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A cautionary tale. Also, O’Reilly + Spin = True Love.

Via the New Times Broward-Palm Beach:

Jeremy Kopchak says he was watching Bill O’Reilly interview noted atheist Richard Dawkins last week when he became “frustrated by Bill’s usual demeaning of Dawkins” and sent an email to the Factor.

Long story short: O’Reilly read a modified version of Kopchak’s email on the air.

The original email:

Bill, have you read Richard Dawkin’s [sic] book ‘The God Delusion’? You should have the guts to investigate both sides before being so pompous in your faith while completely discounting the critical thinking of atheists. The truth will stand up to any scrutiny.

The version that O’Reilly read:

Bill, you should have the guts to investigate both sides before being so pompous in your faith that you would attack Dawkins.

Although O’Reilly’s actions are sleazy and are a perfect example of the “spin” that permeates his so-called “No-Spin Zone”,  Kopchak is incorrect in his claim that O’Reilly didn’t have “right to change [Kopchak’s] words to fit [O’Reilly’s] faulty interpretation of them”. Like most news organizations, Fox retains the right to do pretty much anything they want with any content sent to or posted on their site. From their Terms of Use (emphasis mine):

By posting any User Content on, through or in connection with the FOX News Services, you hereby grant to FOX News and our Affiliated Companies, licensees and authorized users, a perpetual, non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable (in whole or in part), worldwide license to use, modify, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and compilations based upon, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce, and distribute such User Content on, through or in connection with the FOX News Services or in connection with any distribution or syndication thereof to Third Party Services (as defined below), on and through all media formats now known or hereafter devised, for any and all purposes including, but not limited to, promotional, marketing, trade or commercial purposes. FOX News’ use of such User Content shall not require any further notice to you and such use shall be without the requirement of any permission from or payment to you or to any other person or entity.

(Right before that passage, they make it clear that this does include “email transmi[ssions]”)

So, although this is a clear example of O’Reilly’s hypocritical habit of “spinning” and framing every bit of his show, no rights were violated here.

The lesson? Always check out a media outlet’s Terms of Use before you email them or post any content on their site. Most media outlets do retain the right to use and/or modify your intellectual property in all sorts of ways. Sometimes that’s worth the risk. Sometimes it’s not. Either way, if you’ve read the Terms of Use, at least you’ll be able to make an informed decision.

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12 Comments
  1. Philofacts #

    I suppose one could always send a “Go Fuck Yourself, Bill” email as an abridgement-proof message, but then it wouldn’t be published or read aloud, of course. So is it best just not to engage such people except in face-to-face (and preferably live-boadcast) discussions?

    October 12, 2011
    • Neil #

      Easily abridged to “Go Bill!”

      October 12, 2011
    • When dealing with Fox News, it’s probably best to always assume the worst, sadly enough.

      October 12, 2011
      • Bill is just another spin doctor with a penchant for preaching the Holy word of God in Fox. (Cue the Irish-Catholic organ.) As for Bill he is just another racist with a demeaning sell out voice. People wonder when I picked not to write comments; when papers tell moderates to speak with more authority and conservatism in an issue it is pretty clear what they are telling us to do. Basically, turning ourselves into another faction of the conservative sellout machines.

        October 14, 2011
  2. Karl Wulff #

    I don’t even think it’s a completely unfair abridgement by FOX News. Unless you really want to split hairs, “while completely discounting the critical thinking of atheists” is more or less equivalent, if stated in the converse, to “that you would attack Dawkins”, so long as you accept for rhetorical purposes “Dawkins” as a stand-in for “critical thinking of atheists”. I like the fact that you have the integrity, Miranda, to point this out.

    October 12, 2011
  3. I agree with Karl, that Miranda treated Fox far more fairly than Fox would deal with any of us. But sending emails to Fox News? That’s like putting a saucer of milk out for the Gargoyles.

    October 13, 2011
  4. Cloonan #

    it’s all about ratings…not intelligence

    October 16, 2011
  5. Timothy Crowley #

    Fox has actually sued and won to maintain their right to broadcast lies as truth. Even beyond punditry, there is no law that states a news organization must be honest.

    http://www.relfe.com/media_can_legally_lie.html

    October 16, 2011
  6. mjn #

    What Ms. Celeste is complaining about is a mystery because Fox was not unfair in the least.

    The original e-mail:

    “Bill, have you read Richard Dawkin’s [sic] book ‘The God Delusion’? You should have the guts to investigate both sides before being so pompous in your faith while completely discounting the critical thinking of atheists. The truth will stand up to any scrutiny.”

    The edited version is:

    “Bill, you should have the guts to investigate both sides before being so pompous in your faith that you would attack Dawkins.”

    In the original, the writer is questioning whether O’Reilly has considered both sides of this particular debate. O’Reilly includes this assertion in the edited version.

    The reader then refers to O’Reilly as “pompous in your faith.” O’Reilly actually leaves this insult in the edited version.

    In the original, the writer claims that “O’Reilly “discounts the critical thinking of athetists.” The edited version is actually stronger in that it asserts that O’Reilly “attacked” Dawkins.

    Thus, the edited version contains the basic ideas (insults and all) directed to O’Reilly.I could understand if O’Reilly had twisted the meaning of the original e-mail, but he did not.

    Moreover, the program routinely edits e-mails. The vast majority are reduced to 1-2 lines due to time constraints.

    While I find O’Reilly’s personality to be aggressive and obnoxious at times, this treatment is hardly limited to O’Reilly or Fox News. Ask Clarence Thomas, Trent Lott, George W. Bush and Sarah Palin.

    October 16, 2011
  7. That strikes me as very ethically wrong that they can modify your words. Just going by what the Terms of Use says, that seems wide open. “Go fuck yourself, Bill!” really could get turned into “Go Bill!” and attributed to you. Is that correct?

    October 17, 2011

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