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.

    • 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…

      • 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”.

    • 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.

    • Have one device not iOS upgraded – it can connect, and one device that has just been iOS upgraded and is unble to maintain a connection. Are you also on iOS and have you recently updated?

  9. I’ve been unable to log into my game for almost 24 hours now, I keep getting the ‘cannot connect to server’ message. I’ve been playing since october and this has never happened to me! should I be worried i’m going to lose donuts/ miss the next event or is this a usual occurrence? D:
    I’m starting to get the tappin’ withdrawls lol ):

  10. Excellent post! Very good to see someone call it like it is without getting drawn into partisanship. Too bad we can’t get everyone to see behind the entertainment news to come together on the real issues that unite us.

    • Thanks… yes…it is very difficult to be “in the business,” and feel good about it. It’s why I’m pulling the plug on the broadcast services side of my company. Getting back to local service, and working outside the box.

  11. cant log into game ……

  12. Pretty good post Patric. I’d just like to point out that it does matter if citizens are actually reading about politics (local or otherwise), and if they have passed or even remember High School civics, and understand what is different about American government than others like the UK, Australia, Japan, ect… Some people just don’t care to know anything besides what is front and center in their lives. I assume that’s why low information voters who instead of relying on facts, just go with their gut feelings, or their common sense understanding of politics that they actively try to avoid reading about. I’m a big reader but I also enjoy reading, some people don’t find reading the news relaxing or even worth the time to think about. I get that politics for most people is very frustrating. That’s fine. But citizen engagement is pretty important. That’s why I take such issue with whataboutism because there are times where there is a clear “right” side. Fair and balanced is not fair and balanced when it can be abused, for example, such as making all political parties seem the same… when they are not. To be honest I really enjoyed Birch’s quest line, it even made me laugh and smile and I found the dialogue to be very clever. But those are my two cents.

    • You make some good points…but for me, the power of the country is in the “middle.” There are Far Right, and Far Left..the Far Right folks are just better at the broadcasting part…the far left try, but don’t have the unified block that the far right has (remember Air America?).

      The middle…which also has a ton of uncommitted/independent voters, is where we should ALL be. Voting for a party blindly is extremely dangerous…and as both parties have found out, allowing their party leaders to be in control of the primaries is about as un-democratic as you can get.

      This last election cycle may be the worst in recent history, due in large part to the fact that the primary elections start too early…there are too many debates…and the DNC and the RNC are both clearly corrupt.

      My solution for ALL of it? Term limits for ALL offices of a max of 8 years…and ELIMINATE LOBBYING. But start with repealing the act that allowed for Super-Pace (501C-4) to actually buy the election process. Big money out of politics is the only salvation for the future.

      • Patric, John and Charles: I agree with you all! But I do differ on some minor points, besides that, well done everyone! Thank you. 🙂 For me, I am also a centrist. Now, it seems that like a pendulem that swings, that center could be center left or center right…I do believe that if citizens are engaged, and public office holders serve to the best of their ability, that the system will correct itself. That is, our democracy is directed by the will of the people, under the best of circumstances. I’m a big fan of the two party system for that reason. Each presidential cycle is a question to ask each citizen, should we go further or should we stop and reflect? Try the other side, is what I mean. I think when it’s all said and done, current events will be a unique point in history. We really do need term limits for everyone who holds an office, we definately should get lobbying reduced or vastly reformed, get money out of politics as much as possible! I think even the founders never expected that this country would be the envy of the world, 250+ years later, and that’s why I believe the constitution is a living document. It wasn’t created to be perfect, but darn if it doesn’t hold up well despite its age! So from time to time, things (like amendments) should change…hehe I guess that’s all I’ll say about that. Thanks for the very level headed discussion everyone. Namaste!

        • You cannot money out of politics because money is the majority of politics today.

          The government was set up to protect the people: defense to defend against foreigner invaders, the house to protect the rights of people, the senate to protect the rights of states (small against big), the courts to protect people from each others and the government, the bill of rights to protect the rights of the people against the people running the government. But it didn’t include an income tax. The people who ran the government figured out they could take from some to bribe others to keep the ruling powers in power. The press (the fourth estate) have a lot power. The only way in today’s environment to overcome the power of the press is the ability to buy ads (television, print, etc) to get your point across.

          The only true way to get money out of politics is to create a “House of Finance” where those who pay the taxes have a right to veto the spending/transfer of money. In true democratic fashion it could be set up so that each dollar in tax or donation to the government would give the taxpayer a vote in the House of Finance. (Someone paying $1K, would get 1000 votes – someone paying $1M would get
          1 million votes.) Then they could electronically vote on any spending bill. If a majority votes against the bill, then the bill fails.

  13. A cynical post but understand where your coming from. I’m definitely lean with one “team” but yes so much of press is so one-sided and doesn’t really work to serves what’s best for country. Often what’s best for their “team”. I think talking “heads” do serve somewhat of a purpose(and yes entertainment and ratings is big part), but it’s out of control. I think best thing we can do is to just take them for what they are, and yearn to work together as one country… Not one opposing team(one way or other). Go USA!

    • I’d eliminate the two party system altogether. Not sure if I’d call myself a cynic… but certainly a pragmatic realist. I agree…it’s too late to place mega-billion dollar “news” companies in complete check. But it is equally clear that social media (which is clearly hackable), and other forms of “free speech,” need a ton of overview.

  14. I remember when the media was controlled by one side. Usually it was the New York Times whose stories were repeated by CBS, NBC and ABC. If you did have an opposing view it was some nut choosen to make the other side look bad. Now at least, if you WANT to find an opposing view you can find it. The problem is that too many people do not want to investigate the “other” side.

    • Agreed…kinda. Actually, in the old days, it wasn’t controlled by one side, but competing news agencies who also worked together in many cases to find out the truth (like congress used to be). All you have to do is go back to the days of Watergate and the Pentagon Papers to find out when the shackles started coming off.

      Ironically…Reagan’s repeal of the Fairness Doctrine came at a time when both of those had just happened. As an actor (and former head of the screen actor’s guild, with spurious connections to the Mob), Reagan believed that opening the doors to more discussion in the media was a good thing…and that it was OK to just present one side, if you had the money to be in the forefront (which is how he got elected).

      There is no “One Side” these days…until you go to the 24-hour cable stations or talk radio. The internet has leveled the playing field…unless the electorate is too lazy to Google a source and look for an opposing opinion…which takes less time than it does to clear your KEM farm.

  15. This is crap, I was moments away from being able to get all of the discounted items that were in the store for a limited time. I hope the server comes up soon

  16. Great post, Patric, thanks!

    Hi, Geoffy, lol! And hi, other neighbors!
    Happy New Year! Good luck, kind wishes, & think it through.


  17. Also experiencing systems down in the central USA 🙁

  18. Who would’ve thought we’d be pining for the days when the news was just plain boring news?

  19. as I’ve said before……VOTE QUIMBY.
    Great post, sir.

  20. Well said. I’m not very much in to politics however the one semi-political site that I read leans the opposite way that I normally do. I actually enjoy reading opposite view points because it challenges my beliefs and it either reaffirms my thoughts, or I can change my mind based on new ideas.

  21. Yes, the SYSTEM is down. Unlikely to be repaired from either side of the isle and only slightly less likely to be repaired from cooperation. Hope that’s not too far over the line here.

  22. Carmen (gameid5000)

    Thank you for a bit of background on “how things came to be”. As most of this happened when I was younger and not following any politics (or news for that matter…), it it helpful to some perspective.

  23. Alex - aabcampos2

    You think your political system sucks? Try to understand our Brazilian politics….

  24. The great thing about the internet, a wonderful place to share knowledge and information.
    The terrible thing about the internet, an easy place to share smut and nonsense.
    ( After all, they let me post content )

  25. What, when, the, cow, fence, fresh, politics horse, butt, showoff, light, better, never, tomorrow, of, uselessness, ahhhh!, Tired, happy

    Since we can’t talk about politics I moderated my own post above to the only words that would likely make it through.

  26. I’d like to reply but we are not supposed to talk politics.

  27. Red, seems to be going around everywhere.

  28. Is the system down? Can’t get into game

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