This weekend, the White House gave Fox News a sharp elbow, restarting the periodic debate about whether Fox News is actually news. This is rather like asking whether Daffy Duck is actually the Chrysler Building. Of course it’s not. Everyone knows it’s not. Why would the White House bother to bring it up? One possibility is that Fox News is like the dumb kid in class. Everyone tries to bear his antics patiently, keeping in mind that he may not have had the same advantages as the other boys and girls. But when he tries to drive the bus, something must be done about it. The problem with that is that Fox is not really driving the bus.

What may be going on instead is that the White House actually wants people to watch Fox News. Our default mode, as humans, is to be centrist. Very few people buy the cheapest model or the most expensive one, and any respectable business will exploit this tendency. Right now, conservatives are branding healthcare reform as the expensive model and uncompromising opposition to healthcare as the cheap model, literally. So most people, being generally indifferent, drift somewhere toward the center. But this isn’t a matter of physics where voters are pulled by the gravity of two equal masses; it’s a matter of economics, where the growth of healthcare costs is far outpacing the growth of per capita income.

Perhaps the White House believes that moderate Americans who don’t typically watch Fox News will check it out and be disillusioned by the true face of the opposition. To be ‘centrist’ on healthcare is essentially to believe that both sides make good points, and that just isn’t true. Reformers want Americans to get the healthcare they have been paying for, they want premiums to be affordable and they want real competition in markets that are monopolized by very few companies. Insofar as the opposition has anything true to say, it wants to save money in the short term while ignoring the long-term costs of an inefficient and exploitative system. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes of Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity to convince anyone that Fox News is not so much a legitimate alternative as it is a circus.

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