Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Look Back at the Time Fox and Friends Called Mr. Rogers an "Evil, Evil Man"

by Nomad

Fox & Friends, the folks who the Washington Post described as "very much governing the thoughts and impulses of President Trump" has had a long history of spreading hate. But who remembers the time when they attacked one of America's most beloved icons, Fred Rogers. 

The Evil Genius

Back in May 2008, the producers of Fox & Friends turned the blowtorch of hate to one of America's best-loved and iconic figures, Mr. Fred Rogers. Mr. Rogers, children's television personality, musician, puppeteer, had died five years before and was unable to defend himself.
For this reason, Fox News must have considered him "fair game."

You might understandably wonder what fault anybody could find with the innocuous Mr. Rogers? Had he started a war based on false intelligence, leading to the murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians? Had he illegally sold weapons to an enemy nation and at the same time, denounced it a member of the axis of evil? Had he stolen an election?
Not quite. Something much worse.

Mr, Rogers had, they claimed, destroyed an entire generation with his liberal notions of entitlement. As the originator of the snowflake concept, he was an "evil, evil man." The show's moderators cited an unnamed "experts" and a professor at Louisiana State University. 

These authorities claimed that Rodgers instilled a belief in young minds that they were special for "just for being who you are" and hard work was not required.
The viewers of the children's TV show all became a generation of selfish and entitled brats. Fred Rogers was, Fox and Friends alleged, an "evil genius" and "the root of all our problems."
As per the methodology of the show, the accusation was said with just enough light-hearted banter to hide the maliciousness of the attack.

Anchors for Fox and Friends, Ainsley Earhardt, Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade discussed the "research"
"These experts are saying the kids of today who grew up with Mr. Rogers we're told by him you're special just for being who you are. Well, here's the problem. .. Mr. Rogers' message was you're special because you are you. He didn't say if you want to be special, you're going to have to work hard.

Now all these kids are growing up and they're realizing: "hey, wait a minute. Mr. Rogers lied to me. I'm not special. I'm trying hard and I'm not getting anywhere. This comes out of Louisiana State University, a professor there has examined just what damage Mr. Rogers may have done to this whole crop of kids who now feel entitled."

The Source and Retraction

Like so much that emanates from Fox News, the premise that the innocuous Mr. Rodgers could have had such an effect is completely brainless. God never made a more harmless person than cardigan-wearing Rogers.

But the truth about the source of those claims- as ridiculous as they were- is more outrageous. First of all, despite what Fox News claimed, there was no research and no study; merely the rant of a professor, unhappy that his students were demanding A's when he thought they deserved B's.  Something that students have been doing since the first school opened its doors.

That so-called expert, Prof. Don Chance, a finance professor at Louisiana State University, told a Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow that his students "felt so entitled.. and it just hit me. We can blame Mr. Rogers."
Prof. Chance teaches many Asian-born students, and says they accept whatever grade they're given; they see B's and C's as an indication that they must work harder, and that their elders assessed them accurately. They didn't grow up with Mr. Rogers or anyone else telling them they were born special.
Zaslow wrote:
Fred Rogers, the late TV icon, told several generations of children that they were "special" just for being whoever they were. He meant well, and he was a sterling role model in many ways. But what often got lost in his self-esteem-building patter was the idea that being special comes from working hard and having high expectations for yourself.
Mr,. RogersThat's highly a debatable point. Do we really wish to connect a child's self-esteem with their achievements and how well they compete? Do we want to have children with the mindset of.. well, Donald Trump?
Whether competitive desires should be encouraged or constrained is something educationalists have debated for decades.

In any case, as soon as the WSJ piece came out- which was quickly picked up by Fox News-, Prof. Chance issued a statement retracting his remarks.
The reference to Mr. Rogers was just a metaphor. I have no professional qualifications to evaluate the real problems or propose solutions. Mr. Rogers was a great American. I watched him with my children and wouldn’t hesitate to do so again if I had young children.
As far as I could see, this retraction never led to an apology or clarification by either the Wall Street Journal or Fox News. (Incidentally, with the acquisition of WSJ in 2007, both media organization are owned by News Corp.)

What Mr. Rogers Actually Said

Fox News could hardly have found a more unlikely target as the soft-spoken and unpretentious Rogers.
Since the early 1960s when his show first went on the air, Rogers' goal was to produce a show that would promote "self-esteem, self-control, imagination, creativity, curiosity, appreciation of diversity, cooperation, patience and persistence." 

There's no question that this was a man who cared deeply about children and firmly believed that every child was special.
Yet, Rogers never told children were infallible or as talented as everyone else at everything. He simply told them they had value and that value was not related to a child's particular successes or failures. As one Reddit commenter pointed out:
He frequently encouraged his young viewers to develop life skills (tying their shoelaces, reading and writing, planting a garden, riding a bicycle, caring for animals, learning a sport, et cetera).
He emphasized the importance of going to school and paying attention to their teachers, whom he humanized by pointing out that they were once children too.
He explicitly acknowledged that some of their peers would be better at certain things than they were, explaining that having our own strengths and interests is part of what makes each of us special.
But there's more to this story than a rebuttal to Fox New's claims.
Here are some quotes from Rogers' book, "The World According to Mr. Rogers"
I’m proud of you for the times you came in second, or third, or fourth, but what you did was the best you had ever done.
Little by little we human beings are confronted with situations that give us more and more clues that we aren’t perfect.
Other quotes imply that Rogers never underrated the importance of competitive challenges.
It’s not possible to go through life without competing. As one woman told me, “Competition is a part of our everyday life, whether we’re competing for a job, or on the soccer field, or for love.”

There are many kinds of competition, to be sure. But I think that love does have something to do with them all. In fact, I believe that if we’ve ever wanted someone’s love, then we’ve known what competition really means.
Rogers elaborated this idea in other quotes:
Deep within us—no matter who we are—there lives a feeling of wanting to be lovable, of wanting to be the kind of person that others like to be with.
And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.
This tied in with his message of being special. You are unique. You don't have to be the same as everybody else to be loved. You have a value Just by being who you are. You are accepted as an individual. You belong.
This is the essence of love.
To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.
What a powerful message for children. You are loved and you are capable of loving. Is there any better message that any parent could pass along to a child?
If the day ever came when we were able to accept ourselves and our children exactly as we and they are, then, I believe, we would have come very close to an ultimate understanding of what “good” parenting means. It’s part of being human to fall short of that total acceptance—and often far short. But one of the most important gifts a parent can give a child is the gift of accepting that child’s uniqueness.
To claim that Rogers encouraged a sense of entitlement is a fundamental misreading of what he was trying to say. 

Agenda-driven Intimidation Efforts 

Given what we have seen from Fox News, it's not much of a surprise that the producers would try to undermine a message of love with false claims and misrepresentations. This is what Fox News is all about.
Thanks to Fox News (and others) the two minutes of hate is more like hate 24 hours a day. That kind of programming- in every sense of the word- is still reaping the rewards of an uninformed angry audience, unable to reason or think for themselves. A population perfect for exploitation.

Today, people like Laura Ingraham- and those that support her- are directing this hate, not at sincere people like Mr. Rogers, but at the children themselves.
After mocking gun control activist David Hogg about being rejected from universities (and his "scandalous" 4.1-grade point average and a 1270 SAT score), Ingraham received a richly-deserved pushback by sponsors of her show. 

"Enough of the hate" was the message. "Cut it out or we will cut you off."

Despite a half-hearted apology by Ingraham, Fox News Co-President Jack Abernethy threw his support behind her, saying:
 "We cannot and will not allow voices to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts."
That's a fairly remarkable thing for Abernethy to say since his agenda-driven network has been afforded uncensored airtime on almost anything- no matter how offensive, objectionable and untrue.

If the ghost of Mr. Rogers is watching from above, he must be proud of these teens who are speaking out. He once said:
The values we care about the deepest, and the movements within society that support those values, command our love. When those things that we care about so deeply become endangered, we become enraged. And what a healthy thing that is! Without it, we would never stand up and speak out for what we believe. 
This is what comes of a generation that passed along Rogers' ideas. They raised a generation that believed they were special and that they had value and were not afraid to confront the hate.

*   *   *
Back in 2001, reporter John Donvan created this tribute to Fred Rogers.