April 13, 2008

Faux News

As Joseph Goebbels noted, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Case in point: Fox News, whose mantras include “Fair and Balanced” and “We Report, You Decide,” is now the most trusted name in all of news.

Fox’s extreme neoconservative bias is well known and—

What’s that? Proof? You want proof that Fox is biased? Well, I don’t even know where to begin. Hmm…how about here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here

But maybe we should cut to the chase and go right for the smoking gun. And, yes, there is a smoking gun, a very big one—in fact, it looks somewhat like an uzi—and it’s being held by none other than John Moody, Fox’s Senior Vice President. Like most bosses, Moody likes to send out memos to his employees. But unlike most bosses, Moody has a whistle blower or two working for him, and as a result some of his memos occasionally end up in the hands of people like filmmaker Robert Greenwald. A few years ago, Greenwald obtained and subsequently made public 33 such memos, all of which reveal that…well, why don’t you just judge them for yourselves:

· 06/03/2003: “The president is doing something that few of his predecessors dared undertake: putting the US case for mideast peace to an Arab summit. It’s a distinctly skeptical crowd that Bush faces. His political courage and tactical cunning are worth noting in our reporting through the day.”

· 03/16/2004: “Gas prices are at all time highs in the US. There are reasons for the surge, some economic, some mere business tactics. Remember: US prices, while they seem high tot\ us [sic], are a half or less the cost of gasoline elsewhere.”

· 03/23/2004: “The so-called 9/11 commission has already been meeting. In fact, this is the eighth session. The fact that former Clinton and both frmer and current Bush administration officials are testifying gives it a certain tension, but this is not ‘what did he know and when did he know it’ stuff. Do not turn this into Watergate. Remember the fleeting sense of national unity that emerged from this tragedy. Let's not desecrate that.”

· 04/04/2004: “Into Fallujah: It's called Operation Vigilant Resolve and it began Monday morning (NY time) with the US and Iraqi military surrounding Fallujah. We will cover this hour by hour today, explaining repeatedly why it is happening. It won’t be long before some people start to decry the use of ‘excessive force.’ We won't be among that group.”

· 04/06/2004: “The events in Iraq Tuesday are going to be the top story, unless and until something else (or worse) happens. Err on the side of doing too much Iraq rather than not enough. Do not fall into the easy trap of mourning the loss of US lives and asking out loud why are we there? The US is in Iraq to help a country brutalized for 30 years protect the gains made by Operation Iraqi Freedom and set it on the path to democracy. Some people in Iraq don’t want that to happen. That is why American GIs are dying. And what we should remind our viewers.”

The other released memos go on much in the same vein.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Moody rejected the idea that he was “controlling the news coverage.” Fox employees, he claimed, “are free to call me or message me and say, ‘I think you’re off base.’ Sometimes I take the advice, sometimes I don’t.”

Of course Moody has a point here. I, for one, never take my boss’s directives seriously. If my boss tells me to, say, come in for work early on a particular day, I certainly don’t feel obligated to comply. Like most workers, I just figure he’s giving me friendly advice, advice I’m free to take or free to completely disregard. (For those of you slower readers out there, my tongue is in my cheek. Repeat: tongue in cheek.)

Needless to say, Moody’s employees feel obligated to carry out his—ahem—suggestions. An example of this occurred after the Democratic victory in 2006 when Moody sent out a memo stating, “And let’s be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled Congress.” That very afternoon, Fox reporter Martha MacCullum, while sitting at the “Live Desk” and talking about the Democratic victory, claimed there were “Some reports of cheering in the streets on behalf of the supporters of the insurgency in Iraq that they’re very pleased with the way things are going here and also with the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld.” There were, of course, no such reports of cheering, at least none that have been verified.

Given that Fox is so unashamedly neoconservative, it’s should be no surprise that their viewers tend to buy the Republican Party line, even when that line is known to be false. For instance, 2003 polling conducted by the Program on International Policy revealed that those who primarily received their news from Fox were more likely than others to believe that there was evidence of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, that WMDs had been found, and that world opinion favored the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Eighty percent of Fox viewers had at least one of these misperceptions, which was significantly higher than those who received their news from other sources.[1]

Are you shocked? Disgusted? Well, what did you expect from a network owned by a man who once said that Pat Robertson was “right on all the issues.” What did you expect from a network whose president was a political operative for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush? What did you expect, reporting that was fair and balanced?

* * * * *

[1] Of course, the poll doesn’t prove that Fox is the reason its viewers are so misinformed. It’s certainly possible that misinformed viewers just happen to watch Fox News.

No comments: