Fox News, Business Insider, and The Lonely Journey of a News Minutiae Lie Metastasizing
So, at this point, people hating Fox News and what it stands for is kind of a given. Which is why I don’t, really. It’s not that I enjoy it, or watch it, or regard them as anything other than part of a much more systemic problem. It’s that any sentient human with a brain can fairly despise them. So why bother? Fox News has generally represented a news-oriented tinnitus for those who veer towards it; occasionally they still do things impressively craven, but other than that, I just can’t afford to give them the time of day.
And after this weekend, I still don’t truly despise Fox News, because again—whatever—expending the energy on such a pedestrian object of hatred seems like a waste, if you’re going to really hate something. But I did realize the extent to which they proliferate bullshit, and how quickly that spreads when people who alchemize the base compound of bullshit into more bullshit—enter, in this instance, Business Insider—join in on the fun.
Fox News and Gawker are having a pissing match. Nothing unusual, but it gets my attention (hello, Self-Google Alert, sigh) when Fox posts a story about Gawker’s traffic dropping (which manifested today in John Cook's Bill O'Reilly Is Like Every Other Sociopathic American Man story, which I greatly enjoyed). The Fox News website post is called Gawker and 7 Other Formerly Popular Sites That Are Dead or Dying. Which is ridiculous, and stupid, which you can tell from the headline, or as mentioned before, the source. But then they come at me:
Foster Kamer, a former Gawker writer who now works for the Village Voice, shared some insight on his former gig with New Yorker writer Ben McGrath for a 2010 article: “But you’re scooping the muck from the sewer and holding it up in your hand and saying, ‘Look at this. Smell this.’ ”
If you’re a media writer and you’re covering this story (as many media writers did), you could take apart the Fox News post in a number of ways, which would best be accomplished simply by looking at their we-got-our-answer-from-the-back-of-the-book math, which Jeff Bercovici did. But as for that paragraph up there?
1. Fact-Check: I haven’t been at the Village Voice since December, 2010.
2. Context Lie: Ask anybody who knows me, and they’ll tell you I loved that job and took an enormous amount of pride in doing it and on rare occasions, doing it well. But Fox News can’t do that. They can just pull the quote from The New Yorker article and call it a day, which they did. And here it’s worth mentioning that anybody upset about anything written about them more often than not complains that something they said was taken out of context. Most of the time they’re wrong. Whether or not I’m wrong here, you can decide, because the sentence that came before that was:
“Picking on 4Chan was genius,” Foster Kamer, a former Gawker writer who now works for the Village Voice, told me. “But you’re scooping the muck from the sewer and holding it up in your hand and saying, ‘Look at this. Smell this.’ ”
Ben McGrath contextualized a short quote correctly, because there are eight entire paragraphs preceding that line about 4Chan. I wasn’t talking about Gawker on the whole, but Gawker when it goes after stories or people smaller than itself; it certainly wasn’t a slight on them or Adrian so much as how I felt about that particular endeavor. But, again, whatever. It’s Fox News, and John, Adrian, Nick and those guys all know how I feel (Fox News is perfectly within Gawker’s wheelhouse and I’m always happy to watch John drop the hammer in driving after them).
But the more offensive post about this actually managed to come from Business Insider, a model I used to expend a fair amount of daily bilious hatred reserves on. I’ve seen them blow out a story I worked on to absurd proportions (anyone can write an incorrect headline), basically steal from other writers here and elsewhere under the guise of aggregation, and drum up pageviews in ways that make Media Power Singles Lists read comparably to the nuance of Beloved.
So when I actually saw that Business Insider aggregated the Fox post (1) without taking note of any of the errors while (2) taking the time to remove the offending passage, and not even (3) noting my quote as from The New Yorker‘s piece or even link to it, which Fox News actually did? Let me put it another way: When Fox News’ incorrect article makes you—the person aggregating it—look even more irresponsible, that’s pretty poor form.
It looked like this:
“This popular gossip site’s traffic has dropped 75 percent this year, according to Compete, and has wallowed in its own bad press over the years,” Fox writes. “Foster Kamer, a former Gawker writer, shared some insight on his former gig…
[INSERT ATTRIBUTION TO THE NEW YORKER HERE]
[INSERT "PICKING ON 4CHAN WAS GENIUS, BUT” LINE HERE.]
’You’re scooping the muck from the sewer and holding it up in your hand and saying, ‘Look at this. Smell this.’”
The appearance here is that I gave Fox News the quote. Not only did Business Insider quote Fox News getting something wrong, but by substituting in an ellipses and removing a hyperlink, they somehow found a way to make it even more wrong.
The problem is that I sometimes like Business Insider’s stuff, and I occasionally find myself agreeing with Henry Blodget, especially as of late, watching him being attacked by Bank of America. And I guess, in some way, it’s especially egregious because I consider Business Insider as part of the same economy of sites that myself and a lot of my colleagues work in, or did for a while. They have “scaled” beyond recognizable form, and it looks as if nuance is something that needed to die in the transition. As evidenced by so many of their contemporaries—like, of course, Gawker, and John Cook’s reporting that started all of this shit—that doesn’t have to be the case.
As for that ridiculous Fox News story, that John Brandon clown who wrote it had his thesis penned before he even started making calls on this thing. As previously noted: some things just aren’t even remotely worth hating.
UPDATE: Business Insider appended their post…
Update: An earlier version of this story included a quote from former Gawker writer Foster Kamer. Foster says the quote was taken out of context. It wasn’t crucial to this story so we removed it.
Not exactly an admission of error, but whatever, the intention’s better than nothing. Besides, it’s way more than Fox would ever do.