A Philosopher's Blog

Fox News & Consistency

Posted in Ethics, Politics, Reasoning/Logic by Michael LaBossiere on January 23, 2009

During the Clinton administration, the folks at Fox News were generally rather critical of executive privilege. During George W. Bush’s years in office, the folks at Fox were staunch supporters of executive privilege. This serious inconsistency was mocked on the Daily Show. Now that Obama is in office, it seems likely that the folks at Fox will be returning to their Clinton era view of executive privilege. No doubt, this sort of inconsistency will extend beyond their comments on executive privilege.

Of course, this sort of behavior is hardly surprising. When it comes to matters of politics, ethics and so forth, people tend to subscribe to two basic principles: “what I like is good” and “what I dislike is bad”. Naturally, most people (including those at Fox) do not state these principles openly. Rather, they conceal them behind the facade of “fake” principles. For example, the fine folks at Fox are not going to say “we don’t like what Obama is doing, so he is wrong.” Rather, they will say something such as “Obama is making an illegitimate use of executive privilege.” Rather than engage in what seems to be deceit (and perhaps self-deceit) the folks at Fox should just be honest and express their political leanings without any such facade. Such deceit would seem unethical and, if they sincerely believe they are “fair and balanced”, they need to come to grips with what seems to be rationalizations on their part. This would certainly help them be better critical thinkers.

Lest I myself seem guilty of being inconsistent, it must be noted that people with liberal leanings do the same sort of thing. For example, someone might have been very critical of Bush’s methods but quite willing to excuse Obama if he to employ those same methods. Being inconsistent is, obviously enough, truly bipartisan.

Naturally, people might claim that there are relevant differences between Bush and Obama and that these would justify a diffence in assessing them. This is quite reasonable-provided that a relevant difference is presented. If someone praises Obama and criticizes Bush for the same sort of actions simply because of her likes and dislikes, then she is not using a relevant difference to justify her assessment. If, in contrast, she showed that Bush’s actions had terrible consequences and Obama’s actions help America, then that would be a relevant difference.

It will be interesting to watch Fox News over the next four years.