Fox News: The Unmaking of the Myth

Michael Tomasky has an op-ed in The Guardian describing Fox News. Most readers will not find anything unexpected, but with Fox still pretending to be a news organization it is enjoyable to see this shot down once again. Tomasky begins:

Britons may be familiar with Rupert Murdoch, but I don’t think the UK has a beast quite like the American Fox News Channel. Celebrating its 11th year on the air, Fox is a breathtaking institution. It is a lock, stock and barrel servant of the Republican party, devoted first and foremost to electing Republicans and defeating Democrats; it’s even run by a man, Roger Ailes, who helped elect Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior to the presidency. And yet, because it minimally adheres to certain superficial conventions, it can masquerade as a “news” outfit and enjoy all the rights that accrue to that.

Journalism with a point of view is a fine thing. It’s what I do. The difference is that I say I’m a liberal journalist while Fox executives and “reporters” insist they play it straight. But everyone in the US knows that my description is true. This is precisely why its fans watch it. Walk into any bar, hair salon, gym or motel lobby in the country; if the TV is tuned to Fox rather than CNN, you know that the owner or clientele or both are Republican. It’s a secret – although not actually secret any more – sign of fraternity among conservatives, the way a solid red tie worn by a single urban man used to signal to other urban men that the wearer was indeed “that way”.

So everyone knows, but, because of the conventions of journalistic propriety, Fox can’t admit that it’s a Republican outfit. It would have no credibility with politicians if it did and would be too easily dismissed as “ideological media”. To get around this problem, its marketers devised what must be the most deviously ingenious pair of advertising slogans of all time: “We report, you decide” and “Fair and balanced”.

Tomasky moves on from a general description of Fox to a discussion of Judith Regan’s wrongful dismissal case against Fox News. Not only does Regan have dirt on Fox, she has also had an affair with Bernard Kerik, which could also mean more embarrassing stories for Rudy Giuliani, who Roger Ailes is trying to help become the next president:

Regan, naturally enough given her special knowledge of the man, was questioned about Kerik by federal investigators. And she now alleges that two executives of Fox News instructed her to “lie to, and withhold information from” the investigators about Kerik. Regan charges that Fox executives did this because they feared the inquiry into Kerik might singe Giuliani, whose presidential ambitions, her complaint charges, Fox has long been intent on “protecting”.

Let’s linger over that for a moment. Two executives of a major news organisation may have told a citizen to lie to federal investigators to protect a presidential candidate. It’s a stunning charge. If proven someday, Fox will no longer be able to hide behind the fiction that it’s a neutral news outfit.

Tomasky has some advice for the Democrats:

In the meantime, Democrats should ratchet up their refusal to pretend that Fox bears any relationship to news. I’ve always felt they should just boycott the network en bloc. One can be pretty confident that if the situation were reversed – imagine a cable channel that was known as a Democratic house organ and run by, say, Bill Clinton adviser James Carville – Republicans would have done something like that long ago. I asked Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic speaker, about this last Friday, and she just replied wanly: “I think we have to reach out to all the viewers out there.”

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7 Comments

  1. 1
    Michael van der Galiën says:

    Although I agree that Fox isn’t objective, at all, and that this is generally a bad thing, I can’t help but point out that the Guardian is extremely left, and always defending Labor, while taking shots at all things conservative.

    What’s more, the US has news outlets with quite a bias as well. Did you watch the debate recently, sponsored by CNN?

    Huh?

    You can say whatever you want about Fox News, but they organized a good debate, with tough questions.

  2. 2
    Brad Marston says:

    Fox News appears right wing only in comparison to its competition.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Michael,

    I realize that this criticism comes from the left, and it would be meaningless if it was the only criticism of Fox out there. It is merely one more opinion piece expressing what we knew.

    I don’t see your point regarding CNN. So conservatives like Wolf Blitzer did a shoddy job–how does that exonerate Fox? At worst CNN is a Fox wannabe. Actually CNN’s real problem isn’t their conservative bias since Turner sold it but its low quality. At least CNN makes an effort at journalism, even if they don’t do a very good job. (Of course right wingers will call them liberal as they see any news organization which doesn’t consistently present the views of the far right as being liberal). The real problem with Fox isn’t mere bias but that they are an outright advocacy organization for the Republican Party.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Michael,

    Just checked out your post and commented there. I see you fall for the conservative line that CNN is liberal. How much do you actually watch Fox and CNN?

    As for the debates, none of the networks have done a very good job. This is largely a matter of the format of these pseudo-debates. Historically the primary problem with Fox with regards to debates is that in the past when Democrats held debates on Fox they would use their pre and post debate coverage to distort the positions actually presented by the Democrats to fit into the conservative alternate reality.

  5. 5
    janet says:

    I agree with Ron. When we have intelligent relatives who only watch FOX ask my husband, who is a scientist, whether or not global climate change is over-hyped and maybe even a hoax, you know they are getting factually wrong and biased information.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Janet,

    Of course conservatives think that global warming is a hoax, and that any news organization which reports this as the consensus of scientific thought is a biased liberal source.

    As I’ve noted in the past, studies have shown a wide variety of misconceptions beyond what you mention among viewers of Fox.

  7. 7
    absent observer says:

    Michael, maybe you can’t tell the difference between a liberal and a stupid person. CNN is for stupid people, not liberals. (Or do liberals really have that big a fascination for abducted white girls and things on fire?!)

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