I have probably watched more Fox “News” than any regular here on The Moose. In fact, I’d wager I have watched more of it than most rank and file Republicans, since I’m much more of a news junky than your average Joe. Growing up in a conservative household, it was pretty hard to escape it. (I have probably listened to more Rush than the rest of you, too, for that matter.) I have always enjoyed my parents — despite their unfortunate political leanings, they are smart, funny, cool people in most respects — and since they watched Fixed News in the den, I spent a lot of time viewing it as well, simply because it was a way of spending time with them and discussing the day’s events.
I spend most of my online time in the company of Democrats and Left-leaning Independents, and most of my “real life” time in the company of Republicans. In liberal circles, I almost consider myself something of an “expert” on Faux (and I promise, I do NOT think of that as a bragging point) because I don’t just follow the FNC controversies reported on by Keith, Rachel, and Media Matters — I’ve actually watched the network, which I think most right-minded Democrats make a point not to do. And here’s a little-known (and potentially embarrassing) sricki fact: I genuinely like watching The O’Reilly Factor with my father — it makes for fantastic debate. My dad is unquestionably a wingnut, but he’s a damn smart one, and we’ve had some lively discussions (as well as some yelling, screaming arguments).
Now if you’ve been watching Faux lately (which I’ll guess that most of you haven’t, but you’ll still be aware of the story), you’ll have noticed the bizarre amount of emphasis being placed on Obama’s purported “War on Fox News.” Beck in particular has enjoyed raving about it — then again, Beck enjoys raving in general.
It all started in earnest earlier this month when Communications Director Anita Dunn excoriated Fixed News, calling it an arm of the Republican propaganda machine. Here is the clip from her CNN appearance, as well as a few juicy snippets transcribed by The Huffington Post below:
“If we went back a year ago to the fall of 2008, to the campaign, that was a time this country was in two wars that we had a financial collapse probably more significant than any financial collapse since the Great Depression. If you were a Fox News viewer in the fall election what you would have seen were that the biggest stories and the biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and a something called ACORN.”
[. . .]
“The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. And it is not ideological… what I think is fair to say about Fox, and the way we view it, is that it is more of a wing of the Republican Party.”
[. . .]
“Obviously [the President] will go on Fox because he engages with ideological opponents. He has done that before and he will do it again… when he goes on Fox he understands he is not going on it as a news network at this point. He is going on it to debate the opposition.”
“[Fox is] widely viewed as a part of the Republican Party: take their talking points and put them on the air, take their opposition research and put it on the air. And that’s fine. But let’s not pretend they’re a news organization like CNN is.”
– White House Communications Director Anita Dunn
I’ve heard a lot of people voicing concern over this issue. The prevailing opinion seems to be that taking on the media is a big no-no and always a losing strategy. For the time being, I have to disagree. For one thing, Fux isn’t really “the media” — it’s one cable “news” outlet, and despite their consistently high ratings, it isn’t as if the entire country is watching. A lot of people don’t have time to sit around in front of their computers or their TVs all day.
This Guardian article illuminates a few more reasons why the “War on Fox” is winnable:
First, what Obama spokeswoman Anita Dunn said – “Fox News often operates either as the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican party” – is clearly true. Even Republicans wouldn’t deny this. After all, there’s a reason conservatives watch Fox, just as there’s a reason liberals watch MSNBC and those in between watch CNN. So she wasn’t really saying anything that any informed person living in the real world would argue with.
Second, it is worth pointing out, because outside the realm of news junkies, lots of people may not know that Fox is a Republican network. I know this seems hard to believe to you and me. But never underestimate the lack of knowledge on the part of the larger public – not because people are dumb, but because they’re preoccupied with other things.
I once saw a poll a couple of years ago showing that a shockingly large percentage of Americans, maybe even upwards of 40%, couldn’t keep straight in their heads which US political party supported abortion rights and which one opposed them.
Given that, it’s perfectly fine for the White House to tell the broader public that Fox is a Republican network. This actually may be news to some people, and is therefore a useful thing to say.
Third, saying it openly, and denying Fox interviews as Obama did last month, makes the base happy. What’s wrong with making the base happy?
It certainly makes this member of the base happy. I see nothing wrong with exposing lies and distortions for what they are. Will there be backlash? Maybe. But in what form? What are we afraid of? Faux News pundits and reporters spreading misinformation about the administration? We can’t have that! Oh wait…
The heated back-and-forth between the White House and Fox News has brought equal delight to Fox’s conservative commentators, who rev
el in the fight, and liberal Democrats, who have long characterized the network as a purveyor of right-wing propaganda rather than fact-based journalism.
Speaking privately at the White House on Monday with a group of mostly liberal columnists and commentators, including Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann of MSNBC and Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich and Bob Herbert of The New York Times, Mr. Obama himself gave vent to sentiments about the network, according to people briefed on the conversation.
[. . .]
“We simply decided to stop abiding by the fiction, which is aided and abetted by the mainstream press, that Fox is a traditional news organization,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the deputy White House communications director. Later that week, White House officials said, they noticed a column by Clark Hoyt, the public editor of The Times, in which Jill Abramson, one of the paper’s two managing editors, described her newsroom’s “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio.” The Washington Post’s executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, had already expressed similar concerns about his newsroom.
White House officials said comments like those had focused them on a need to make their case that Fox had an ideological bent undercutting its legitimacy as a news organization.
Fox News Channel certainly seems to be enjoying a row it considers ratings candy, having devoted hours of news coverage and commentary to the fight.
But White House officials said they were happy to have at least started a public debate about Fox.
“This is a discussion that probably had to be had about their approach to things,” Mr. Axelrod said. “Our concern is other media not follow their lead.”
The fact is, Fox “News” is not news at all. It is propaganda plain and simple — and dangerous propaganda at that. And no, it’s not just the pundits. The Project on Excellence in Journalism report in 2006 found that 68 percent of Fox cable “NEWS” stories contained personal opinions. Compare that to MSNBC (that wicked Leftist propaganda network!) at 27 percent and CNN (that evil Clinton News Network!) at 4 percent. The “content analysis” portion of their 2005 report also concluded that “Fox was measurably more one-sided than the other networks, and Fox journalists were more opinionated on the air.”
For the time being, Obama has refused Faux an interview. I think the general consensus amongst Left-leaning bloggers is that Democrats should stay off the network altogether. Appearing on Fux is just an opportunity to be bullied, and it legitimizes their crazy bullshit. If our people would ALL stop giving interviews to them, their ratings would go down. Faux News viewers are mostly looking for a pie fight, in my opinion. My hero Alan Grayson had some thoughts on the matter recently:
I’m just glad to see Obama isn’t losing any sleep over the conflict. Oh, but I really hope Glenn Beck is.
Oh, and just for fun: