This network thinks Sarah Palin is a genius, that it’s OK to slaughter any Muslim you see, and that Obama is a Nazi and deserves to be overthrown.
Hard to say whether the commentator who posted the above analysis on Facebook was being serious, deliberately hyperbolic, or merely clowning around, but his words do reflect a widespread and sincerely held sentiment regarding America’s top-rated cable news network.
Jimmy Carter does not come across as a big Fox News fan, either:
A lot of gullible folks in the United States actually believe what Fox puts forward as facts, when most of it is just complete distortions.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow offered this puzzling observation:
[Fox News] is run as a political operation, to elect candidates, to fund-raise for causes, to have rallies against democratic ideas and politicians, and there’s nothing like that on the left.
Does Ms. Maddow watch her own network at all?
Former Congressman Alan Grayson (D) pulled no punches (I’ve used the next two quotes in a earlier post on a related subject; pardon the repetition):
Fox News and their Republican collaborators are the enemy of America. They’re the enemy of everyone who cares about health care in this country, the enemy of anybody who cares about educating their children, the enemy of everybody who wants energy independence, or anything good for this country, and certainly the enemy of peace. There’s no doubt about that. They are the enemy.
Mr. Grayson’s fiery philippic goes nicely with the following declaration by Ms. Maddow, meant as a direct broadside against Fox News and their Republican collaborators, yet—unwittingly, I suppose—nailing Mr. Grayson’s attitude to a T:
In politics, culture war is a term of art. It means Americans finding the enemy here in our own country among other Americans. It means finding where differences between us Americans produce fear and resentment and then stoking that fear and resentment to maximum effect.
Exactly. So here’s more of Mr. Grayson’s effort to stoke fear and resentment to maximum effect:
One of the fundamental problems is Fox. OK, Fox has turned into Monty Python’s Lying Circus. All day long they spew lies out, time after time, day after day, and they’ve created this bubble of irreality around the people who listen to them. And it’s a threat to this country.
Speaking of Monty Python, before drifting off into his familiar persona and riffing about torturing furry critters with red-hot pokers, in this interview John Cleese waxed sobersided for a spell in knocking Fox (a transcript of the relevant remarks is posted below the clip):
Take this dreadful Fox News Channel. They can now put out stuff on that channel that is [sic] no longer even pretends to be journalistically respectable. It’s all about “Hannity’s America is an opinion show. It’s a show from Sean’s perspective, which is obviously conservative.” That means it doesn’t have to reflect any real reality. So I would like to say, based on that way of presenting programs, that Rupert Murdoch tortures small furry animals with red-hot pokers before he even has breakfast.
True, it’s an opinion show from Sean’s perspective, which is obviously conservative, just as Mr. Hannity’s current competitor in the 9pm slot, the aforementioned Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, hosts a program from her perspective, which is obviously liberal. Somehow I can’t find the part in Mr. Cleese’s interview where he blasts an unabashedly liberal perspective as equally exempt from having to reflect any real reality. Also, note that Mr. Cleese takes his cue right out of a newspaper. Has he ever watched Fox News? Probably not.
Pullizer Prize winner and senior fellow for Media Matters for America Will Bunch picks up on Congressman Grayson’s bubble motif:
I think that’s a big part of the conservative movement, they want, they enjoy staying on the same message, I mean, these are really people who are in this bubble of talk radio and Fox News.
Sure, but those who live in the Media Matters and MSNBC bubble generally don’t distinguish themselves through exceptional variety in the message department, either: conservatives and their enablers on Fox are the enemy and must be stopped. That’s the message they enjoy staying on. In the end, a bubble is a bubble.
Film critic Roger Ebert tweeted this urgent plea in an attempt to spare our northern neighbors exposure to pathogenic broadcasting:
The petition he cited reads thus:
Prime Minister Harper is trying to push American-style hate media onto our airwaves, and make us all pay for it. His plan is to create a “Fox News North” to mimic the kind of hate-filled propaganda with which Fox News has poisoned U.S. politics.
Ben Armbruster of Think Progress also invokes the p-word to characterize Fox News:
But I think his response is kind of emblematic of what Fox News does in general, I mean, they divert actual substantive issues, and they belittle and they put down their sort of perceived opponents to divert attention from what the real issue is, you know, what we pretty much all know anyway, is that, you know, Fox News is a GOP, you know, propaganda outfit.
What we pretty much all know, you know, is that, you know, the perceived opponent of many—Fox News—keeps being belittled and put down as a “propaganda” outfit.
The Fox News paradox arises when a disconcertingly large percentage of those who characterize the network as nothing more than a conduit for conservative evangelism do so mostly based on what they’ve heard or read about it, not based on having put in enough tube time so as to be in a position to present an independent and cogent evaluation of what’s going on there. In fact, many even wear utter unfamiliarity with their bete noire as a badge of honor and pride themselves that they “would never give Fox the time of day” (except when it comes to trashing it; then there’s always time).
Instead, these people simply spout forth Manchurian-candidate-style the standard issue Fox-loathing rhetoric that’s wafting through the grapevine, blissfully oblivious to the manifest irony of robotically regurgitating second-hand information in accusing a network of trafficking in, of all things, propaganda, yet having fallen hook, line, and sinker for anti-Fox agitprop noised abroad by the other side. (The concept of propaganda doesn’t imply that the information disseminated by way of propaganda tactics is necessarily incorrect; only that it is being presented without alternative perspectives, designed to be accepted and passed along unquestioningly until it is so because enough people say so. This, of course, is precisely the charge leveled against Fox News and its viewers. In fact, the universal charge leveled against any individual or organization perceived to be profoundly misguided is to have fallen victim to or to be propagating propaganda.)
Case in point: A co-worker of mine once categorically declared that “Fox News is so far right, it’s ridiculous,” and with a peremptory nod of her head she whirled around and stomped off. Later, when I asked her to elaborate, it turned out she couldn’t name a single show or commentator on Fox. She also confessed that she didn’t watch TV. Then how had she lighted upon the intelligence that Fox News was so ridiculously right-wing? She just sort of “knew” because, well, that was the scuttlebutt in the hood, I suppose.
Not an isolated incident by any means. It seems to me that the most vociferous Fox News critics are curiously prone to (a) not having cable, (b) refusing to watch Fox or not watching TV altogether, or (c) living in a country where Fox News is unavailable; therefore predicating their assessment entirely on the assessment of others, i.e., quoting or paraphrasing what they’ve heard or read.
Take this mildly confused comment I just saw on another blog, for example:
I can turn on the TV, and I can flip to a channel that sells itself as the “No Spin Zone,” and everyone knows about it, and everyone knows that that is, in fact, the very place you go in order to get an ideology spun for you.
Not everyone knows about it, though, as there is no such channel that sells itself as the “No Spin Zone,” at least none I’ve ever heard of. Perhaps this was just a innocent typo rather than an indication of scant familiarity with the object of his criticism, but I suspect that if this person ever actually flipped to the channel he carped about, he wouldn’t have confused one particular show on that channel—whose host does indeed sell his show as a “No Spin Zone”—with the channel itself, which sells itself, as everyone (at least everyone who’s awake) knows, as “fair and balanced” and “We report. You decide.”
When asked to explain how they’ve arrived at their conclusions about Fox News without giving it the proverbial time of day, most knee-jerk Fox critics will invariably respond that they’ve “seen clips.” This means little, of course, for how accurately those clips represent the whole depends on the agenda of the purveyors of those clips. Depending on the impression one wishes to engender in one’s target audience, using a strategic selection of footage one can make Fox News look like either GOP TV or the Hammer & Sickle Channel.
Here’s a typical soundbite collage intended to spotlight the right wing bias of Fox News:
Nice try, but for the sake of argument, imagine a media outfit that’s truly “fair and balanced” on the liberal-to-conservative continuum. (If you find it too much of a stretch to imagine Fox News to live up to this slogan, then imagine a hypothetical network to which the slogan applies.) By definition, what you’ll get there is liberal and conservative perspectives and talking points. Then, if you wish to cast said outfit as either a liberal or conservative propaganda arm, all you have to do is to ignore one half, compile a selection of clips and soundbites that showcase the tendentiousness of the other half, and fob off the result pars-pro-toto on an audience who never watch the unedited original. So easy, you don’t need a caveman. A capuchin can do it.
What if, based on the buzz about it in certain precincts and a few clips I’d seen (perhaps on Fox News) of crazy mullahs vowing death to America, I were to declare that Al Jazeera was a terrorist propaganda network? Or that, judging by its reputation and a handful of op-eds I’d glanced over, I refused to read The Guardian because it was a far-left rag? Unless I were speaking to a hardcore right-wing audience, chances are I’d be told that my evidence for making these assessments was a tad on the flimsy side, and rightfully so.
While all but the battiest head-in-the-sand Fox haters will acknowledge that FNC features quite a number of liberal voices, such acknowledgment is usually qualified by adding that Fox’s presentation is overwhelmingly arch-conservative, with a few token liberals squeezed in here and there in order to effect some paltry semblance of ideological diversity, just so there’s at least a smidgen of heterogeneity to refer to when called upon to justify the motto of “fair and balanced.” But if you don’t spend a meaningful amount of time watching the channel, how can you ascertain proportionality? The short answer is, you can’t. Instead, you must rely on second-hand sources.
Of course, a wisely selected array of second-hand sources can help us sleuth out a close-enough approximation of reality; obviously, there aren’t enough hours in a day to examine and evaluate everything first-hand at the well, as it were. I am fascinated, though, by these cartoonish Media Matters zombies one bumps into all over the place, who couldn’t care less whether any piece of information they hear or that pops up on their computer screens is true or not as long as it casts an unfavorable light on Fox News in some way, in which case they just soak it up like desiccated sponges soak up moisture and bruit it merrily about like Raymond Shaw upon being shown a Queen of Diamonds and told to spread the word (a Manchurian Candidate reference, in case you’re unfamiliar with the story).
Given a U.S. population of 300 million plus change and a world population of close to seven billion, only a wee fraction ever watch even the most popular network. When put to the test, most people in the world—and most people in the U.S.—probably couldn’t tell Fox News from a Creamsicle, and that includes most Fox bashers. And I suspect that many who intentionally circulate anti-Fox propaganda calculate, quite accurately, that their target audience are either unable or unwilling to double-check any Fox-related flimflam they are being fed (except, perhaps, for the kind of “verification” that consists in visiting various websites known for re-circulating Media Matters material, which affords a false sense of having consulted multiple sources).
A while ago, California Congresswoman Barbara Boxer (D) was interviewed on Fox News. She gave her opinion on an issue, and then she somewhat bizarrely capped her remarks by pointing out that this was the kind of view one didn’t hear on Fox. I checked the logo on the screen to confirm that Fox was precisely where I had just heard it.
It always amazes me when I hear people insist with clarion conviction that certain points of view aren’t being heard on Fox after I’ve heard them there with mine own ears a gazillion times already. After all, Fox News figured out a long time ago that confrontation sells, and they couldn’t put on heated debates, as is an integral part of their MO, unless contrasting viewpoints were invited to the party.
Clueless doesn’t even begin to describe a lot of the assaults on Fox News that are being bandied about on loop. What these attackers don’t seem to understand—or don’t care about—is that if they exaggerate willy-nilly and lash out with reckless disregard for accuracy, it looks like they don’t have any legitimate arguments against Fox. In the end, they draw attention to themselves and the chips upon their shoulders rather than to the target of their criticism.
So who exactly are these people, who spread gibberish about Fox News, addressing?
Well, they’re addressing those who don’t watch Fox News, i.e., the overwhelming majority of inhabitants on planet Earth. And, for whatever reason, they figure that to risk appearing like jabbering ding-dongs to the minority who do tune in with non-trivial regularity is worth the prospect of inciting anti-Fox sentiments in the majority who don’t.
Otherwise, I cannot explain public statements like the following by seasoned Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, made in the wake of Juan William’s firing at NPR last year (Juan Williams is a liberal-leaning political analyst for Fox News and former NPR correspondent):
Fox News, on the other hand, is a Republican propaganda network that put into circulation the false idea that Obama went to, President Obama went to a madrassa, and they stoked the Tea Party, um, they stoked, not the Tea Party movement, but the death panels. That’s on the one side. On the other side, I think NPR made a mistake in the way they handled this. I was a member of a union for a long time. I think employees, contract employees included, deserve some respect. What they should have said is, sat Juan Williams down, he’s done a lot of good work for them, and say, “Look, you got a choice here. Look at the context you were on with O’Reilly. You could barely get your points out in the middle of the propaganda. You wanna work for Fox? That’s OK, but—or you wanna work for us, that’s OK—but you‘ve gotta decide,” if I may use Fox’s slogan.
Clearly, Mr. Dionne was addressing none but those who know Fox News by reputation only, for no one else would have bought this claptrap about Mr. Williams not being able to get his points out with O’Reilly (a program he not only regularly appears on and always gets his points out just fine, but also frequently guest-hosts). So Mr. Dionne probably figured a small hit in his credibility among Fox viewers is worth reinforcing the channel’s unfavorable perception by the multitude of non-watchers.
I used to follow a lady named Cynthia Boaz on Twitter. I don’t mean to pick on the poor woman—I’m sure she’s a lovely person—but not only is she a perfect illustration of the kind of cartoonish and over-the-top Fox-loathing I’ve been describing—where some fuse burns through upstairs and the rational brain takes a hike at the mere mention of that channel—but she’s a political science professor (!) to boot, which adds a layer of troublesome gravitas to her tweetage.
I say “used to follow” because she blocked me; I suppose she didn’t appreciate my follow-up questions to her tweets. She’ll most likely claim my questions were hostile and troll-ish. My feeling is she simply couldn’t answer them. In any case, she’s an avid tweeter who loves to get her message out, so I’m sure she won’t mind if I share a small selection of her published morsels of 140 characters or less.
For instance, she posted “14 Propaganda Techniques Used By FOX.” Here’s #11:
Then she reposted those techniques multiple times. Go figure. (Recently, she also published an article titled Fourteen Propaganda Techniques Fox “News” Uses to Brainwash Americans. These are pretty much the same techniques she uses in her tweets, which explains her expertise on the subject of propaganda.)
Likewise, she tweeted several times (presumably in order for people to take it as truth) that
How did she become such an expert on cable news? Let’s examine her self-reported TV habits:
Ah, she doesn’t watch TV. What a shock. Why not? Let’s see:
Doesn’t have a TV. The usual. No surprise there.
Granted, for someone who doesn’t watch TV she’s seems admirably up to speed on all Fox commentators:
I wonder how many Fox commentators she could name other than O’Reilly, Hannity, and Beck.
All again? Some? Two?
What’s empirically indisputable is that FOX non-viewers are way more misinformed when it comes to Fox News than the rest of the world.
Of course, one would expect a political science professor to advocate that a variety of news sources be consulted, if only to guard against ignorance in condemning certain ones, especially those deemed a grave threat to civilization, like Fox. But not so fast:
Of course, if people don’t watch Fox, it’s much easier to sell them a bill of goods about it. How convenient. I took the liberty to inquire whether telling people to stop watching a particular news channel was, strictly speaking, in the spirit of teaching, which drew the following response (public, not private):
Upon specifying the tweet I was referring to, I got this:
Saying that if I watch Fox I don’t support human rights is not the same as telling me not to watch? Then, I suppose, informing me that you’ll blast my head off unless I put my hands up in the air is not the same as telling me to put my hands up, for apprising me of undesirable consequences unless I act a certain way is hardly the same as telling me what to do. Hmm. We’ll let the audience decide.
Can’t argue with that. Goes for reflexive anti-Fox crowd, too. Nice own goal there.
We should have a pool on who will be the first among the reflexive anti-Fox crowd able to locate Fox News using a remote and a cable box.
Dr. Boaz teaches at Sonoma State University, by the way, just in case you’re wondering where not to take political science.
That’ll come as a bit of a surprise to all the liberals on the Fox payroll who regularly butt heads with their conservative colleagues on the air.
Apparently, Dr. Boaz thinks that if a lot of people buy into her caricature of Fox News, that caricature will become reality.
For this woman to accuse others of having a “hivemind” really takes the cake.
Please check out her Twitter page, and if you detect any traces of nuance there, let me know.
I’ve personally met numerous carbon copies of the “hivemind” Dr. Boaz represents. Nice people and fun to be around, generally speaking, but the moment the conversation turns to news and politics, they wax conspicuously unhinged. (Needless to say, the same phenomenon exists on the right as well. It’s just that I keep crossing paths with the left-wing Fox-hating type of hivemind, most likely on account of my never having lived in a conservative part of the country.)
My point is not to argue whether Fox News is or isn’t a conservative propaganda outfit, but to question the manner in which those who staunchly insist it is have arrived at their verdict. My thesis is that most of these folks who run around lambasting Fox News at every turn simply parrot what they’ve heard often enough to believe it, i.e., that they’ve succumbed to propaganda tactics themselves, the very tactics they accuse Fox News of employing. And the propaganda being circulated about Fox News is infinitely worse than whatever propaganda emanates from the network itself—but unless you actually watch, you’re in a poor position to either corroborate or refute my claim.
In conclusion, here’s what Bill Maher had to say on The O’Reilly Factor:
At some point in the last 20 years, the left moved to the center, and the right moved into a mental institution. I mean, there used to be ideological differences that were understandable, and there used to be moderate Republicans. That has gone away. I mean, the Republican party now is just a bunch of religious lunatics, flat earthers, and Civil War re-enacters. … There really isn’t extremism on both sides. That’s a canard. There is extremism on the right.
There you have it. The right “moved into a mental institution.”
You heard it on Fox News.