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It's The Santa Anas, Not The Santa Al Qaedas, Nimnuts
Fox doesn't seem to let a lack of evidence get in the way of their "reporting." In this case, the story they're flogging is that Muslim terrorists started the fires. (For non-California residents, a bit on the Santa Anas from USA Today.) David Edwards and Nick Juliano write about Fox's coverage at RawStory:

For the second straight day, Fox News stood virtually alone in advancing thinly supported speculation to raise fears that the wildfires ravaging California are not the result of a confluence of arid heat and high winds but were set deliberately by al Qaeda terrorists bent on destroying America.

Fox & Friends, the conservative cable channel, was panned Wednesday for breathlessly reporting a sketchy, four-year-old FBI memo as if it offered new information linking America's enemies in the "Global War on Terror" with a plot to burn down southern California.

The morning team was back at it Thursday, as anchor Alisyn Camerota introduced a segment on the fires that again mischaracterized and over-inflated warnings from a 2003 interview with an al Qaeda detainee.

Camerota said Fox's fear-mongering was "based on some information the FBI sent to local law enforcement in California and other Western states ... that there was a plot afoot to set three or four different" fires. Left unsaid by the Fox news-reader was that the FBI warning was sent more than four years ago, described a potential plot that made no mention of California, could not be proven accurate and did not raise alarms from forrest-fire officials at the time. (Such caveats all were included in an Associated Press report on the warning at the time.)

"How do they determine what's arson and what's terrorism?" she asked, noting accurately that authorities believe arsonists were responsible for at least "some of these fires." (Authorities say arson has been shown to have caused only two of more than a dozen fires so far.)

Terror analyst Erick Stakelbeck served as Camerota's foil in boosting the terror fears. Although he did clarify that the FBI memo was from 2003, the vintage of the intelligence didn't squelch his terror speculation; Stakelbeck warned that the fires appeared to be the result of a "coordinated effort ... over a large area."

"In a post-9/11 world, we have to consider all possibilities," Stakelbeck intoned.

Such as the possibility the tooth fairy set it?

I'm not exactly the Islamists' best friend, but what is this, the right-wing attempt to follow in the lead of 9/11 conspiracy theorists? Enough already. If you've got evidence, groovy. Otherwise, shut up and cover the damn flames.

Thanks, Norm

Posted by aalkon at October 26, 2007 10:55 AM


Anyone who trusts fox news is insane, after all they went to court and fought for the right to lie in their news broadcasts

Posted by: lujlp at October 26, 2007 4:19 AM

Yes they did! They went to court and fought for the right to lie. In their news broadcasts. Also, they blend babies into milkshakes and pass them around the newsroom for lunchtime snacks. Retarded babies, minorities... often crippled youngsters who never had a chance.

It amuses me that people think Fox is such a terrible blot on American media. Presumably people are more worried about Fox's distortions than those of the New York Times because the Gray Lady doesn't make money. But in any case, do you really, really think the path to political clarity is to spend your life thinking about how the Little People are being deceived? Or is just fulfilling to smirk at them?

T'Hell withum all.

Posted by: Crid at October 26, 2007 6:37 AM

Crid, all those people out there watching Fox TV, they aren't you. People are very gullible, and their gullibility affects all of us, because they vote, or they can vote.

I'm very worried about all distortions. Left, right, and center.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 26, 2007 7:05 AM

Well, if arson started "two" of these fires, what was the origin of the others? In discussion elsewhere about the ineffectiveness of the "Department of Homeland Security" (the line supporting a fascist state forms over there) it has become really obvious that searching airline passengers doesn't do ANYTHING, much less render the country "secure". So, call for evidence, yes, but realize that widespread arson works as a weapon: it's not "terrorism" in this case because Osama was too slow to claim it as a message from him.


As an aside, "60 Minutes" was identified in court as a "news magazine", and exempted from an expectation of accuracy.

Be very sure you are looking at sources, not editorial commentary, when you are deciding an issue. For instance, is much better at telling you what a candidate's record is than their smear machine.


By the way - will we be picking up the bill for this, as we would for hurricane damage in Florida?

Posted by: Radwaste at October 26, 2007 7:14 AM

I think we are, and I think it's disgusting. If you live in a disaster zone, and I do -- a tsunami zone -- other people should not pay the price. I have insurance (although I don't have many pricey possessions, and if my TV floated away, I'd deal) and I do not expect (or want) other people to pick up after my choices.

If there were a flood or fire, the most valuable things I'd lose are my books and clothes, collected over the years, and those aren't replaceable anyway.

It pays to have a purse-sized dog if evacuating.

P.S. for disaster supplies.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 26, 2007 7:45 AM

I realize that parts of California are an earthquake (disaster) zone. I'm unclear how the people in the path of these fires are in a comparable disaster zone. Is it because of the winds that they should expect to get burned out every 50 years? Just curious as I'm not familiar with the topography/climate/geology of the area.

Will those who have paid for fire insurance over the years be covered, or is it considered an "act of god" that is uncovered?

Posted by: moreta at October 26, 2007 8:21 AM

February 14, 2003 the Florida Second District Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the settlement awarded to Akre. The Court held that Akre’s threat to report the station’s actions to the FCC did not deserve protection under Florida’s whistle blower statute, because Florida’s whistle blower law states that an employer must violate an adopted “law, rule, or regulation." In a stunningly narrow interpretation of FCC rules, the Florida Appeals court claimed that the FCC policy against falsification of the news does not rise to the level of a "law, rule, or regulation," it was simply a "policy." Therefore, it is up to the station whether or not it wants to report honestly.

During their appeal, FOX asserted that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. They argued that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves. Fox attorneys did not dispute Akre’s claim that they pressured her to broadcast a false story, they simply maintained that it was their right to do so. After the appeal verdict WTVT general manager Bob Linger commented, “It’s vindication for WTVT, and we’re very pleased… It’s the case we’ve been making for two years. She never had a legal claim.”

Posted by: lujlp at October 26, 2007 8:25 AM

Found my answers....sorry, firewall was giving me problems:

Insurance industry costs currently estimated at 1 billion:">

Senator Dianne Feinstein says zoning should prevent building in dry areas prone to Santa Ana winds:

Of course, she also thinks the California government should underwrite insurance for fire-prone areas, just like they do for earthquake-prone areas. I must go learn more about how insurance underwriting works, as this just sounds like the government bailing out those who want to live in dangerous areas.....which seems contradictory to her suggesting they shouldn't live there to begin with.

Posted by: moreta at October 26, 2007 8:41 AM

> I'm very worried about
> all distortions.

Me too, but only my own behalf, because I'm not very bright. There isn't time to worry about how Republicans are LIARS! or Hillary is a LIAR! or The New York Times is full of shit! And there's no point. The little people have been stumbling along without our brilliant perspective for tens of thousands of years, and can do their own bullshit detection. We're not avatars here....

Posted by: Crid at October 26, 2007 10:22 AM

What would really be terrifying? If the Supreme Court ruled that nobody can report anything but the truth.

You think the FCC's obscenity rules are obtrusive? What the hell would their truth rules look like, if the SCOTUS gave them authority to formulate and enforce them?

Posted by: axman at October 26, 2007 7:41 PM

What Axman said! What Axman said!

Posted by: Crid at October 26, 2007 8:44 PM

That FOX foolishness (i.e., Al Qaeda) is as silly as that numbnut Randi Rhodes (Air America) suggesting that Blackwater started the fires. I think we're finished with the era when natural disasters were seen as just that, natural disasters. A catastrophe happens and the conspiroid nut-bags come scurrying out from under their rock.

Posted by: David Crawford at October 27, 2007 1:37 PM

You know, there might be a big problem with this "Truth" in "news" thing. Already, the object of news programs is to sell air time; they do this with sensationalism. A peeve of mine is the 9PM spot, "Will this rain continue tomorrow? Tune in to News 12 at 11!". Hey, idiot, you could just say yes or no and I'd be done, but I recognize you have to sell Pampers.

And if you think NPR tells "the truth", you have a brain cell or two disconnected; they have editorial slant like anyone else.

Cronkite is retired. Rather let himself be screwed with that outright lie composed in MS Word. And the bulk of newscasters seem astonished by the most common and obvious things in life.

No wonder Ann Coulter stands out: no one with brains has anything smart to say!

Posted by: Radwaste at October 27, 2007 1:58 PM

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