Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fox Slammed by L.A. Times -- 'Shouldn't Call Itself a News Organization'


On Friday, the Los Angeles Times broke a taboo of sorts among mainstream news organizations by urging Fox News to “crack down on... partisanship in its news ranks” or ”stop pretending to be an objective news source.”

The editorial was prompted by the leak of an internal Fox News memo ordering its “reporters” to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.” The memo was sent by Bill Sammon, Fox News' Washington managing editor, in 2009 and released by Media Matters last week.

The Times noted that “such data aren't in serious dispute among climate scientists.”


It's refreshing to see a leading news outlet abandon the premise that Fox is a “fair and balanced” news organization during the day, and shows its conservative slant only in its evening opinion shows. The Times editorial board noted that mainstream reporters had shrugged off an earlier memo directing Fox personnel to refer to the “public option” as a “government option” during the health-care reform debate because the phase tested poorly among viewers.

The establishment media had also largely ignored internal memos obtained by the Huffington Post after Democrats won control of both chambers of Congress in 2006, which urged Fox News “reporters,” among other things, to “be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled Congress.” Similar missives had been revealed earlier by film-maker Robert Greenwald in his 2004 documentary, “Outfoxed.”


The reason this is so significant is that no other mainstream corporate news organization has yet been willing to admit what everybody else already knows, including the people who own and operate it: Fox News is exactly what it appears to be, a right-wing propaganda machine--"fair and balanced" isn't simply a misleading slogan; rather, it is a statement that describes the exact opposite of reality. That is, Fox is unfair and unbalanced.

And it's totally obvious.

Strangely, all major corporate news media outlets, like the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, maybe excluding MSNBC, but certainly not excluding NBC News proper and the nearly as rightwardly slanted CNBC, and others, have refrained for some fifteen years from speaking the truth about Fox. The reasons for this are no doubt numerous and complex, but my best guess is a sense of tribal protectiveness among the news-gathering brethren. Or maybe they have a deep seated fear that what they do for their wealthy corporate controllers isn't too terribly far removed from what the more honest propagandists over at Fox are doing. Hard to say. At any rate, the LA Times finally deciding to call that which looks, smells, and tastes like dog shit what it really is, dog shit, is indeed "refreshing," as the excerpt above asserts.

Of course, even if other news organizations follow the LA Times' lead on this, it in no way signals the end of right-wing news bias or even pro-establishment propaganda disguised as news. The sad sobering reality is that the so-called "objective" news outlets are anything but. I mean, they're more subtle and sophisticated than Fox's sledgehammer approach, but "the news" is, by and large, a media product that exists to serve the corporate hegemony and Big Government.

On the other hand, when news outlets are at odds with one another, rather than in their usual lockstep, the truth often slips through. Maybe we will see some good things coming out of this.