Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fox News President Roger Ailes's Advice to News Anchors

Fox News President Roger Ailes's had this advice to give to his news anchors:

I told all of our guys to shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don't have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that. (source)

Now, this advice is rather interesting. First, Fox News anchors might only refer to the day cycle of "news" and not include the opinion shows. On this, it is not clear.

Next, Fox News anchors would need to know what an argument is. An argument is a series of propositions one of which is the conclusion and others being reasons that lend support to the overall conclusion. As my philosophy students know, there are many types of arguments that tend to either be bad or good. Bad arguments involve a whole bunch of fallacious reasoning, the relation between the reasons and the conclusion might not be that "tight", the conclusion might overstate its case,  etc. Good arguments avoid logical forms that lend to bad inference-making, avoid fallacies and in general attempt to avoid transgressing the norms of reasoning.

Unfortunately, delivering the news is never simply as rational as exchanging arguments on a philosophical topic. Even the daily news cycle of Fox News is filled with implicit normative assessments of the news that favor free-enterprise choices, and often pretends that all they do is simple information-giving without being honest about their biases. Consider the following video:

Look at the choice of words between "government-run health care" rather than "public option." The choice of words and labels is one way to commit a strawman when presenting information.

Now, I could go on. Yet, the spectacle of cable news networks will constantly inspire me to teach Intro to Logic to my students and what fallacious reasoning looks like. :)

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