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September 12, 2004 - The fox condemns the trap, not himself...

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The fox condemns the trap, not himself….


The quote is from William Blake, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” (1793).

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism
- unrated -
Film review by Bob Patterson

If the fact that the New York Post film reviewer didn’t like this movie is an unexpected bit of information for you, then you may be in for a spectacular surprise if you see this film. For a wide variety of other reactions check out the links provided by the Movie Review Query Engine.

The Fox News Channel has the motto “Fair and Balanced.” This movie, which was originally released as a DVD but is now playing in selected theaters, features a series of segments with the underlying premise that what you see on The Fox News Channel isn’t what they say you are going to get.

This documentary film, directed by Robert Greenwald, presents various TV style “talking head” shots that present analysts and commentators who tell you what you can expect to see on that particular network and then follows with a quick series of on-air examples that prove the contention and contradict the claim that Fox’s content is “fair and balanced.”

After Australian newspaper baron Rupert Murdoch bought the broadcasting enterprise, he decreed a change of routine. The result was program content that would adhere closely to what the executives wanted to emphasize for each new day. They show some examples of a daily position memo from Fox management and then provide an example of how the on-air talent complied with those “suggestions.”

The results are as close to objectivity as one might expect if a well-known chef were to offer to hold a benefit barbecue for PETA. By the time the film is over, asking the question, “Does Fox present the news with spin or not?” is like wondering if you should invite an avid Dodger fan to participate in a tribute to the Giants. Were the stories in the Voelkischer Beobachter fact filled and opinion free?

Visually the unending string of talking head shots is about as exciting as would be a baseball game that went to the bottom of the ninth inning with the opposing pitchers both throwing a perfect no-hitter. Leni Riefenstahl, a pioneer documentary filmmaker, proved that the genre can incorporate dramatic, well-composed images.

Ultimately seeing a relentless presentation of evidence to convince the viewer that propaganda disguised as objective reporting raises a question of hypocrisy. It makes the viewer wonder, with clichés about a diligent electorate making a informed decision, if perhaps FNC is subconsciously making a mockery of the concept of democracy. It’s as if they say: “We’ll make your mind up for you.” The fact that the Fox News Channel ratings have grown enormously, obviously will produce a “steady as she goes” response from their proud owner.

Intellectuals who find the concept that a business organization that promises “fair and balanced” news can attract a bigger audience with a bit of rhetorical chicanery, will find this film provides the food for thought that they had been seeking elsewhere.

The website for this film is here.




Copyright © 2004 – Robert Patterson


Editor’s Note – for a previous discussion of this matter see Just Above Sunset - October 19, 2003 Opinion.  The subtitle is “Thoughts on nailing mashed potatoes to a wall.  Or – ‘We report, you decide.’ - Disseminating Ignorance."  This is about how watching the news can actually sometimes make you dumber, and have you believe things that just aren't so.  It is a discussion of the results of a study done by researchers from the Program on International Policy Attitudes (a joint project of several academic centers, some of them based at the University of Maryland) and Knowledge Networks, a California-based polling company.  The study represents a year tracking the public's misperceptions of major news events and polling people to find out just where they went to get things flat-out wrong.  They went to Fox News.  The data show a direct relationship between relying on Fox News for information and getting the facts wrong.  The Just Above Sunset item also contains comments from Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta.

Another item from William Blake, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” - “Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ'd.”  Not these days.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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