Stop the Outrage: Cable news sensationalism of non-problems


Rikkie Gunawan

COLORFUL CANDY FOOTWEAR COVERED?: A change in M&M shoe choice covered on outlets intended to report on more pressing matters.

Rhea Gupta, Staff Writer

BREAKING NEWS- American Media upset over candy’s shoes. The two female M&M figurine’s shoes have now been replaced with a more comfortable form of footwear, with the green M&M now sporting sneakers rather than the previous heeled boot and the brown M&M replacing stilettos with a more practical, shorter heel, a change conservative American media can’t cope with.

In January, M&M updated the look of its only two female characters in an effort to make the mascots “more inclusive, welcoming and unifying.” A seemingly simple change was met with major internet backlash, from celebrity stylists, fashion designers, news anchors and even major political figures criticizing the designs. Veteran celebrity stylist and fashion designer Phillip Bloch noted that the new design is “underwhelming,” calling it a “make-under” rather than a makeover.

“M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous,” Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson said on his show. “Until the moment when you wouldn’t want to have a drink with any one of them. That’s the goal. When you’re totally turned off, we’ve achieved equity. They’ve won.”

Setting aside the disquieting thought of sexual arousal by an anthropomorphic candy mascot, coverage on significant and relevant information such as the Russia-Ukraine war, bills and policies in the House of Representatives and the violence occurring in Iran were cast aside in favor of outrage over a chocolate character’s kicks. Carlson spent 20 minutes of air time discussing candy footwear, time that should have been used to cover more crucial news.

Fox News and other cable news outlets are capitalizing on outrage politics, feeding their viewers a form of yellow journalism, in a desperate attempt to stay relevant in the wake of declining viewership. 

In other words, news outlets are intentionally heightening “drama” or controversy so that their content becomes more addictive to compete with social media’s vice grip on viewers. By choosing bold claims and absolute terms, such as CNN host Don Lemon calling the former president a “fraud” or Fox’s Carlson referring to Iran as “crappy”, networks are sacrificing accuracy and nuance, often to the detriment of democracy.

Fox News’ polarizing coverage of alleged election fraud in 2020 is a prime example of these dangers.  A $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News revealed even CEO Rupert Murdoch thought Fox hosts “went too far” with election fraud claims. Fox News personalities such as Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham echoed this disbelief in claims being made on air.

While cable news outlets such as Fox News continue to sacrifice their integrity in the name of profits, the onus is placed on the viewer to fact check stories and read a variety of coverage across the political spectrum. Reading information from credible outlets such as the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post can also help.

In short, one’s media diet should be more than just a sugar overload of candied characters with notable footwear, rather including a balanced plate with a mix of news from credible sources.

For more information on how to find credible news sources, check out this interactive media bias chart from Ad Fontes Media.