Friday Filler – When Fairness Stopped Being Fair – the Rise of Birch Barlow

Thank Grog It’s Firday!! 

OK. So, clearly this is a loaded topic for every Tapper, of every political persuasion. So…I’m NOT going to go into the politics of this Mini Update…at all.

We, as a nation and a culture, are way, way, way, too far down the road to put the genie back in the bottle.  From a world dominated now by cable news networks, myriad “news” outlets, and a seemingly infinite number of Internet-based “news/opinion/editorial” outlets proffering untold versions of the same stories with their own slants, the genie that was the Fairness Doctrine was uncorked, and allowed to run rampant without restrictions.

As someone who has worked in media/broadcasting and political communications for the better part of my entire adult life, I can actually remember a time BEFORE things got out of whack, and the green light was given to the Birch Barlows of the world.

How long ago was that?

If you can believe it…the “Birth of Birch” was actually fertilized in 1987…way before many of you readers were even born.

Before killing the Fairness Doctrine during the Reagan administration, all public news agencies, whether they be print, broadcast or otherwise, were tasked with presenting “Fair and Balanced” coverage of issues that affected the good of the public. This was actually coupled with the FCC’s “Equal Time Rule,” which mandated that any political candidate given time on a media outlet regulated by the FCC, had to give EQUAL TIME to the opposing candidate.

Can you even imagine this in the current political climate?  The thought of “Equal Twitter Time” alone, boggles the mind…and would cause smart-phones to implode.

The second leading factor in the proliferation of Political Blathering as a huge business, came during the Clinton administration, with the deregulation of Broadcast ownership, in 1996. This gave rise to huge conglomerate ownership of multiple Radio/TV broadcast companies, and now Newspaper ownership, that allowed Cable TV and Talk radio to emanate from a single studio, but be broadcast by satellite to thousands of outlets simultaneously. Birch was now everywhere…along with a plethora of other branches, including some that were/are downright thorny.

As I said…I am NOT going into politics in this post. And as Alissa stated, we aren’t going to allow partisan comments of any type to escape moderation.

But, I will offer my personal opinion of the de-evolution of the political system that has come about by this explosion of sources for rhetorical bloviation…

It has made us all divided…and lazy.

For the most part, people have stopped actually vetting sources, and now only look to the latest headline, Facebook expose, or salacious rumor. Facts have been replaced by “truthiness,” with the result being an electorate who votes by sheeple consensus, without taking the time to work through the actual ramifications of their actions (or lack thereof).

The amazing thing about this silly lil’ update, is that it points out the real problem with politics and the electoral process; rather than coming up with solutions, we are simply acting as “fans of our team,” right or wrong.

Birch is just an entertainer.  I have met, and interviewed the “real Birch,” and can categorically state, that he doesn’t actually believe even half of what he says on the air.  It’s just good for ratings…and he knows his audience.

And as it has turned out, some of the “Birches” from both sides of the political dial, have been toppled, because as it turns out, they are pretty awful people in real life.

That said…there are countless “Birches” and “Sons-of-Birches” that have carried on the Birch Tradition, and now occupy the bulk of the airwaves, while trying to fill 24-hour news cycles with “headlines that grab.” If you have to fill 24 hours (when the news used to be a “Evening News” and “Morning Paper” thing), you have to WORK at exploiting every angle, and blowing things out of proportion.

The result is exactly what we have coming to us, for be so lazy as to hand over our right to the truth, to people who consider “truth” to be malleable and profitable.   We are living the result of throwing away true fairness, without making politicians actually WORK toward solutions that serve the common good of ALL of us.

Good for EA/Gracie, and everyone who has the courage to make fun of both parties…and ALL of the talking heads. That is an effort I can support.

Freedom Likers?  Pfffffttttt… Real freedom comes from honest, fair, and open discussion. We all want freedom. All of us.  But, too much freedom at the expense of honesty and integrity is a bad thing.

That’s it. Peace out. Go back to tapping.

And to quote “one of the fallen,”  What say YOU???







62 responses to “Friday Filler – When Fairness Stopped Being Fair – the Rise of Birch Barlow

  1. Patric, good history lesson and tells part of how we got to here. The other part is how technological innovation (internet etc) has broken the old news model (newspaper & TV journalism). How is PBS regarded in the US? From here it seems fairly even-handed… Regards, JohnI


  2. Josephine Kick@$$

    Yep, plenty of “Sons-of-Birches” all over the place in politics. May God have mercy on their souls for their hatred & attempt at divisiveness. Too many people drinking the Kool aid 😕


  3. As I’ve mentioned before, I have recently retired from more than two decades working in network news. Like you, Patric, I also began my career during the Fairness Doctrine days. What distressed me the most, is that news networks rely mostly on a couple of news services. I found them to often be slanted. Most reporters and producers would rewrite from those services without ever bothering to do their due diligence. I would constantly be on the internet looking at the story from several different international sources to try to get all sides. I was also taught in journalism school never to give my political opinion on the air. I never did, and was proud that when I went to parties and people talked politics, they had no idea where I stood politically from my on air news reports. I hate that now anchors have become commentators. I’m glad I’m retired.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I could not agree with you more, Tippie! Our news servers show us the “organic” source of the story (usually local), as well as regional and national versions of that same story (usually an AP feed). And the difference between the three is shocking. Once they get to cable new channels and the talking head, it is even more obvious. For me…it’s almost always in the headline if you want to figure out the politics of the editor.

      I’m going to be done with broadcast services by the end of 2018, if not sooner (depending on how quickly I can extricate myself from some of the client agreements). I want to spend the rest of my life away from the clutter…

      Liked by 3 people

      • The author(s) of an article does not write the headline. This is usually done by someone else.


        • Yeah editors usually change the headline to make it more click baity even if the author does not approve. The journalist who wrote the story doesn’t get the choose the headline.


  4. Can anybody get in the Simpsons tapped out game? I don’t understand why none of the sites are addressing the issue.


  5. I just try to remember that 24hr News and The Walking Dead have equal credibility. Both are written by professional writers who have to answer to producers…who’s main concerns are how the show does in ratings, revenue generation, and owner support. Most everything on TV, in newspapers and on the internet is fiction or augmented (fictionalized, censored and/or skewed) news. Both sides are equally culpable, since all our major “news” sources on both sides are now owned by huge conglomerates with their own agenda. John Oliver did a segment a month or so ago about the takeover of most of the local news organizations (the last bastion of a free press in America) and how that is affecting their ability to present factual news…they are now provided with formats and “packaged news” that supports the owners politcal viewpoints and agendas.

    I think we are seeing the maturation of the “Mis-information Age”. There has always been some bias in the news, but it was (until recently) still seen as a negative part of our culture. Now it is not only seen as “the norm”…we seem to revel in it.

    As someone we all know, who represents our media system perfectly and yet seems to hate it, would say …“sad”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Trust me… it’s why I’m getting out of the broadcast side. Can’t stand to see out news feeds on a daily basis. And yes… the Sinclair deal is a very bad harbinger for the future.


    • Ebron, I agree with your major point, which seems to be that a lot of news outlets package the news. But I also want to stick up for journalism, which is also a check on abuse of power. Let’s take for example a news organization in a non democratic regime, where the state controls the media. (insert USA joke here) The indepdence of the free press is what helps preserve our democracy, even if you are unlikely to give it credit. It’s very easy to become cynical, it’s a very US thing. It’s like the “cool” thing to do. I am just trying to recommend to you to fight that urge to be ultra cynical, and find journalists that you respect. Watch their work and perhaps that particular journalist will earn your trust, based on their dedication to figuring out the truth. It’s definately a hard job, when sources can lie to your faces, and you have to double and tripple verify what a source told the journalist. A journalist does not just make stuff up. Also, in a news room the producer writes the script for the ancor to read, and does all the background research on the news. They figure out the news of the day, and the anchor just reads it. Hope that helps, Ebron.


  6. Great post, really informative for non-americans!


  7. Excellent post as usual Pat!! I’m sharing this with someone that does not even play Tapped Out because it’s just that good!


  8. Still down in the East Coast, 8:10am. Last able to login around noon on Friday.


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