Inside the Sausage Factory: How NBC Fakes the News
Hey, look, we'll put some Muslim guys in robes, see, and we'll send them to a NASCAR race in Virginia, you know, where the rednecks live, and we'll give the guys prayer rugs and have 'em slap those babies right down in front of the speedway and have the guys kneel down right there, and we'll have the cameras rolling, and then when those racist rubes walk by and get a load of this, we'll get all their anti-Muslim venom on camera and we'll have ourselves one dandy TV show!
You can just hear the glee in the voices of the NBC "Dateline" producers as they concocted this hare-brained, unethical, insulting foray into the wilds of NASCAR Nation. Amazingly, this notion got through a meeting and past some editors and all the way to the Martinsville Speedway, where NBC really did send "Muslim-looking men" last weekend in an effort to manufacture a story about how anti-Muslim those red state Amuricans really are. Luckily, the network got caught in the act.
So now the network is trying to spin this as just a "followup" to a poll on attitudes toward Muslims. The piece was never going to focus on NASCAR fans. Oh, please.
Let's be clear: There is never a good reason to fake the news. Often, TV producers will try to defend hidden camera reporting and staged events as the only way they can get a story about people doing stuff they would never do in front of a camera. Well, isn't that just too bad? These so-called reporters might have to go out and do some actual reporting about events that really did occur, rather than drumming up events so that the voyeurs among us can "see" for themselves. It's true that you will generally get better footage by staging something than by sitting around waiting for it to happen naturally, or, horrors, getting second-hand accounts from people who have witnessed the events you're reporting on. But one way is dishonest and the other is a rigorous search for the truth. There is a difference.
Beyond the obvious ethical flaws here, there's also the appallingly narrow thinking that led the producers to think hmm, we need bigots, let's go to Virginia and get some NASCAR fans. NBC might want to hire Mark Warner as a consultant, maybe have him give them a talk on the demographics of NASCAR Nation. The folks at NBC might be shocked to learn that a good number of those fans actually went to school, hold decent jobs, and--hold onto your hats--voted for a Connecticut Yankee Democrat to be governor of Virginny.
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