Scott Cawelti

About Scott Cawelti -

Scott Cawelti was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He taught writing, film, and literature at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) from 1968-2008, and has written regular opinion columns and reviews for the Waterloo / Cedar Falls Courier since the late 1970s.  He played for years in a folk duo with Robert James Waller and still regularly performs as a singer/guitarist/songwriter. Scott continues to teach as an adjunct instructor at UNI.



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  • We Deserve Better than Fox News

    • Posted on Feb 16, 2014 by Scott Cawelti
    Here's this morning's Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier column.   Two recent books on Fox News led me to a logical conclusion:  Fox News is completely and hopelessly biased, far more than other media outlets.   We deserve better.   



    I’ve gathered information for this column from two recent books:  David Brock’s “The Fox Effect:  How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine”  (2012) and Gabriel Sherman’s “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” (2014).  

    Both books deserve serious attention, if only to refute.  If you watch Fox News, you owe it to yourself to understand its history and outlook.  If you find Fox News unbalanced and unfair, both books offer powerful support.  

    Thinking Americans—whether liberal or conservative—have every reason to feel deeply, constantly, seriously dissatisfied.  

    Consider:  (1) Watching Fox News/Nation degrades your knowledge of our world.  Granted,  a few hits of Hannity or O’Reilly now and then won’t hurt, but regularly believing Fox pundits’ assertions only makes you ignorant.   Brock points out that “Polls consistently find Fox News viewers among the most ignorant on a variety of issues.” 

    He goes on to list several bits of misinformation that Fox viewers tell pollsters they believe because they heard it on Fox.   Moreover, “the University of Maryland released a study finding that Fox News viewers were the most misinformed audience of any major news network.”    

    According to that study, 91 percent of Fox viewers believe the stimulus legislation lost jobs, 72 percent believe the health reform law will increase the deficit, 72 percent believe the economy is getting worse, 63 percent believe the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts, 56 percent believe Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout. It goes on.  

    And Fox viewers constantly get told that Obama has become a dictator because of his constant use of executive orders.  The truth:  Obama has issued the fewest executive orders of any president, certainly including G.W. Bush.  (168 to 291). 

    I strong believe in checking with a variety of sources on all assertions from media, but especially anything from Fox News.  By the way, if you think the “mainstream media” is just as bad, you’ve already been Fox-newsed.  

    2.  Fox’s pundits and its biased news amounts to paranoid and melodramatic nonsense much of the time, thanks to boss Roger Ailes.  Ailes, the founder and overseer of Fox, behaves as if the whole world is out to get him, and runs his news outfit like any paranoid would—obsessed with grand conspiracies, filled with fear and hatred of anyone who opposes his wacky ideas.

    As Sherman points out, “Through Fox, Ailes helped polarize the American electorate, drawing sharp, with-us-or-against-us lines, demonizing foes, preaching against compromise.”   At least some of our current gridlock goes back to hard right groups who leap off the deep end at the very mention of compromise.

     Brock’s book enhances that point, “Ailes’s paranoid style and its resulting aggressive and over-the-top reactions create a climate of fear among current and former employees. [a biographer of Rupert Murdoch] observed, ‘Everybody outside Fox News and Inside News Corp. is afraid of Roger Ailes.”

    3.  The best reason to question Fox?  Personal health, both mental and physical. Taking  Fox’s distorted worldview seriously will make you as paranoid and angry as they are. Fox viewers become victims of “confirmation bias,” meaning they get told only what they want and need to believe.    

    They assert that Obama is a socialist, then only show stories that supposedly prove it.  Or the “worst president ever.”   That opinion is simply ridiculous, but not to those who only watch Fox News.   That’s all they hear and know.  

    In a surprisingly short time, steady viewers see evidence of Fox’s absurdities everywhere.  Any ideas to the contrary get put in the “enemy” camp. 

    They grow to distrust anyone who brings up opposing ideas, and end up stressed out, furious, and impossible to talk to about anything but weather and sports.  That’s where we are now, thanks partly to Ailes and Fox News.  

     We all deserve better.  



  • Birthday Photo and Verse for Tom Thompson

    • Posted on Jan 26, 2014 by Scott Cawelti
    Tom Thompson was born 90 years ago this month, in January, 1924.  He worked at UNI in various capacities for decades.  I knew him first as a respected colleague in the Philosophy and Religion Department, then as my Dean in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, then as a friend who made me think and rethink, who read and commented at length on my newspaper columns, and who provided a thread of continuity to life in Cedar Falls.  

    On Friday, January 17, we went to lunch at Beck's on the Hill in Cedar Falls--with another admirer of Tom's, frfe echeverria.   (See photo below) 

    In lieu of a birthday card, which seems silly and superfluous, I presented Tom with this verse---silly but heartfelt: 


    On Or About His Ninetieth

    January 17, 2014

    Tommy the T went and turned a ripe ninety!

    How can this possibly be?

    It can't be from eating his greens,

    Nor from yoga or counting his beans.

    Could he have found a fountain of youth

    in his jazz and a life less than couth?

    He was but 40 and four when I met him

    A sage and bright presence--you never forget him.

    An Oxherder staunch (sometimes loud)

    A regular lunch-mate and columnist proud.

    He complains about aging, all achey and painey

    Yet through it all he still is our brainey

    Friend Tom, still laughing and bitching,

    At fringey right wingers who get him a-twitching.

    How many books have we plowed through discussing

    The fine points of Freudian insights and cussing

    The starry-eyed mystics about us a-fussing

    With irrational thought that we find so non-plussing. 

    It’s true with his talent for herding the cats,

    Not to mention his sax with its sharps and its flats,

    He might have done more, yet now here’s the truth: 

    What joy to reach ninety with half of his youth!


    And congratulations on a life well lived, mostly.    

    --Scott Cawelti

    A lifelong fan  

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