Saturday, October 28, 2006

Stop This BS

I'm very weary of the media machine's obsession with Michael J. Fox vs. Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh could have easily disagreed with Fox's point of view and addressed that. Instead, he chose to mock someone with Parkinson's Disease and accuse Fox of either being off his meds or acting. In other words, Limbaugh did not attack the message. He attacked the messenger. And Limbaugh has received some deserved grief for it. But this should not continue to be a story of any importance. And that it is demonstrates what's clearly wrong with television news operations.

Exhibit A: Washington Week (PBS) which this week included a segment on "attack ads" run during the midterm election cycle. Right up top they include the ad Michael J. Fox did for Claire McCaskill, which Washington Week labelled an attack ad. Here's digby:

Did you see the Fox ad as an attack ad? Did he disparage Talent's character or imply that he was a bad person? Was he appealing to peoples baser nature by playing to their prejudices? Or, as the nation's premiere advocate for Parkinson's disease, did he just ask people to vote for Claire McCaskill because she supported stem cell research and Talent didn't --- a straighforward, endorsement based upon a single issue. I don't see any attack in it at all.

Do people now view all political ads as "attack ads?" Or is it merely that some people
...think it's hitting below the belt for a disabled person to appear in an advertisement --- just as Rush does. They obviously think it's manipulative and wrong to show the actual results of an illness for which you are advocating. After all, somebody might be having dinner and they don't want to have to look at that icky sick stuff that makes them feel all guilty and uncomfortable. Therefore, tt's an attack if someone endorses a particular candidate and he isn't "normal."

Damn it, people, disagree with Fox's opinion. Disagree with his reasons for voting for McCaskill. Disagree with his views on stem cell research. But stop saying he attacked Jim Talent.

And more importantly, stop accusing Fox of "faking" his symptoms.

Exhibit B: Katie Couric's interview with Fox (CBS). Strannix says Couric did a good job.
If you've not had to opportunity to see it, you should check out the excellent (yes, believe it or not, she did a good job) interview that Michael J. Fox did with Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News last night. Seeing him in this condition, for a hell of a lot longer than 30 seconds, easily puts lie to previous statements by Rush Limbaugh (not that that is a difficult feat, mind you).

The portion aired on CBS was good. But if you watch the whole interview you will see Couric push Fox over and over again on "the burning question" of whether he manipulated his medication and ask him whether he should have re-scheduled the shoot when his symptoms were manifested as they were. The whole time she's sitting directly across from him watching him shake like crazy. "Gee. Michael, are you sure you're not faking?"

Do you think the news professionals at CBS ever thought about interviewing a medical expert to determine if there was any basis to Limbaugh's original claim, that Fox was manipulating his symptoms? Someone like William J. Weiner M.D., professor and chairman of the department of neurology and director of the Parkinson's clinic at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
What you are seeing on the video is side effects of the medication. He has to take that medication to sit there and talk to you like that. … He’s not over-dramatizing. … [Limbaugh] is revealing his ignorance of Parkinson’s disease, because people with Parkinson’s don’t look like that at all when they’re not taking their medication. They look stiff, and frozen, and don’t move at all. … People with Parkinson’s, when they’ve had the disease for awhile, are in this bind, where if they don’t take any medication, they can be stiff and hardly able to talk. And if they do take their medication, so they can talk, they get all of this movement, like what you see in the ad.

News professionals use to believe in fact-checking. Anymore, not so much.

Michael J. Fox showed himself to be an articulate and courageous guy, and a class act. He might have asked Couric, if Bush and the Republicans were suppressing research into a cure for colon cancer, would her campaigns to enlighten the public about the disease be manipulative? Would it be fair to say, then, that she was exaggerating the ravages of the disease to score points? But he didn't. I admire him for that.

To me the very worst of this interview was when Couric said she contacted Limbaugh "because I wanted to be fair to his point of view...." She feels the need to be fair to the man who revealed complete ignorance about the role of medications for someone with Parkinson's? Why? And why not show fairness to Fox by not continually asking if he's faking his symptoms?

In fact, why not just let go of the non-story? Used to be highly paid TV anchors pushed senior government officials over and over again on the burning qustions. For Bush and his appointees, it's one quick diffident inquiry, then instant acceptance of whatever answer they give the first time.

If anyone truly doubts Fox was NOT acting, check out this interview from Good Morning America, which aired in July.

But please, stop the BS about Fox manipulating his symptoms to attack Jim Talent. It simply isn't true and it is beneath you to believe so.