Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008

Fox News Attacks

By David Luhrssen
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Among its many grievous offenses, the Fox News Channel is engaged in an ongoing assault against truth in advertising. With a straight face, the bellowing Bill O’Reilly and lesser pipsqueaks proclaim themselves innocent of any ideology or agenda, even though their support of the most reactionary Republican policies is barely disguised. O’Reilly presides over a self-proclaimed “No Spin Zone” whose distortions are dizzying and unrelenting. Through it all Fox claims to be “Fair & Balanced” despite all evidence to the contrary.

The documentary Outfoxed: Fox Attacks has been reissued as a DVD “Special Collectors Edition” with an hour of bonus programming. Although director Robert Greenwald assembled the damning snippets and critical interviews during the 2004 Presidential campaign, the tone of Fox News hasn’t softened over the last four years.

Even if the Outfoxed charge that Fox News receives its orders direct from the Republican National Committee is overblown, there can be no doubt that Fox anchors generally shout out the GOP line. And often they literally shout! Civility has no place on a channel where guests who deviate from the approved position are shouted down, cut off, insulted and even denounced as “enemies of the state” if they especially raise O’Reilly’s ire.

Some of Outfoxed’s analysis is perceptive, including its examination of the Fox’s deployment of red, white and blue graphics and penchant for photographing Bush in a commanding light while rendering his opponents as buffoons. The token liberals seen on Fox are mostly window dressing, chosen in some cases for their squirrelly appearance or their willingness to concede to the right.

Objectivity may be a doubtful concept, but fairness is a sound virtue in life as well as journalism. There is little fairness at Fox. The erasure of any distinction between news reporting and commentary is not peculiar to any ideology or media outlet, but Fox has coarsened expectations. The gravity of its success has probably pulled its broadcast and cable competitors closer to the right.

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