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Faux News

23 October 2009

On October 7th, 1996, America was introduced to The Fox News Channel (FNC).  In the beginning of the networks short history, Fox News utilized most of it’s air time to keep it’s viewing public abreast on current events.  Initially the programs consisted of single topic segments for which the titles clearly stated what each segment was about; “Fox on Crime” or “Fox on Politics,” to name a few.  Within each of these segments, facts related to the on-going subject matter would scroll across the screen as well as information regarding news worthy events.  At first, Fox News appeared to be an excellent addition (and competitor) to CBS, ABC, and NBC.

The Fox News Channel Slogan

The Fox News Channel Slogan

At the networks premiere press conference, Roger Ailes, the CEO and Chairman said, “We’d like to be premiere journalists.  We’d like to restore objectivity where we find it lacking and… there could be an interpretation because of my background but I left politics many years ago and have been running a news orginization for two years… so, we expect to do fine, balanced, journalism.”  The background to which Mr. Ailes referred was regarding his being a former media strategist for Nixon, Reagan, and Bush Sr.  It would seem that, even on the very first day of broadcasting, Fox News was on the defensive regarding it’s perceived biased through the political history of it’s employees.  Even still, many Fox News representatives proclaimed their love of objective journalism and assured the public that Fox would bring trust-worthy news into their homes every night.

The CEO and Chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes

The CEO and Chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes

It didn’t take long, however, for profit to become the bottom line as opposed to the objective journalism we were promised.

In 1999, David Hnatiuk created the “Fox News Alert.”  The alert appears across the bottom of the screen, or sometimes across the entire screen, and utilizes foreboding musical selections, visually intense color pallets and graphics, and was created to induce a sense of urgency among Fox’s viewers.  It was to be shown during broadcasts when breaking, vital, news was occurring in real time.  At least, that’s how it was intended to be used.  Again, it didn’t take long for the network to use this new device in unprecedented ways.  What was originally being used to set up stories related to school shootings, natural disasters, and otherwise incredible and impactful news is now being used to precede stories such as Martha Stewart’s arrest, Tori Spelling’s stress-related collapse, and UFO sightings.  It’s become clear that Fox News Alerts are little more than attempt to grab a viewers attention through deceptive graphics, music, and titling.

UFO delays NASA take off

UFO delays NASA take off

For a network that claims to be “Fair and Balanced” they seem fairly intent on strictly hiring polarizing hosts. Bill O’ReillySean Hannity, Glenn BeckGreta Van SusterenShepard Smith, and Neil Cavuto are a few of the networks on-air personalities.  The problem is that journalists are not supposed to interject with opinion or have an outwardly visible personality, they’re supposed to report the news.  If one thing is clear about Fox News it’s that as time went on, Fox and it’s show-hosts have become less interested in reporting fact and more interested in promoting opinion– or creating the news altogether.

Fox Funded Teabag Protests

Fox Funded Teabag Protests

The best example of the FNC creating news happened recently with the inception of the “Tea Bagger Movement.”  On camera, this so-called grass roots organization was emerging as the place for anyone in disagreement with current national policies to gather and vent their frustrations or, in some cases, their out-right racist fears regarding the President.  Behind the scenes, however, this wasn’t a grass roots movement at all.  A grass roots movement is a group that finds momentum, direction, and funding through the politics of a local community.  The Teabag movement didn’t originate in a community, it didn’t organize locally, it didn’t grow larger through the investments of the people; it was primarily funded and orchestrated by Fox News.  The network created the movement via various emails with members of the GOP and purchased the talents of graphic designers and web designers to begin spreading the word, to organize people under the false pretense of a grass roots movement.  They ran 20 stories on the Teabag protests and 73 in-show promotions in the week leading up to them.  Then, after they had galvanized the people, Fox News used their home-made protests as a legitimate story on their network.  When other networks failed to immediately cover the deceptively orchestrated movement, Fox News used the opportunity to tout itself as a network of higher standards and practices.  However, the other major networks in America did cover the story.  Fox literally invented the news, used it to fill air time, and chastised other legitimate networks for “not doing the same.”

The above video shows an even deeper layer of out-right lying on the part of Fox News.  In the words of Rick Sanchez, “We covered the event. We didn’t promote the event. That’s what real news organizations do.”

There are a seemingly endless number of examples regarding Fox News’ propensity for on-air deception.  In an effort to provide a more clear picture, I’ve provided a few of those examples below.  Fox news has claimed:

– No President prior to President Obama delivered a speech to school children.
– School children have never sang songs regarding the President or patriotism until President Obama.
– President Barack Obama is a racist who has a “deep seeded hatred for white people.”
– President Obama is not legal US citizen.
– President Obama is a muslim.
– The healthcare reform bills included “death panels.”
– The democratic President and congress are socialsts.

These are only a few of the most recent outrageous and totally unfounded claims made by the Fox News Channel.  In addition to the claims made by Fox, above, and their undeniable involvement in orchestrating the Teabag protests, it also important to recall the way in which Fox handled town hall meetings over the summer.  The network provided dates and times for upcoming democratic town hall meetings and regularly recruited it’s viewers to attend the meetings but provided no dates or times for republican town hall meetings.  They instructed their viewers to attend and “fight back” or, in the words of Sean Hannity, “Become part of the mob.”  During the week of August 24th, Fox News showed 22 clips of town hall attendees expressing opinions opposing healthcare reform and not one opinion supporting it.

Another example of news created for the benefit of Fox’s headlines is “The 9/12 Project,” created by Glenn Beck.  This project was, admittedly, created and advocated by a Fox News on-air personality.  After its initial announcement other programs on the network made an effort to, again, get their viewers to participate in various demonstrations related to the project.  It was another example of Fox News’ unscrupulous effort to manufacture the news.  At the rally, a Fox News producer was caught on camera attempting to rile-up crowd. Glenn Beck reported that 1.7 million people had attended the event, even though third-party estimates put the crowd size at about 60,000 to 75,000 participants.

Perhaps what is more upsetting than the amount of slander and on-air lies is the complete lack of couth on the part of the anchors.

Glenn Beck, for example, when he appeared on “Fox & Friends” made one of the aforementioned claims; “This President, I think, has exposed himself as a guy – over and over and over again – who has a deep seeded hatred for white people or the white culture – I don’t know what it is.”

Bill O’reilly has become widely known as the most intolerant television host in American history.  On The O’reilly Factor it is common place for guests to be belittled, berated, told to “shut-up,” have their mics turned off when they say something not within Fox’s standards, be escorted off of the set, told they are worthless and/or stupid, and otherwise disrespected in ways no other news channel has ever done.

Overall, I think it is clear that the Fox News Channel is not to be trusted, patronized, or even tolerated.  The network seems to have little regard for the intelligence of the American people nor do they seem concerned with the effect a lying television network can have on democracy.

Thankfully, we are not powerless to stop it.  There are many true grass roots and net roots organizations who have been stepping up in an attempt to force Fox to comply with journalistic standards.  For example, Color of Change has had a direct impact on The Glenn Beck Show by way of a simple petition.  After Beck’s inflammatory remarks regarding the President, this group began working to reduce funding for Beck’s show.  To date, more than 285,000 people have signed the petition and as a result 81 companies have withdrawn their advertising from Beck’s time slot.  Fox is now being forced to subsidize more than half a million dollars per episode of The Glenn Beck Show.

I’d like to step back from the issue for a moment to make something very clear; All news networks exhibit some kind of biased at one time or another.  Some might argue that MSNBC is equally as guilty, to them I say “you’re partially correct.”  MSNBC has taken to broadcasting a purely liberal agenda much like Fox and it’s purely conservative agenda.  However, I’ve yet to see one example of an out-right lie told by an on air anchor, commentator, or correspondent.  I’ve yet to see an MSNBC ad printed in a national publication which proclaims an undeniable falsehood.  Having said that, it is clear when watching MSNBC that the tone of voice and words used are carefully selected to create a sense of biased which they hope, i’m sure, will go under the radar.  MSNBC uses a carrot, Fox uses a stick.

Countries with a Fox News presence

Countries with a Fox News presence

While it is true (as of 2008’s nielsen ratings) Fox has more viewers than any other news network in the US (CNN is number one worldwide), it is comforting to know that the number of viewers is small.  The United States of America has an estimated population of 300 million people.  Fox news has a daily viewership of 12 million viewers; less than 4% of the American public watch the Fox News Channel.  The Pew Research Center conducted a study in 2008 in which they attempted to determine which news programs had the most educated audiences.  Fox News came in second to last.  The most intelligent audiences typically viewed news entertainment programs on Comedy Central, namely The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

At the end of the day, regardless of what party we affiliate ourselves with, we get our world news from the television and internet.  An unbiased system of media is the backbone of democracy.  If the media isn’t being honest with their viewers, true democracy becomes an impossible feat.   We live in a time when, during an election, very few of us will see the candidates in person, much less meet them.  Everything we as a society know about our government comes from the media.  If the media is broken, how can we repair our democracy?

Useful resources for gaining knowledge:
Media Matters
Crooks & Liars
Truth in Reporting

 

ADDENDUM:

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2 Comments
  1. maplesyrup21 permalink
    23 October 2009 803

    interesting and I agree with you

  2. 24 October 2009 855

    Honey, none of this is news to me. FOX is the last place I would ever get my news. Informative, to an extent. Bias, completely. FOX news is the Star Magazine of news organizations. If you reference FOX news as your source to back up anything I am to assume your going to boast the Enquirer for its in depth reporting on Octo Mom’s ground breaking Welfare Cookbook, that saved your marriage.

    I think it would be just delightful if you also would analyze the fact that while their programming is aimed at people with a high school education, low yearly income and left sided political views, their news coverage caters to traditional southern Republicans and their weekly NRA meeting buddies.

    I got to go the Peacock says something news worthy is happening.

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