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Hair raising - Peter Funt

If you happened to see a column I wrote in The Wall Street Journal Aug. 22, you might have been mildly amused by my treatise: The winner in presidential elections is often the guy with the best haircut.

However, if you saw me doing this same hair piece on the Fox News Channel, you probably figured I was some kind of crazed political scientist.

Then again, if your source was MSNBC or the blogosphere, I'm afraid you must have taken me to be a right-wing loon, who seriously believes the road to the presidency has something to do with hair follicles.

In media these days, the filter through which we evaluate news and information — especially on cable-TV and the Internet — is so clouded by bias that the content is becoming dangerously devalued.

The Journal column was a political parody, nothing more.

The "trend," I opined, began when John Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon by a hair; Nixon with a receding hairline and JFK with fabulous locks.

Over the years, there was Jimmy Carter's dynamic 'do, followed by Ronald Reagan's Hollywood-perfect haircut. And today, yada yada, we've got a pair of Republicans, Perry and Romney, with some of the hottest hair ever.

Fox News, which like the Journal is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., asked if I'd talk about the column on the morning program "Fox & Friends." I've been on that show before when I had something to plug, and it was harmless enough.

In fact, while I personally disagree with the political views of Fox News and most of its hosts, they seem perfectly capable of doing satire. All the morning shows — from "Fox & Friends" to "Today" — are eclectic mixes of hard news and fluff.

As I was introduced, host Juliet Huddy told viewers, "I swear to you, this is a scientific study." I immediately said, "Juliet, this couldn't be any less scientific."

For the next three minutes, I rattled off quips about "health care versus hair care," and how Republicans might have done better in '08 with Romney's full head of hair rather than John McCain's graying wisps.

A few hours later, the blog Media-ite blared, "Fox & Friends: Candidates With The Best Hair Always Win Presidential Elections." In a particularly strange summary, the reporter said I was being "lighthearted" but also "seemed to be [speaking] seriously."

This hot news was picked up by MSNBC's Ed Schultz, who alerted viewers to the fact that, "This morning 'Fox & Friends' actually spent three minutes on a segment that suggested the candidate with the best hair always wins the White House."

Meanwhile, The Atlantic magazine's web site selected the Journal column as one of the day's five best. Go figure.

Why have Fox News and MSNBC — owned by two of the world's largest news organizations — allowed themselves to become so obsessed with what the other is saying, particularly whenever it seems to confirm political prejudices?

How can viewers of either outlet take seriously the ranting about the other?

And which is a greater waste of time: a three-minute satire about hair? Or criticism about doing such a satire?

The behavior of much modern media is a sad reflection of the new politics that is wrecking our country. Everything is either black or white, left or right, and absolute.

There's no room for compromise, and no tolerance for anything beyond the borders of rigid ideology.

I have no idea if the candidate with the best haircut will win.

I do know that if media lose perspective — along with a sense of humor — we'll all get clipped.

Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker. He is also the long-time host of “Candid Camera.” He can be reached at www.CandidCamera.com. This column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.