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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Don’t Argue with Fox “News” Fans

Many of you probably saw the Chicago Fox News opinion piece (which for some bizarre reason they and others call a “news” story) a couple of weeks ago asking if public libraries were necessary or a “waste of tax money.” This was followed by a long, well reasoned reply by the Commissioner of the Chicago Public Library.

The reply was completely unnecessary, and I think the Commissioner should have just kept quiet. Why? Several reasons.

First, people who read the Fox “News” are incapable of reasoning, much like the average reader of the Daily Worker. People go to Fox “News” for the same reasons people go to church or union meetings–to have their beliefs reassured, not tested.

Trying to argue with the average Fox “News” devotee is like trying to argue with Jehovah’s Witnesses when they come a-knocking on your door.  They have a script and they stick to it. Their silence while you speak is no indication of comprehension; they’re just waiting for you to shut up so they can start prattling again about whatever it is they’re obsessed with this week.

If nothing else, the opinion piece alone should confirm this, because only an moronic ideologue could take it at all seriously. Every sentence in the article seems both forced and pointless. Take the opening:

They eat up millions of your hard earned tax dollars. It’s money that could be used to keep your child’s school running. So with the internet [sic] and e-books, do we really need millions for libraries?

I suppose this is supposed to be provocative, but it’s really just kind of dumb.  Obviously no one at Fox “News” cares about your “hard earned tax dollars,” nor do they care about your public schools.  Fox “News” fans are absolutely against all government programs until they need them personally, and I doubt many of them are heavy library users or readers, especially if we don’t count Civil War history books.

This happy insular belief is just reaffirmed in the last sentence, as if “the internet [sic] and e-books” are equivalent to libraries at all. Obviously this could only be believed by people who don’t use libraries. Honestly written, the sentence would go, “Since I have [internet] access, have rather shallow information needs, and purchase the three romance novels I read every year for my Kindle, do I really need libraries?” Obviously the answer is, no.

The second paragraph barely makes sense.

Libraries are quiet havens for the community. They take us to other worlds. They even make us laugh. But should these institutions — that date back to 1900 B.C. — be on the way out?

First of all, public libraries don’t date back to 1900 BC. In America, they date back to 1848 with the founding of the Boston Public Library. The Fox writer for some weird reason seems to believe that public libraries are the only libraries there are, as if the University of Chicago library is “on the way out.”

But the dumbest part is that the question itself–whether libraries should “be on the way out”–is never answered one way or the other, nor is any argument or evidence given to support the conclusion the writer clearly favors. That libraries cost money is evidence of nothing. Everything costs money. Even the incorrectly low usage figures the writer gives us would indicate that the library is pretty busy.

The funniest part is the social scientific experiment the clever folks at Fox “News”  undertook at the Harold Washington Library.

So we decided to check it out. We used an undercover camera to see how many people used the library and what were they doing.

In an hour, we counted about 300 visitors. Most of them were using the free internet [sic]. The bookshelves? Not so much.

This is the sort of rigorous research I’d expect in a junior high social studies essay.  I think the “not so much” is supposed to provide the proof that libraries are unnecessary, but it’s hard to say. What I can say with complete assurance that such an experiment really tells us nothing at all useful for making any decisions about the library, its use, or its usefulness. All this really tells us is that the public library mission to support lifelong learning has obviously failed with great swaths of the population.

We can take many lessons from this article.  If this is what passes for “news” for Fox “News” writers and fans, then we know that they hate public services, that they’re not very bright, and that they can’t make or understand an argument about anything. However, we knew this already. These are the sorts of people who get their scientific opinions from talk radio, after all.

While it’s good to know what sort of benighted folk are hostile to libraries, it’s really quite pointless to respond to them. The library commissioner made the mistake of believing that people reading Fox “News” actually care about reason or evidence, when we know from the initial article itself if nothing else that they don’t.

The best thing to do is to treat such yahoos as we would any group of radicals. Ignore them and let them babble on until they start saying things so stupid even stupid people get tired of listening to them. It’s worked so far with fans of the Daily Worker, and it can work with fans of Fox “News” as well.

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Comments

  1. tjw says:

    I guess somebody should point out the obvious by saying that this was not a “Fox News” piece. This was a “Fox Chicago” piece. It just so happens that the local Fox station uses the Fox News logos. In other words, this is just your standard local news reporter doing a story for the website. In fact, looking at this article (http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/towerticker/2009/11/anna-davlantes-lands-at-wfld.html) she actually spent the last nine years at Chicago’s NBC station. Had she written this article for NBC Chicago instead of Fox Chicago, would it have been worthy of staining all of CNBC or MSNBC? I would hope not. Whatever argument you want to make about Fox News (and there’s not actually an argument here, just tacit acceptance that Fox News viewers “are incapable of reasoning”), this particular article has no business being a part of that argument.

  2. Wayne says:

    I share the Annoyed Librarian’s annoyance. It’s always tempting to just ignore Fox News, because the only other response is incredulous apoplexy. Like: you said what?!

    A few months ago Jon Stewart (communist) was critiquing Glenn Beck’s (protector of American liberty) arguments. I forget exactly what Beck was on about, but one detail was his mentioning that American citizens didn’t need government-funded programs, and Beck had done research to prove it at the public library (a government-funded program).

    Sigh.

  3. Real Librarian says:

    The AL is fair and balanced.

  4. Liz the Librarian says:

    I <3 you, AL.

  5. Michelle says:

    FoxNews talking head Glenn Beck is still encouraging his viewers to go to the library. Which means he’s a communist. Obviously.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/23/stewart-to-glenn-beck-you_n_472826.html

  6. Ada says:

    I don’t think Commissioner’s response was unnecessary.

    First, you cast a wide net and certainly not everyone who read the piece is incapable of reasoning. Had the Commissioner not responded, how many of these people had no other viewpoint to compare the piece with?

    Second, Jehovah’s Witnesses coming to our doors is a different matter. They’re coming to us and talking to us, and debating may very well be futile. Fox didn’t come to our doors individually. They put out an opinion to the public, which gets back to my first point.

    And lastly, to keep quiet just because you believe it a waste of time…well…why did *you* bother to respond? Do you think that your readers need persuading? Are you preaching to the choir?
    Am I wasting my time responding to this blog post?

  7. Ada says:

    I should have said watched the piece.
    Also the piece did present opposing viewpoints, so the Commissioner’s detailed response wasn’t the only one that the viewers were exposed to.

    Just trying to be accurate…

  8. Chas says:

    I’m not sure why people bother to get their knickers in a knot over *anything* reported by the news media. Long ago the notion of just reporting the news died out in favor of making the news. For what it’s worth, that applies to both the conservative and liberal media. Mudslinging, character assassination, etc. are the rules of the day, not even balanced reporting. After all, it’s about advertising dollars and controlling the perception of the populace, not even balanced reporting.

    I cancelled my cable recently. Why? 100+ channels of nothing resembling intelligent programming, just endless hours of (sur)reality programming. WIth regards to web sites and the “news” they report, ask yourself what the purpose of the stories are. You’ll find that it’s much the same of what’s on the nightly news, i.e., provocative stories designed to attract viewers for ratings with perhaps a small piece of news embedded somewhere in the journalist’s spin and personal opinion.

    But your mileage may vary…

  9. Real Librarian says:

    You canceled your cable, Chas?

    Good for you!!!

    I am on the verge of giving up cable and going commando. My in-laws are aghast that I don’t even have an HDTV!

    It comes down to the point that the delivery system and viewing system have far outpaced the content. I need to have fiber-optic speed to my house and have it displayed on a $5000 plasma tv that I can hang on the wall? What? so I can watch Faux Newz to have Steve Doucy appear to be in my living room?

    All so I can watch Big Brother’s Bachelorette’s Midget Cousin’s Triplet’s Wedding and Ultimate Celebrity Makeover? Or some 22 year old millionaire put a ball into a peach basket or hit a Spaldeen with a broom handle?

    Call me when the revolution gets here.

  10. Spekkio says:

    It may be worth noting that, after this Chicago story got traction (I found out about it via Boing Boing) people found that a lot of Fox-affiliated local news stations did similar stories around the same time. It seems an odd coincidence….

    As for the issues with the news media, it’s been my observation that the problem is a lack of civility, particularly on the American Right (i.e. Fox News). If you’re a liberal or progressive, why would you go on a channel that has a history of abusing your ideological kin? Conservatives rarely show up on MSNBC, either. I admit I may be biased here, but I think it’s because they don’t like answering hard questions, they don’t like being challenged, and they can’t behave themselves. Case in point – on several occasions Rachel Maddow has tried to have conversations with people on the Right, but they start to freak out once Dr. Maddow starts asking hard questions – interrupting her, trying to shout her down, etc. (She doesn’t put up with it, but she doesn’t sink to their level, either.)

    The best interviewer out there might be Jon Stewart…he has a real knack for asking hard questions without things getting ugly.

  11. Real Librarian says:

    When Jon Stewart is being a smart-ass, he asks good questions.

    He has the makings of a good interviewer, he just has to listen to the answers and not be so busy making jokes.

  12. Spekkio says:

    @Real Librarian: Have you watched the extended interviews he’s done? When he really gets into it with someone, they post the whole thing (unedited) on their website. It’s well worth watching – because he does listen and they do have a good back-and-forth. And yes, there are jokes – but I think that A. it’s his nature, B. it’s part of the show, and C. I think it helps keeps things from getting too heated.

  13. Real Librarian says:

    I guess I better get the internet then.

  14. Ian says:

    Credible sources go along way, but fewer people are basing arguments on them nowadays with the plethora of half-@$$ed sources available (many of which include flashing lights pictures and videos!)

    I think the underlying issue is that people are too willing to accept information at face value instead of considering where that info comes from. I can say that libraries are on the way out and why I believe that to be so, but just as the OP says, it’s an opinion unsupported by facts b/c I’m no expert and I’ve done no credible research (say.. at a library)

  15. Real Librarian says:

    Years ago, you knew that if it was in print, it was credible.

    That is why we fought the Spanish-American war.

  16. Really annoyed says:

    Fox News Chicago may be a local affiliate, but judging by their “news” stories, they get direction from Fox “News.”

    This is the same local station that “exposed” the police for towing the cars of Hispanics!!!! Except that they were actually only towing the cars of people who were not supposed to be behind the wheel (drunk, suspended DL or revoked DL). The actual figures (reported by Fox “News” as well as others) indicated Hispanics were in no way being targeted by the police. However, due to the fact that a large number of Hispanics in the Chicago area are driving on suspended or revoked (or no) license, their cars made up 48% of the tows.

    Most thinking folks in the Chicago area know that Fox “News” Chicago is not the best place to get your information. I was glad to see Mary Dempsey reply to their dumb piece, but judging by the outrage expressed in the comments on the original story, it was probably unnecessary.

  17. Mr. Kat says:

    AL, the problem here is that they’re pulling up the same information librarians have been fighting with without Fox news. You’re doing a pretty good job of dressing the messenger up as a dunce and dismissing the dunce and anything the dunce has to say.

    How much evidence does it take to prove a point? the well educated would say you have to test it again and again and again, with hundreds of thousands of poll results and millions of observations. Common people would say that it takes only a couple – fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

    There seems to be a lot more common people than there are educated people…and they aren’t living any worse…yet they aren’t spending all their time splitting hairs – they moved on a long time ago.

    Is it really any surprise that the majority of people going to many libraries today are going for the free internet?

  18. I Like Books says:

    A few random tweets on this entry (I’m not counting characters because I don’t give a crap):

    I think a few things are lost on those watching activity in the stacks. For one, you can get a book and leave, but to use a computer you have to stay there. For another, books take a relatively long time to finish compared with a video or a CD. Especially some of those non-fiction books about current events, which I hope some of those FOX News viewers are reading.

    For some time I’ve wondered about the real impact of libraries. Political scientists have known for decades that a relatively small number of people really follow politically charged issues. But then they discuss them with friends and family and coworkers, and so act as a source of information and a lobby. So their influence goes farther than the single vote that they cast. I wonder, analogously, if library users act as a resource, extending the library’s influence beyond just those users that borrow books (and probably overlapping with the political resources).

    E-books still cost money, you still can’t buy every book in electronic form, a small fraction of the population has an electronic book reader, and the internet still doesn’t have everything. But I suppose that doesn’t matter if your needs are met by Wikipedia and the New York Times Best Seller List. But as e-books become available, LIBRARIES are beginning to make them available. For instance, the Hennepin County Library (in Minnesota) will have e-books available for devices that are compatible with the relevant digital copyright protection technology, with one purchased title being used by one user at a time, like the physical collection.

    The AL isn’t exactly a hippie tree hugger. If the AL is criticizing FOX News, what does that say?

  19. Margie says:

    I was trying to find a Library Media Specialist’s blog worth following when I came upon your Annoyed Librarian blog. I should have known by the name you chose that you were going to be one of those negative, self-righteous complainers and this posting confirmed it.
    What kind of ignorant person casts all of the people who watch Fox News in such a wide, ridiculously prejudicial net? Too many people in the library media field assume all library media specialists are leftist-liberals like them.
    Do you seriously think that Fox news is the only biased news agency out there? They all are! Every single one of them has an agenda. But then I guess as a DEVOUT LIBERAL you’ve been brainwashed to believe that The Washington Post and NPR (perhaps Keith Olbermann?) tell the REAL TRUTH!
    Also, when calling people not very bright, it’s best to check your own diatribe for mistakes: “an moronic” being one example. Finally you should focus your attack on the topic itself rather than tearing apart the person with whom you have a disagreement.
    Just a few suggestions from someone who will never read you again.