Fox = Propaganda Machine for Conservatives and Republicans

Glenn Beck is stone-cold f*ck-nuts!

By his own admission to Bill O’Reilly (minute 2:20): “I’m full-fledged crazy nuts. You know it and I know it.” And then Beck described his vision of Depression and Revolution, after telling the audience to buy his line of thinking by metaphorically buying a musket from him versus what O’Reilly was selling: doormats.

Here’s what the Columbia Journalism Review reported in its April/ March 2010 issue:

http://www.cjr.org/cover_story/dumb_like_a_fox.php?page=5

Dumb Like a Fox

Fox News isn’t part of the GOP; it has simply (and shamelessly) mastered the confines of cable

By Terry McDermott

EXCERPTS:

But is it an arm of the GOP? Not unless you think Roger Ailes would actually work for Michael Steele. It is more likely the other way around. Steele, in some broader cultural sense, works for Ailes, who is without close contest the most powerful Republican in the country today. The national Republican Party has shrunk to a narrow base with no apparent agenda other than to oppose everything the Obama administration proposes. This extends even to opposing policies Republicans either created or once supported. In explaining these reversals, Republicans frequently say that their changes of position—for example, on deficit-reduction measures that they routinely dismissed when in the majority—owes mainly to changes in national circumstances. But the main circumstance that seems to have changed is their loss of formal power in Washington. This suits Fox perfectly, and gives heft to its self-definition as an insurgency….

Here are some more representative examples. They might seem chosen to make a point; they were not. They are admittedly impressionistic, but we think a fair sampling of what was on the air that day.

On the Senate compromise on health care reform:

MSNBC—Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon called it “a godsend.” Howard Dean said “the Senate bill really does advance the ball.”

CNN—Representative Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, called it “the type of coverage that they [her constituents] deserve.”

Fox—Neil Cavuto posed this question to independent Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut: “Senator, they just didn’t put lipstick on a pig? It’s still a pig, right?” Lieberman was noncommittal on the porcine nature of the compromise, but assured he would vote against it. Hayes of The Weekly Standard said, “it is absolutely insane.” Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said, “It is the lump of coal in our Christmas stocking.”

On climate change:

MSNBC—Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, addressing Sarah Palin’s claim that climate change is not necessarily the result of human activity: “Her bigger problem, if she wants to be a candidate, is that she’s on the wrong side of history. She’s on the wrong side of science. She’s on the wrong side of politics here.”

CNN—Kitty Pilgrim, CNN correspondent: “The United States is falling behind the rest of the world in what some see as the cleanest energy option available, nuclear power.”

Fox —Amy Kellogg, Fox correspondent: “. . . stolen e-mails suggest the manipulation of trends, deleting and destroying of data, and attempts to prevent the publication of opposing views on climate change . . . .”

We could go on, but the pattern would not change….

A close look at Fox’s operations seemed an obvious way to examine the claims and counter-claims. When I approached Fox to gain access to their studios and staff for a story about the nature of their news operations, I was told that if I wanted to do a piece on Fox, I should do a profile of Shepard Smith, their main news anchorman. I should be careful, they told me, to distinguish between Smith, a newsman, and their bevy of more notorious personalities—Bill O’Reilly, Neil Cavuto, Glenn Beck, and Greta Van Susteren*. They aren’t really news people, I was told; they are editorialists and ought to be analyzed as such. They are analogous, Fox suggested, to the editorial and op-ed opinion pages of newspapers, which ought not be confused with the straight news coverage.

The proposal to do a story on Smith was fair enough, but would not in any way address the central issue: Was Fox a political operation? I declined. A Smith profile would be a wonderful story for another time, I told Fox, but it wasn’t the story we felt relevant at the moment. That being the case, Fox “declined to participate” in my reporting, which is another way of saying I should go do something to myself and possibly the horse I rode in on, too.

I’ve been told worse, so I wasn’t offended, but this put the story in a bind. I had thought a reported story on how Fox assembles its daily programming would be useful. Doing a story on Fox without access and cooperation necessarily changes the nature of the story. So in lieu of talking to Fox, the main thing I did was let Fox talk to me. That is, I watched a lot of Fox News, and I must report the Fox spokeswoman was absolutely correct. Shepard Smith is an interesting guy. He is far and away the most charming personality on Fox. Not that this takes special effort. Generally speaking, Fox doesn’t do charm. O’Reilly, for all of his considerable talents, blew a fuse in his charm machine years ago, and it’s not clear Beck ever had one to blow. Let’s not even start on Sean Hannity and Cavuto.

Smith’s show—or, rather, shows; he hosts two of them every weekday—are absent much of Fox’s usual cant. They are odd in Smith’s own ironic, idiosyncratic way, but not so unusual that you couldn’t imagine them appearing on one of the other cable news networks. In sum, they seem a perfect rebuttal to Dunn’s critique….

There is no shortage of people eager to comment on Fox and the nature of its news. We thought it simpler and potentially more valuable to just watch its programs and see what they said. We decided to examine and compare the prime time cable news programming of a single day, and we picked December 10, a Thursday. The newscasts that day and the programming that surrounded them offer some clear testimony on the question: What is Fox News?

If you talked all day every day you’d say some pretty stupid stuff and, no surprise, the cable talkers are no exceptions. Much of what gets said, in fact, is just barely above gibberish. On his December 10 show, O’Reilly led with an attack on Dick Wolf, the creator of the Law & Order television franchise, for allowing a character on one of his shows to criticize O’Reilly by name. To buttress his rebuttal of Wolf, O’Reilly quotes—who better?—himself. Later in the show, he interviews fellow host Glenn Beck about President Obama’s Peace Prize, which Beck says was given as a sort of affirmative action award.

Beck: I used to believe in a meritocracy. I used to believe you would. . . .

O’Reilly: Earn things?

Beck: You would earn things. I have no problem with the president winning a Nobel Peace Prize.

O’Reilly: No, I agree he didn’t earn it, but so what? It’s Norway. You know? It’s Norway. You know what I’m talking about?

Beck: Well, now that you put it in that context.

O’Reilly: Right. And I love Norway.

Beck: You’re exactly right. Who doesn’t love Norway?

O’Reilly: I love the fjords.

Beck: Sure.

O’Reilly: I’ve been to Oslo.

Beck: I have never.

O’Reilly: Right. I believe I have some Viking blood in me.

Beck: Do you? I think you do.

O’Reilly: OK. So. . . .

Beck: I want him to wear the hat with the horns. Don’t you? Seriously.

O’Reilly: It’s Norway.

Beck: Send him the hat with the horns. He’ll wear it. But [singing] la la la la. [speaking] He’d do it.

O’Reilly: Easy, Mr. Fascination. Calm down.

There’s a loopy self-absorption to this that is peculiar to Fox and that derives from its origin narrative as the network for the unrepresented, for the outsiders. There is a strain of resentment, of put-upon-ness that pervades almost everything Fox puts on the air. Beck, in particular, was born to play this part….

On his own show that night, Beck spent fully two-thirds of his time in an agitated defense of himself against charges few would ever had heard of had he not spent so much time defending them.

No reasonable person would sincerely deny that Fox has a distinct bias favoring Republicans, and conservative Republicans especially. Even Fox used to admit as much. When he started the network, Ailes was straightforward in talking about his desire to redress what he saw as ideological bias in the mainstream media. He wanted to address the same “silent majority” his old boss Richard Nixon had sought to serve. This is nowhere more apparent than in the guests who appear on the network. On the day in question, other than short video clips of news conferences or other public appearances, Fox didn’t put a single Democrat on the air except as a foil for Republican or Fox commentators….

Although cable news is a comparatively small market, it is a small market with a much larger mindshare, mainly because the media are self-reflective, creating a kind of virtual echo chamber. It is also lucrative. Advertisers want exactly the sort of educated, higher-disposable-income audience news programming tends to attract.

Ailes has proven an extraordinarily acute businessman who has, according to an excellent piece by David Carr and Tim Arango in the January 9 New York Times, turned a fledging news operation that barely existed a decade ago into the runaway market leader in cable news and a profit engine that turns out more than $500 million annually for Rupert Murdoch’s global News Corporation.

Ailes’s most valuable insight was that sharp opinions do not necessarily chase an audience away. In fact, they seem to have created one. There is no worry of offending a broad audience, because there is no broad audience to start with anymore.

It’s worth noting that MSNBC languished in the cable news ratings competition until becoming more sharply opinionated, in that way becoming a left-leaning analog to Fox. It’s highly doubtful this change was due to political considerations. In other ways, though, MSNBC is not a Fox analog at all. Although its overall operation is sharply to the left of Fox, it offers a wider array of guests and doesn’t completely shut out Republicans. Matthews, for example, on the day in question conducted a friendly interview with two Tea Party Republican activists. The existence of Morning Joe, starring outspoken conservative Joe Scarborough, on MSNBC’s morning air offers further evidence.

Ailes, by his programming choices, sees no need to have a liberal counterpart to Scarborough on Fox. Why should he? He’s got the ratings, the money, and a political operation that is nearly pure in its adherence to contemporary populist Republicanism.

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