Truth in Newsvertising

Fox News Channel should be treated not like a news organization, but as one which does little more than promote a specific political agenda.
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Apparently it must be stated -- over and again. The Fox "News" Channel is not a news channel; it's a Republican Party propaganda channel. As such, its first amendment right to say whatever it likes ought to be protected, but not its "right" to call itself "news". That's false advertising and it ought to be outlawed by whoever it is that regulates such things.

Perhaps if FNC changed their name to the Republican News Channel (or RNC for short), the argument that they are in fact a news outlet, albeit one that presents "news" as spun by the GOP, could be substantiated. Until they do, however, they need to be called out by the rest of us for exactly what they are: a Republican "News" channel.

To that end, recent statements by the White House calling them out as such are right on the money. FNC/RNC should be treated not like a news organization but as one which does little more than promote a specific political agenda.

That public recognition of the long-obvious is long-overdue from Democrats, many of whom continue, foolishly, to treat FNC as merely a news outlet with a "conservative" bent. These Democrats fall into the false equivalence brier patch when they say FNC is merely a "conservative" counterpart to MSNBC. Sure, several of the GE-owned news outlet's primetime shows cover real news from a progressive perspective, but progressivism does not equal liberalism, whatever that is, nor even Democratic-ism.

For the intellectually honest who bother to pay attention to MSNBC's primetime coverage (distinct from its all-rightwing morning coverage hosted for several hours by former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough) the news outlet's progressive viewpoint is obvious. So is their well-documented penchant for reporting on the scoundrels in, and failings of, the Democratic Party. The truth of such failings are not hidden from viewers.

In contrast, even a few minutes of viewing reveals FNC presenting an alternate reality where Republican hypocrisy, scandals and abuses of power -- are either spun into something they are not, or, as is more frequently the case, simply not mentioned at all. As such, the depths of the historically unprecedented failure that was George W. Bush's eight years in office remain virtually unknown to viewers of FNC/RNC. In the bargain, as the young Obama Administration moves forward, attempting to deal with countless left-over disasters they've inherited, issue after issue now comes as a complete surprise to the majority of Fox viewers.

The resultant spectacle might be amusing were it not so dangerous to our country's future. It's also rather sad to see so many well-meaning Americans pushed into speeding traffic by cynical rightwing powerbrokers using and abusing the good nature of those who have been deceived into following them on a self-destructive fool's errand.

It is with a sense of both shame and bemusement that we now witness good Americans agitated and drafted into protests over the very policies that Republican failure has, itself, created and/or supported uncritically for years:

  • Record Big Government expansion and deficits;
  • Massive Big Brother invasion of privacy;
  • Bureaucratic intrusion between patients and doctors;
  • Corporate bailouts with tax-payer largesse...

The list goes on and on, but the frothing Fox "News" teabaggers protest as if the last eight years of all of the above never existed. Rather, these poor saps were presented with a phony version of "reality" produced with Hollywood-style special effects and distractions (missing blonds, steroids in baseball, terrorists around every corner, non-existent "voter fraud"). Now these confused souls roam the streets, town halls and email lists as clueless zombies, unaware of who and what they are fighting for (government-supported corporatocracy) or against (their own self-interest).

Its a long-overdue breath of fresh air to see a White House finally willing to offer an official definition of what the Fox "News" Channel actually is and, in turn, to witness the nattering nabobs of nincompoopery waste their time by spinning viewers with tales of yet another imaginary war, this one where Fox and the First Amendment are both imagined to be under attack. At least in trumping up this war, the folks at Fox News are only hurting themselves.

Addendum: If anybody needed more evidence that the White House is absolutely right about Fox not being a news organization, on Wednesday night, prime time anchor Sean Hannity was forced to admit that he'd falsified footage of a recent "Tea Party" protest on Capitol Hill. When the attendance wasn't large enough to give the impression of the angry Republican mobs Hannity might have hoped for, he and fellow Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN) told viewers the crowd was tens of thousands of angry voters larger than it actually was while showing two month old footage -- from a completely different rally -- to underscore their point.

To make matters even more embarrassing, the "incorrect video" that was deceptively spliced in was from a September rally where a Fox "News" producer had been caught on video tape stage managing the crowd, urging them to cheer loudly while on camera.

Hannity's admission to an "inadvertent mistake" -- how "incorrect video" inadvertently edits itself into a new report went unexplained -- came after the doctored video was discovered by The Comedy Channel's The Daily Show, which offers far more accurate, fair and balanced news on a daily basis than Fox "News" could ever dream of.


Brad Friedman is an investigative journalist, blogger and broadcaster, creator and publisher of The BRAD BLOG and a Fellow at the Commonweal Institute.

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