Imagine you're sitting in a waiting room with a stranger. The TV is on, and the host is ranting about how America is being destroyed by the conspiracy issue of the week. The stranger asks the manager to change the channel to something less divisive. Should you:
a) Accuse the stranger of censorship
b) Demand the stranger read the Constitution
c) Call the stranger a commie bastard
d) Suggest the stranger move to China
e) Tell the stranger to go f*** himself
The above answers aren't far-fetched. In fact, they quote actual comments I received from Fox News followers after the Missoulian and Ravalli Republic published stories about the Turn Off Fox News website and campaign I founded (Aug. 6). (I also received supportive comments from many people. Thank you!)
As someone who has been outspoken against censorship in the past, I was taken aback by the censorship accusation. If changing the channel from Fox News is censorship, then the reverse is also true - tuning in Fox News censors all other channels!
Rather than being about censorship, the Turn Off Fox News campaign is about giving people the tools and encouragement to speak up when Fox is the only option in "captive audience" situations such as airports, waiting rooms, and hotel breakfast areas. The campaign doesn't advocate any law changes or endorse any television network.
As for those who demanded I read the Constitution, I'd like to suggest the First Amendment. What could be more American than a campaign that encourages people to speak out against political propaganda masquerading as news?
And for those who believe that Fox News only tells the truth, I'd like to suggest a visit to the "Fair and Balanced?" page at TurnOffFoxNews.com. There you can see proof of Fox News deceptions.
Names Fox News followers have called me include "commie bastard," "fascist" and "socialist." While I've never aligned myself with any of those ideologies, being all three at once would be difficult. Equally confusing were the suggestions Fox News followers gave me on where to live, including North Korea, China, Russia and Venezuela. Since I can't live in all those countries at once, I've added them to the places people have suggested I visit for the sequel to my previous book. Searching for wildlife in those locations would be fascinating. However, I'll pass on North Korea.
Sarcasm aside, the vitriolic response I received from the Missoulian and Ravalli Republic articles was expected. This certainly isn't my first time standing up for a cause I believe in, and I wouldn't do the work I do if I couldn't take the heat. If anything, the response has reaffirmed that my project is a good one.
While some people did offer criticism in a constructive manner, those who responded like 14-year-olds showed the influence of their idols. If Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly can call Rachel Maddow a loon or Glenn Beck can tie President Barack Obama, Al Gore, global warming and health care reform to Nazism, why engage in civil discourse when names and insinuations will do?
Finally, many Fox News followers obviously only scanned the newspaper articles before commenting. Therefore, I want to repeat that the only goal of my campaign is helping people find freedom from offensive political propaganda, in public locations, where that freedom is currently difficult to obtain.
Although TurnOffFoxNews.com is a national campaign, I'll use a local example: Many months ago I was at a clinic in Hamilton, and Fox News was on the waiting room TV. Since I was the only person in the waiting room - and the channel couldn't be changed manually - I asked the receptionist to switch the TV to something else. Her answer? "I'm not allowed to do that!"
Now people in similar situations can arm themselves with a handout, printed from TurnOffFoxNews.com, to let the management know how they feel. Eventually businesses will realize that locking in Fox is a political statement that says, "only the far-right are welcomed here."
As for the clinic, wouldn't it have been nice if, instead of a politically divisive national news network, they had tuned in one of the local channels, supported by advertising from our local businesses!
Marty Essen is a six-time award-winning author and the founder of TurnOffFoxNews.com. He writes from Victor.