Fox News : Just Don’t Call it ‘Journalism’

Glenn Beck of Fox “quote” News.

Fox and its enablers
In the mainstream media

Fox’s pretense of being an actual news network is hardly more convincing than, say, Milton Berle in a bra and garters posing as a woman.

By Eric Alterman / October 24, 2009

It’s a sad symbol of the state of contemporary American journalism that the White House communications office is doing more to maintain the honor of the profession than are many journalists. But that’s just what’s happening in the contretemps over Fox News.

Interim White House communications director Anita Dunn has explained to the press that the White House plans to treat Fox “the way we would treat an opponent… As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”

But many in Washington prefer to pretend. Howard Kurtz, whose talent for clueless conventional thinking is exceeded only by his ability to juggle his myriad conflicts of interest, thinks Obama’s reaction to Fox is no different from JFK’s complaints about the Herald Tribune, LBJ’s unhappiness with the New York Times and various (and endless) Republican attacks on the media, so he finds it “no surprise that the Obama White House isn’t happy with its coverage and is battling back.”

Baltimore Sun critic David Zurawik professes to hear “echoes of Nixon-Agnew” in the Obama White House and then accuses the administration of failing to “respect press freedom.” The Times’s David Carr concludes, “So far, the only winner in this latest dispute seems to be Fox News. Ratings are up 20 percent this year, and the network basked for a week in the antagonism of a sitting president.”

What all these critics fail to address is that the administration’s argument is right on the merits. Fox’s pretense of being an actual news network is hardly more convincing than, say, Milton Berle in a bra and garters posing as a woman. By refusing to acknowledge Fox’s open and avowed partisanship, its MSM defenders are not only flacking for Ailes & Co.; they’re diminishing the work of honest journalists who try to play fair. Ask yourself:

  • Would a genuine news network reproduce a Republican press release, replete with typos?
  • Would a genuine news network run, over a five-day period, twenty-two excerpts from healthcare forums in which every single speaker was opposed?
  • Would a genuine news network allow a producer to cheerlead, off camera, anti-Obama protesters?
  • Would a genuine news network take out full-page ads to complain of insufficient coverage of antigovernment protest marches it had promoted?
  • Would a genuine news network run the following headlines, trumpeting each story as a “Fox Nation Victory”?
    • Senate Removes ‘End of Life’ Provision
    • Congress Delays Health Care Rationing Bill
    • Anti-Tea Party Reporter Dumped by CNN
    • Obama’s Drive for Climate Change Bill Delayed
    • Obama’s ‘Green Czar’ Resigns

(Note: I have not had to quote the lunatic ravings of Messrs. Beck, Hannity or O’Reilly to make my case.)

Fox is not a news organization; it is a propaganda outlet, and an extremist one at that. Is it any wonder that according to survey after survey, Fox News viewers are among the worst informed Americans when it comes to politics, despite their obsessive interest?

A recent study by Democracy Corps finds that this audience believes “Obama is deliberately and ruthlessly advancing a ‘secret agenda’ to bankrupt our country and dramatically expand government control over all aspects of our daily lives,” with the ultimate goal of “the destruction of the United States as it was conceived by our founders and developed over the past 200 years.”

There is something to be said for collecting all the crazies in one place. As conservative pundit Reihan Salam argued on behalf of the nuttiness of Glenn Beck, his value lies in the fact that “he’s a kind of national therapist for some of America’s craziest people, few of whom are willing to go in for professional help.” And so it’s nice that ABC’s John Stossel has migrated to his natural home at Fox and Lou Dobbs is said to be in talks to take his racist rants over there as well.

But the danger increases when the rest of the media allow this particularly swine-ish flu to infect their news operations, and this is the White House’s legitimate concern. Why was George Stephanopoulos taking up valuable time in his interview with the President of the United States badgering him about ACORN? (“George, this is not the biggest issue facing the country. It’s not something I’m paying a lot of attention to,” was Obama’s entirely appropriate response.)

And why did Stephanopoulos persistently pester the president, in the same interview, about whether a transformational reform of our dysfunctional healthcare system — which is on its way to eating up 20 percent of the entire GDP — could be reduced to the Republican-friendly sound bite “a tax increase”? (Is it surprising that the interview made its way into an RNC attack ad the very next week?)

Is the fear of Fox making its way through ABC’s corporate bloodstream? Recently David Axelrod appeared on Stephanopoulos’s program and schooled him on the stakes involved: “It’s really not news — it’s pushing a point of view. And… other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way.”

I suppose we can be grateful that Obama has not been asked lately about his flag pin; but it’s a sad day when our big media pooh-bahs need instruction on the values and responsibilities of their own profession by political operatives. No one’s asking to censor Fox, but a little shame and scorn ought to go a long way. This, thankfully, is one of the concurrent crises facing the profession that journalists can fix all by themselves, and perhaps restore a bit of their self-respect in the process.

[Eric Alterman is a Distinguished Professor of English, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and Professor of Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. He is also “The Liberal Media” columnist for The Nation and a fellow of The Nation Institute, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC, where he writes and edits the “Think Again” column, and a senior fellow (since 1985) at the World Policy Institute. This article appears in the November 9, 2009, edition of The Nation.]

Source / The Nation

Thanks to Mercedes Lynn de Uriarte / The Rag Blog

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13 Responses to Fox News : Just Don’t Call it ‘Journalism’

  1. I have to say that this article makes me so happy. You have to enjoy the little things in life and this article will keep me smiling for weeks. The smell of Progressive desperation in the air is sweet indeed.

    I am not a fan of long drawn out comments. They are hard to read and lose their impact. But there are so many out and out misrepresentations in this article that I could write pages full of rebuttal points. Alas who would read them?

    Fox’s fair and balanced reporting is making liberal mouthpieces posing as news organizations appear impotent and pointless. (which of course they are). The impending death of liberal newspapers, liberal talk radio (if it still exists) and the dismal and falling viewership of liberal news organizations reflects that a vast and growing segment of Americans know bulls*&t when they hear it and no longer trust the formerly mainstream media. Fox provides far more balanced coverage and people respond to that.

    The author, of course, had to repeat what I have come to call, Progressive Mantra Number One (PM1 for short). It goes like this: “conservatives are crazy, or racist, or sheep unable to think for themselves, and enlightened Progressives are the smartest, fairest people on the planet.” The author has to point out PM1 for seemingly the millionth time on this blog site to explain away a painful reality. A majority of Americans realize that the formerly mainstream media are nothing more than propaganda outlets for liberal/progressive blather and they don’t want any more of it. They want a network that hasn’t gotten on its knees to service the administration in return for Camp Obama providing access and interviews. (I suggest the REAL tea-baggers in this country are ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC but that is for another post). Americans tune into Fox NEWS for fair and balanced coverage. ‘nuf said.

  2. We need to rid ourselves of the Glenn Becks; the Rush Limbaughs who make millions of dollars a year spreading lies and gossip.

    We no longer have the likes of Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Morrow who gave us ‘just the facts – just the facts’.

    Once we thought for ourselves, now we’re getting our brains ‘tweeked’ with rubbish…………

  3. JoJo says:

    “I am not a fan of long drawn out comments. They are hard to read and lose their impact. But there are so many out and out misrepresentations in this article that I could write pages full of rebuttal points. Alas who would read them?”
    spoken like a true faux news fan!

  4. Fed Up says:

    I never watch Fox news…they are despicable liers (not to imply that the other networks are paragons of truth either but it is a matter of degree).

    Has anyone contemplated that there is a method to their madness besides one vicious deamonization campaign after another?

    The way the right wing works on the grass roots level is to, say, come to School Board meetings (where they can) and create a very vicious atmosphere of lies, personal attacks and gang bangs. They create a situation in which decent honest people simply leave, and then they simply take over!

    It therefore seems to me that what Fox News is about in subtext is creating such a situation so that the Fifth Estate is destroyed in America. Simply by going in as an extreme minority and creating a horrific professional sitiation, they have succeeded in their main objective.

    Of course, the far more difficult issue is why so many Americans whose prctical interests are in direct conflict with outfits like Fox are subject to their manipulations?

  5. Richard says:

    I do watch Glenn Beck for a while each day. Down here in Colombia we only have FOX and CNN International. He is better than Uncle Miltie any day, there is little humor on TV here and what there is is slapstick. He is like “Laugh in” but every day. I also enjoy long drawn out comments from right wingnuts like DHS for their humor and wrongheadedness. C’mon folks can’t you take a joke.
    Neither Beck or DHS are serious… are they?

    BTW, WHERE IS RICHARD JENN?

  6. I posted this in response to a comment on Facebook, and thought I’d share it here:

    Fox and MSNBC couldn’t be more different. True, the commentators on MSNBC approach the news with a clear and admitted perspective — and can be strident and sardonic. But their information is almost always accurate and Olbermann, Maddow and the others are smart and incisive and back up their facts.

    What you hear on Fox is famously unreliable and, honestly, dumb — and the hate talk and racism are well-documented. They play to the most base instincts of their audience…. Read More

    The fact-checking sources such as Media Matters back up this dramatic difference in the the reliability and role of the two operations.

    The MSNBC folks are far from mouthpieces for the Democrats and are frequently highly critical of the Obama administration. FOX unashamedly pushes the agenda of the right (dominant) wing of the Republican Party — and their role in organizing the tea parties and other extremist events further belies their claim to being a “news” operation.

    Thorne

  7. Fed Up says:

    Fox is a JOKE, not a news organization at all. Domestically, MSNBC seems mostly accurate…however, on international issues, there is much documentation internationally that they are all liers, including MSNBC.

    Frankly, when it comes to the rest of the world, we Americans are living in virtual reality, where what we think happened, never happened at all!

    So where is Richard Jenn?

  8. Nice try Thorne. All of your points are subjective but you try to shore things up by quoting Media Matters. Why don’t you just quote Rham on his thoughts? MediaMatters is not a fact checking organization, it’s a left wing attack machine.

    I would prefer to back up my claims with an organization a little more fair and less rabidly partisan, say the Pew Research Center. Their “2008 PEW RESEARCH CENTER FOR THE PEOPLE & THE PRESS” shows:

    FNC: 39% Republican, 33% Democratic, 22% Independent
    CNN: 18% Republican, 51% Democratic, 23% Independent
    MSNBC: 18% Republican, 45% Democratic, 27% Independent

    If you factor in viewership ratings, surprise surprise, more democrats and independents watch Fox than MSNBC and CNN combined. It doesn’t seem to make much sense that Dems and independents are tuning in for a daily dose of “hate talk and racism” does it?
    Sorry Thorne, your logic just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Eric Alterman always makes wingnut brains explode. They really can’t handle facts, so they turn to Fox as the path of least resistance. Desperation is being in a grudging minority of 20% and less, and falling. Statistics mean nothing (even when they’re real) if you don’t know what you’re looking it. Conservative FAIL is the news of this decade and the next one or two at least. Enjoy being the banshee in the wilderness. You’ve earned it.

    – Piltz

  10. Statistics mean nothing (even when they’re real) if you don’t know what you’re looking it.

    There is gibberish posing as analysis. Facts dont mean anything? What exactly are you looking at? Can you explain why so many Democrats and Independents tune in to watch Fox news, given that you think its not real news?

  11. Thorne, that is actually a pretty good article. I liked a lot of that. I think after reading the article it is clear that each point the author makes is also true of most other so called news organizations. Points by points can be made, but honestly they are pretty easy to dig out on your own.

    Here is another interesting article. A food column no less. Who is in the mood for pie? How about the nice big slice of humble pie that White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett was served by CNN’s Campbell Brown.

    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/10/27/jarrett-makes-retracts-charge-fox-is-biased/

    I would love to meet some of you guys some time. You are all pretty bright, articulate people. It could be our own little mini beer summit. I think that would be fun.

  12. Just ran across this little Gem. 12:15 AM? Sending out a press release in the middle of the night?
    How could anyone think the WH is thin skinned and determined to crush all dissent. I mean really .. who?. And by the way, the offeneder isn’t Fox NEWS its the AP. Oh my God … who next to cross the WH? Do you think Chris Matthews will ever get past his Man Crush on Obama? Nah …
    =====
    Within minutes of the publication of AP’s story, the White House released a statement at 12:15 a.m. Thursday that it said was the “real facts” about how jobs were counted in the stimulus data distributed two weeks ago.

    “This story draws misleading conclusions from a handful of examples,” Ed DeSeve, an Obama adviser helping to oversee the stimulus program, said.
    ====
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/10/29/number-jobs-credited-stimulus-overstated-thousands/

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