The Media and Family Court

During the past week the biggest media story, by far, has been the first debate of the 2016 Republican Party primaries. Most of the world already sees the 18 month presidential election campaigns as absurdly long but this week, mostly due to the presence of the flamboyant billionaire Donald Trump, the media has become a large part of the story.
In the UK, they are known as “news readers” and typically have modest salaries but in the US they are known as “anchors” or TV personalities and are accorded superstar status. Last Thursday there were three anchors acting as moderators and one of them, Megyn Kelly, gained even greater prominence by questioning Mr. Trump’s past statements, many of which would be considered blatantly sexist.
The presence of Mr. Trump, as well as probably the strongest Republican field in history, made it a contender for one of the biggest audiences for a cable TV political show ever. However, the actual audience wildly exceeded those expectations: 24 million saw the entire event and 36 million viewed an average of 87 minutes of it. This made it the largest one for any non-sporting event in the history of cable television.
It was shown on Fox News, which is owned by the famous (and some would say infamous) Rupert Murdoch. Mr. Murdoch is an Australian who achieved great success both there and in the UK before turning to the US. He was so determined to achieve greatness in the world’s largest media market that he was willing to become American and give up his Australian citizenship in order to meet the Federal Communications Commission rules for US media ownership.
His two most important US acquisitions were the Wall Street Journal and the Fox broadcasting network, with its cable TV counterpart, Fox News.  I returned to the US in 2000 after a decade living abroad and decided that I needed to reacquaint myself with my native land by watching two hours per day of news programs daily.  In those 11,000 hours, half of which were on Fox News, I only saw 15 minutes that related to US family court issues (there was also extensive coverage of the Cuban Elian Gonzales case and a US-Brazilian child custody dispute).  This was on the old Hannity-Colmes Show on Fox News in 2008 and was probably only selected due to its blatant nepotism:  Alan Colmes’ wife was touting her book on “the fathers’ rights movement”. The author was Jocelyn Crowley (actually a case of double-nepotism, since her sister, Monica Crowley, is a perennial Fox News pundit).  The book was called “Defiant Dads” and Ms. Crowley contended that the main, if not exclusive, reason that men joined these groups was to decrease their child support payments.

To add to the insult, today Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal contains an article on the lack of active black fathers entitled “The Flawed Missing Men Theory” ( http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-flawed-missing-men-theory-1439159236).  Its author, Kay Hymowitz, completely ignores the link with family court (see last week’s blog on the best book exposing that link, “Taken Into Custody” by Dr. Stephen Baskerville) and merely shows that stricter drug laws are not the main reason that 72% of black children are born into homes without a father.  To be fair to the WSJ, in 2012 they did print one of my short articles on the relationship between family court and military suicides.  However, I can’t let Murdoch off the hook since TV is the major information source for most Americans.  One extremely biased 15 minute report out of 15 years of viewing would be as if NBC, ABC or CBS from 1955 to 1970 only devoted 15 minutes to the civil rights struggle and that was a favorable book review with a KKK author!

Perhaps our social scene today would look quite different if Rupert Murdoch had been part of a long, contentious child custody case a decade or two ago.

 

 

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