Where to begin? Ordinarily I would not undertake to review a documentary within the virtual walls of this forum, but Outfoxed; Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, a film which takes an objective look at Fox News, is a one well worth heralding because its message affects us all as Americans, especially in the run-up to the crucial elections in November.
I do not regularly watch Fox News, because of three overriding reasons; 1). their slant on the news is decidedly biased towards the right; 2). the O’Reilly Factor with Bill O’Reilly, and; 3). Hannity & Colmes with Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes. I consider both O’Reilly and Hannity liars and bullies in the worst tradition of elementary School playground childhood interaction, and the rest of the major Fox News on-air personalities are not far behind.
It is an open secret that Fox News is neither “fair” or “balanced.” How can it be when Hannity opens his show with a countdown to how many days it will be until Bush is reelected, and O’Reilly regularly and habitually bullies his guest, and yells at them the shut-up, and when they don’t, has their microphones cut? I am left wondering: is this the Jerry Springer Show or a place where the issues are debated fairly and without an agenda by the host(s)? The later is true of course, O’Reilly, Hannity, Brit Hume (whom I used to respect), Geraldo Rivera (who I have never thought mush of ), and the entire Fox News organization have an agenda, and that is to be the 24-hour mouthpiece of the Republican Party and its ever increasing lean to the right of center. It is almost as if the term fair and balanced is used to mock those gullible enough to watch the news channel.
The documentary Outfoxed examines Fox News from a number of different angles, starting with its owner, openly right leaning, naturalized American citizen Rupert Murdoch owner of international News Corporation. But the documentary is not content to examine Fox News from the outside; it delves into the meat of the network, interviewing a number of former Fox News producers, and news reporters/local news anchormen, in order to get their perspective. And it dissects the methods Fox News uses to get their slanted message out to the public at large. But what I found most enlightening is how deeply entrenched Fox News is the Republican Party ethos to the exclusion of any other view point. As Outfoxed shows in glaring detail, Fox News is, once again, nothing more then the 24 hour mouth piece of the Republican Party, the same Party that regular reminds the American people that the “liberal” press is lying to us! How ironic.
The documentary points out that what Fox News is doing is worse than the old Soviet propaganda machine, because at least one knew what the Soviet government was up to: it was suppressing all other view points except its own in a bid to control the populace. What Fox News and the Republican Party are doing is far more insidious and underhanded because it clothes it right wing propaganda in the American flag and calls it news. News that heralds itself as “fair and balanced” however is anything but, even to the most causal observer who cares to pay attention to the world around them.
The most disturbing part of the documentary is when Outfoxed delves into the coverage of election night, 2000 in which Fox News network was the first to call the election in Bush’s favor despite the fact that Florida was still in contention. Fox’s declaration forced the other news organizations to follow suit in very short order, and the documentary points out that this and not the contentious court case to follow, or the war of words, nor the endless debate over counting ballots, was the main reason Bush became President. Why you might ask? Because the declaration set up an expectation, an air of finality that swayed public opinion in Bush’s direction; it is an argument that is hard to refute.
Outfoxed also goes the great lengths to paint Hannity and O’Reilly (especially O’Reilly) with a brush of reality that colors their shows with the bright colors of truth. They are, in the final analysis not journalist at all; they do not seek the truth, nor do they wish to entertain an opinion contrary to their own. They have a Right Wing Republican Party agenda and will do anything, including twisting the truth and outright lie to prove their points. Much like Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of the Conservative political pendants who have little or no real journalism experience, they are in the end, arrogant, loudmouthed bullies and talking heads; mouth pieces of the Republican Party. O’Reilly is especially grating to the sensibilities. Other may find him entertaining, I find him obnoxious and insufferable.
The sort of behaviors exhibited by Fox News on-air personalities would not tolerated nor considered creditable on ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, or CNN, so why do the American people tolerate it here?
For those would cannot do without their nightly dose of Fox News and claim to love their country, Outfoxed is a documentary well worth their time to watch. And for those of us who think that truly “fair and balanced” news reporting is essential to the proper functioning of our American Republic, Outfoxed is an education in what can happen when the People and the government agency charged with the stewardship of the airwave—the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)—stop paying attention and allow cancers like Fox News to infest the very heart of our democratic process. I, for one, do not like being subtly manipulated by those with interests other then the welfare of the American people and nation in mind. Do you?