Saturday, September 11, 2010

How Not To Help Your Credibility In A Debate

Yesterday, a good friend of mine sent a link to a video clip showing a debate between representatives of Sun TV and the international online petition group Avaaz. The clip I watched was about 15 minutes long, but I was having troubles embedding it on the site. So, this video has about 5 minutes shaved off, but still gives you a fair idea of how the debate went.



I don't know much about the Sun TV situation, and didn't hear much about its approval or Avaaz's disapproval until being sent the clip. I can say that Sun TV's executive Kory Teneycke did a pretty poor job in helping his credibility. At one point in this debate, he complained about being interrupted when answering a question, yet I am not sure if there was one time that he did not interrupt AVAAZ.org's co-founder Rick Patel. If he wasn't interrupting Patel, then he was making attacks against his character or the organization rather than properly explaining his side. He continually tried to paint AVAAZ as a strictly American organization and Patel as a pushy American tampering in Canadian business. If one checks the AVAAZ website, you can clearly see that it is an international organization that deals with issues throughout the world. As for Patel, he tried to make it clear that he is actually a Canadian, but you may not have heard that while Teneycke was talking over him. What was Kory's evidence that Patel was an American? He was in New York, because apparently, no Canadian has ever been in that city before. It isn't like people outside of the United States ever go to New York or anything like that (I hear there is nothing to do there, or very few businesses and organizations headquatered there).

If Teneycke wasn't making ad hominem attacks, then he was distorting the words being said by Patel. Patel never claimed that there was hate speech, but rather, there was 'hate-filled propaganda.' 'Hate speech' has a specific meaning and is illegal in Canada. On the other hand, 'hate-filled propaganda' can be defined to mean something entirely different. I think the issue wasn't that the channel would contain outright hate speech, but would contain material or 'news' that causes elements of hate among those who view it. Of course, Patel was never given a fair chance to explain it all.

I haven't heard a lot about this issue, and thus not entirely clear of Harper's involvement. It is peculiar that someone in his party would step down in order to start a news channel. Harper does have a rep for pandering to the far right, especially the Christian (as I've discussed before). Also Harper does not necessarily have the best reputation for being an open and transparent leader. My own personal views on Harper as a leader don't actually help in clarifying his true role in this situation.

As for my own opinion on Sun TV and if it should come to Canada, the view is aligned with how I feel about Fox News. I personally believe strongly in free speech and freedom of expression. Even if I completely disagree with something or think it total garbage, I think the view most likely should be heard. Of course, this is with the understanding that the view is open for criticism and rebuttal. But saying that, I also think it is important to note the responsibility of news media. The news media is given certain rights, because they are expected to keep the public informed on the many issues going around them. The news media has access to places and people that the common persons doesn't, and this is accepted because it is our way of gaining information and understanding. People consume news with the belief that it is unbiased and presenting the facts. On television or in the newspaper, a news story is expected to provide all the sides and give the viewer/reader as much information as possible. Now, I am of course not talking about editorials or news talk shows or anything where the presenter is expected to share an opinion. If a person is reading a opinion piece or they're watching a diatribe then they understand that there will be biases attached, and are likely reading/watching in order to gain that presenter's opinion. But when one reads a typical news article or is watching the nightly news then they are expecting unbiased information and the facts of the matters.

Using that definition, Fox News is not 'news'. It is always providing a bias. It is always spinning 'news' and 'facts' in order further an agenda. It is a right wing conservative channel that caters to that demographic, and attempts to further the agenda of people with those beliefs. It will often take news stories and completely over blow the issues or even ignore facts that contradict them. Just look at the top news stories on Fox for the last few months, and you get a pretty clear idea of what they are trying to shove down peoples' throats.

My problem with Fox News is not that it is bias or even has an agenda, but rather it has the gall to cal itself a news station. It does not present news, but rather it spouts off non stop opinions and distorted 'news' to support a certain belief set. Half the day is filled with 'newscasters' screaming while flailing their arms and completely overreacting to issues. Fox News is an entertainment channel. It is no different that the Comedy channel or the Cartoon Network. It is not meant to inform, but it is designed to entertain.

If Sun TV is aspiring to be Fox News, then it is also not a news station but an entertainment channel. Which means it shouldn't be calling itself a news station or trying to make itself part of news channel packages. If Fox News or Sun TV admitted they are strictly an entertainment channel, then I'd have no problem with them. But they wouldn't do that, because they want to be seen as a news station. This means they will mislead countless people into believing their opinions and agendas are actual news and facts. Even worse, they will continue to harm the integrity of what is considered a news provider. People will begin to think this circus is what news really is, and start to expect it from other reputable stations.

I really don't know how dishonest or corrupt the proceedings for Sun TV's approval were. I do know how credible Fox News is as a news station. I do know many people are misguided by watching its 'news'. I do not think we need a Canadian version with the same propaganda and agendas.

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