view, John Stewart gets a lot more respect and credibility because they do ‘peddle the show as snake oil’. No one expects to get news out of a channel called ‘Comedy Central’. Yet, more and more, you have to watch the Daily Show to decipher Fox.

  16. Drat, I can’t find it — some months back, one of your commentors stated that Fox wasn’t taken over by the Onion because the RNC had already bought it. I would quote them and give them credit (I found it totally hilarious) but now I can’t locate the original.

    It is NOT the post on US-is-not-a-socialist-country-because-it-nationalises-the-failed-businesses. I looked.

    Sigh, Athena, so young to be so wise.

  17. Xopher:

    “what made you assume she meant The Onion’s fake news show?”

    I didn’t assume; I asked. And I know she’s seen me watch their videos before.

  18. Children are generally stupid. What do they really know that they were not taught other than breathing, sleeping, shitting and breastfeeding.

    We all influence our kids in some way, don’t we?

    I believe I’ve heard that kids are more likely to drink alcohol and smoke, for example, if they’re parents do.

    I have heard people say that they don’t want to talk to they’re children about religion, politics, etc as to not influence them one way or another. So maybe you try not to influence them, everyone else in the world is.

    They turn on the t.v. and see South Park, Bus of love, or any commercial and they are being fed.

    Friends at school, teachers who have an agenda,( God, the shit I believed that I was taught at school!) you can’t tell me they are not influenced there. Ask Athena what her teachers or friends parents are saying about Fox news, you may be surprised.

    Even at a later age apparently people can’t see that they are being doped by the above comments I see in this blog. I have watched Fox and thought to myself bla, bla, bla. Then flipped over to msn to find some news anchor reciting some poem he wrote that was apparently supposed to be funny about some anchor over at Fox. I turned the t.v. off and was better for it. They all have a lobbyist in there pocket.

    Hey, Rick York,
    Quote the bible and then talk about weaponizing? Brilliant!

    Yes that was sarcasm.

  19. There was a Doonesbury in which Joanie and Rick’s young son, Jeff, is watching some retrospective program about Nixon. Unprompted, he says “He’s lying now, isn’t he.” Joanie and Rick proudly shout “Fresh eyes!” and “A new generation weighs in!” (as best I remember it.)

  20. Evil Steve:

    “Children are generally stupid.”

    No. What they are, generally, is ignorant, which is not the same thing.

    Athena’s response to the clip upon hearing certainly did have something to my influence on her and her general upbringing; that said, the reaction was not predicated on her knowing that the clip I was listening to was Fox News. Unless someone wishes to propose that Athena knows Greta Van Susteren’s voice by heart. Which I find difficult to fathom.

  21. I can see that: MSNBC and even CNN also often seem like fake news when compared to a PBS/BBC newshour….

  22. I think Fox is the best news organization out there in the television and radio arena, excepting PBS and NPR. Listen to all three and, in my opinion, one will have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I am a conservative. Eye of the beholder and all of that.

  23. It’s not the real fake news. It’s the fake fake news which means it’s really real.

  24. @22: Anyone who thinks that children instinctively understand how to breastfeed has never raised a newborn.

    I do suspect John Scalzi has “indoctrinated” Athena, but not in the way you describe. I suspect he’s taught her about not whining and thinking for oneself, in which case she very well may view all the cable news channels as “fake news”…

  25. Speaking of Athena, I watched syfy’s (bleh) new Q&A video with Jamil Walker Smith and the end made me think of her (particularly a recent work of fiction involving alien space cats).

  26. You are correct. I was wrong to use the word stupid. Ignorant is the correct word.

    Sorry if I offended.

    I think children will generally believe what they hear without facts to support that belief if they receive that information from someone they trust or see as an authority in there life. If I tell my kids not to touch the stove because it’s hot and they could be burned, hopefully they believe me and don’t have to do the research for themselves and experience pain.

    It is quite humorous what children declare to be true sometimes simply because someone told them that “This is the way it is” or “That’s the way it works”. What’s even more interesting is the way they associate things.

    Athena was distracted playing her game. Not really paying that close attention or caring too much it sounds. One news program can sound much like another in that case. Maybe she was just looking for some playful banter with her dad. I wasn’t there.

  27. Xopher @ 11

    I just shaved my head (mostly) – but not to hide the brain farts (although I love that line).

    I did it because of the 8-10 confirmed cases of head lice in my building today.

    itching commences in 3, 2, 1…

  28. There really is something in the speech cadence of FOX news talking heads. It’s the same smug, lying arrogance Dick Cheney always radiates.

    I’d expect that, living in the Scalzi compound, Athena has a fairly sensitive BS detector. Greta VonUberstormunddrang probably set it off.

  29. And what have we learned from this, boys and girls? Ms. Athena Scalzi has no future in broadcast news — which is no bad thing.

    Unless someone wishes to propose that Athena knows Greta Van Susteren’s voice by heart. Which I find difficult to fathom.

    And hellishly disturbing if that was the case… :)

  30. Oh gosh, that woman’s voice is annoying. I might forgive her if English is not her first language, but I do not want to hear that in a news broadcast. How do people stand it?

  31. Yay! I like Rick York @3’s idea. And Zed@24, I remember that strip. (I used to read Doonesbury; when I was 6, there was a weeklong series that was nothing more than puzzle pieces–Trudeau commenting on the Iran-Contra scandal. I was very annoyed when, after a week’s worth of collecting puzzle pieces, there was a missing piece in the center. My dad gently explained to me that that was the point. The influence Doonesbury has had on my political outlook cannot be understated…)

  32. efkelley @16

    The only program on there that I’d call newsworthy is ‘Special Report with Bret Baier’.

    Actually, Fox runs news shows all day from about 9am to about 8pm when O’Reilly comes on, with the exception of What’s His Name at 5pm.

    I’m sorry, but regardless of what you think about their reporting and their commentary, they are quite obviously as much a news outlet as MSNBC. And it’s quite disturbing for the President of all people to be telling other news outlets “If you hang out with Fox, we’ll be vexed. Be good boys and girls and report news the way we want it reported.” And to be telling folks in general “You can’t believe a word Fox News says.”

    Most disturbing was when the White House attempted to exclude Fox from the interview with Kenneth Feinberg yesterday.

    To their credit, the other news organizations said no. Either we all go or none of us goes.

    The White House had to back down.

  33. I’ve tried watching fox. Most of the time what I get is people tryign hard to sensationalize any current speaking points for the conservative side of the isle. I rarely see any actual news. Glenn Beck blathering on about how the white house hasn’t called his oh-so-special hot line he set up just for them isn;t news – it’s entertainment intended to belittle the white hosue, the adminstration, and the entire democratic party and everything they claim to believe in.

    To be fair, I do see actual news items brought up and talked about in a factual fashion every now and then. But at least 80% of what I see is clearly intended to titilate, not inform. Makes it very hard to take the channel seriously at all.

    The % of infotainment vs. information seems to be higher at the other news outlets. Not actually, you know, GOOD, but higher.

    Perhaps the problem is that all news shows have become entertainment, and Fox just happens to slide a little farther down that road than most. I swaer the news took itself and it’s role as informer of the public more serisouly when I was a kid. Maybe I just didn’t notice the BS.

  34. Just checked out the Obama v. Fox thing. Not very cool. I’ll live with him sayign it’s essentially talk radio and not a real news outlet. But when they’ve been in the pool for, like, 12 years now, adn they’ve got millions of viewers who feel differently, you don’t get to throw them out of the interview room. I don’t like Fox News, I don’t like their commentators, and I think they are actively trying to throw down any liberal ideas or voices that they can. But you know, that’s what free speech is all about – you DO NOT get to try to silence free speech when you are the POTUS. Or anyone else for that matter.

    I expected and got this kind of crap from Chaney and Bush (well, by the second term I expected it, I was dumbfounded when it started). Lies, manipulation of the press to try to hide or at least taint the truth, etc…. I’m pretty disappointed with PBO and his crew over this.

    Got friends who insist that it doesn’t matter what a candidate says when they run, when they get in office, they’re almost identical in actual performance. Sadly, that seems to be proving itself out right before our eyes.

  35. It’ll be a bittersweet moment when she sees the disconnect between campaign speeches and actions. Of course, this is not aimed at just President Obama.

    And setting aside the opinion content which annoys half our country, I’m not sure how a fact check cage match would turn out with White House vs Fox News.

    Take home message–only “other people” get all their info from one scripted source, right?

  36. But you know, that’s what free speech is all about – you DO NOT get to try to silence free speech when you are the POTUS. Or anyone else for that matter.

    Did I miss the part where free speech was being infringed upon? Because maybe I missed it. I DID see the POTUS saying ‘I don’t invite guys over to the pool who keep pissing in it’, but I don’t see any move on the part of the POTUS to silence his critics or threaten them with being shutdown or demand they change their ‘reporting’.

    Unless you’re confusing ‘access’ with ‘freedom’. Last time I checked, there was no constitutional right to exclusive interviews with the president or his aides.

    I also think that FOX doesn’t really know what the word ‘war’ means.

  37. I believe the phrase “chilling effect” is frequently used in the context of first amendment rights. The POTUS is essentially saying “give me positive coverage or I’ll deny you access.”

    And what really gets me is that Obama treats MSNBC, including Oberman, as “real” journalists and allows them access. Oberman and co. are “opinion” journalists every bit as much as O’Reilly and co. Obama just happens to like Oberman’s viewpoint a heck of a lot more than O’Reilly’s, hence MSNBC is a “real” news organization and Fox is not.

    Anyone who approves of Obama’s position on this issue is extremely short sighted.

  38. stevem @ 45: I agree that MSNBC falls into the same category as Fox. CNN seems relatively neutral, but I don’t watch them either. I think that for responsible reporting one must do as every responsible American does: watch BBC. ;-)

  39. I know too much about broadcast news to think of ANY of it as “real,” to be honest. More to the point, I know far too much about the people interested in getting into it.

    The percentage of dedicated, interested people who are NOT on the technical side approaches zero. The only camera-ready person I ever met in the whole journalism department who was not a procrastinating, lazy airhead was an immigrant from Dubai. English was her third language.

    No, wait, I forgot the newspaper guy. From Zimbabwe. Actually brought insightful commentary on world politics to the campus newspaper, instead of the “People are dressing up too nice to make me feel stupid” editorials. (I wish I were joking about that one.)

    The upshot? American journalism students approach the news as though it were commentary and entertainment. Very few of them have even heard of “primary source” or how to track one down. Almost every television news show is nothing of the kind, and I’ve seen nothing to indicate otherwise.

    Oh, and I work Sundays at a news radio station. The reporter does his best to get source material— mostly quotes from the police department. It’s about as good as the news is going to get, because each story gets roughly twenty seconds of air time, unless the hills catch on fire again. But really, twenty seconds? That’s soundbites, not stories.

  40. I have no problem with commentary on Fox, MSNBC, PBS (yes, if exists), etc. Fox, CNN, MSNBC, etc., all have “straight” news programing and also have opinion programing. Just as every newspaper has an editorial page, so do most news networks have opinion shows. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times delivers fairly straight news stories, but each has a editorial page with a slant (WSJ conservative, NYT liberal). As do Fox, MSNBC, CNN, etc.

    I am not saying that all news stories are “straight” news, as everyone has hidden biases and prejudices which effects their thinking whether they want to admit it or not. But there appears to be an effort, of varying success, to restrain the bias/prejudice on the news side of things. That the White House has elected to overtly declare war on one news organization both calls into question it’s judgement (Why? Where is the benefit?) and underscores the administration’s own biases and prejudices. The White House will not prevail, and the end result will only fire up the conservatives and hurt Obama’s public standing with the all important independent voters.

  41. @ 42
    “But you know, that’s what free speech is all about – you DO NOT get to try to silence free speech when you are the POTUS.”

    I wouldn’t categorize throwing them out of the pool as infringement on speech. Being one of the first reporters to hear a press conference is a privilege not a right. Fox right now says whatever they want about a press conference or speech, and if they were thrown out of the pool they would continue to be able to do so. The only difference would be that if they were thrown out of the pool they would have to either pay another news outlet for this privileged information, or wait for it to be aired before they themselves could report it.

    Talk radio is an adequate label for their type of infotainment, a comparison to British tabloids probably would be close to the mark as well. But on top of sensationalizing everything they also have a very strict political agenda that they are warping the facts to push, and I think it’s good that Athena can detect the cues that should be tipping more people off to that.

    Man, and to think I used to enjoy watching Fox…

  42. pizzangst @43, does the White House pretend to be a “fair and balanced” news channel? Does anybody claim to get all their information from White House press releases?

    Concerns that the White House may be favoring news stations that don’t unduly rag on Obama? Sure. Tantrums that this is Silencing Of Free Speech and that Fox News is OK because the White House puts out spin? Pull the other one.

  43. Jon Marcus

    Which you learned from Fox News, and astonishingly enough turned out to be inaccurate:

    Actually, I got it from CBS News

    So TalkingPointsMemo did some “digging” by calling the WhiteHouse?

    Couldn’t be bothered to interview the principles?

    Couldn’t find one network bureau chief to go on the record and deny that they stood in solidarity with Fox; that there was no issue? Why was the “network bureau chief” interviewed by TPM not identified?

    That’s what passes for “digging”?

  44. Just for my edification, which shows on MSNBC are actual news? I stick Olberman and Maddow in the same category as Hannity and O’Reilly. I do think it’s a shame, that FOX ratings are so completely dominant over any other news channels, but hey, they sell it better to a wider audience that is getting more receptive to right wing ideology every single day.

    I sincerely hope that General Electric continues to pump good money after bad, to keep MSNBC on the air. I would also be receptive to a left wing talk radio show, but I fear that it too, would be a money-sucking hole in sponsors’ pocketbooks.

  45. Though I’ve seen it only rarely while channel surfing, MSNBC’s The Big Picture seems more or less a newscast.

  46. Forgot to reference my source, when I claimed FOX News was so totally crushing all the other actual news channels.


  47. From Fox News’ wikipedia site:

    “In September 2009, the Pew Research Center published a report on public views toward various national news organizations. This report indicated that 72% of Republican Fox viewers rated the network as “favorable”, and 43% of Democrat viewers and 55% of all viewers share this opinion. However, Fox had the highest unfavorable rating of all national outlets studied at 25 percent of all viewers. The report goes on to say that “partisan differences in views of Fox News have increased substantially since 2007”.

    The Republican percentages are easy to understand. What will hurt President Obama is the 43% of Democractic viewers that have a favorable impression of Fox. I suspect that they fall into the Blue Dog/conservative Democrat category and if they become disenchanted with the administration, the Democrats will be smashed come 2010’s election.

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