BOYCOTT

Posted in Rants on October 26th, 2009 by Ed

I've given the Obama administration's no-appearing-on-Fox-News policy a lot of thought, which is the amount that I believe it deserves. Rather than go with the knee jerk reaction – "Yeah, fuck 'em!" – I think there are some legitimate questions about any political figure declaring what is and is not news. Fortunately the facts are on the President's side in this case.

WK Wolfrum has a good write up of what is a quintessential Fox story (albeit one from the utterly viewerless Fox Business Network rather than Fox News). The FBN Happy Hour decides to have a chat about the SEC and rather than interviewing someone from, oh, I don't know, the SEC, they interview Overstock.com CEO Pat Byrne. That is enough of a WTF on its own. But the entire segment – Byrne predictably trashing the SEC and throwing around baseless accusations of bribery and hearsay from "a friend" – passes without noting the fact that, you know, Byrne and Overstock.com have just been subpoenaed as part of an SEC investigation into the company's continued "restatement" of its past numbers. Could anything be a better snapshot of the kind of production and journalistic "ethics" behind Murdoch's empire? The most logical person to invite on the air to talk about the SEC is a guy who is on the verge of having the SEC break it off in his ass. And why bother mentioning that Byrne just might not be an objective, disinterested observer?

Never mind the hundreds of examples of complete abandonment of anything resembling standard journalistic practices at Fox over the years. Remember when they underwrote, endorsed, and provided dozens of hours of free advertising to the "movement" they were supposed to be covering?

Yeah, see, here's the thing. Journalists cover protests. They don't hop on the bandwagon and relentlessly promote them as their own network-sponsored events starring your favorite on-air personalities. And how many segments over the years have been word-for-word recitations of lobbyist talking points helpfully provided to the network daily by the RNC and its ideological fellow travelers? Too many to count, although this example of Steve Douchebag Doocy reciting a Heritage Foundation press release literally word-for-word is priceless.

Look, Fox is what it is. It's a business and Rupert Murdoch has a right to try to make a profit. He airs whatever programming he thinks people want to see. On the mainstream Fox network, that means NFL football, raunchy cartoons, idiotic reality shows, and generally the lowest-browed, most juvenile, and crassest programming around. On Fox News and FBN it means far right wing propaganda that tells a substantial portion of America what it wants to hear. It is "news" only for people uninterested in facts and having their preconceived notions about reality challenged. They have largely turned the network over to the talking heads – BillO, Beck, Hannity, etc. – and those individuals explicitly admit that they are not hosting "news" shows. They are paid to provide commentary and they deliver. That armies of mouthbreathers treat Beck as a source of serious news is only partially his fault.

Fox Network, Fox News Channel, and Fox Business Network are identical. They provide a single product: entertainment. If some of that comes in the guise of "news" or "reporting," that doesn't obligate the rest of the world to play along with their farce. The White House should provide Fox News all of the press privileges entitled to an organization of its size and viewership. But why should the President or anyone around him feel obligated to participate directly, above and beyond giving Fox access equivalent to what it gives other networks, in programming that amounts to little more than entertainment. Fox is entitled to air whatever kind of programming they choose, but calling it "news" is not all that is required to make it news.

Every day the President, like all presidents, makes decisions about access that benefit some media outlets and hurt others. He does exclusive interviews with the Washington Post but not the Akron Beacon-Journal. That he chooses not to act out the role of the guy suspended over the dunk tank at the carnival while Fox's entertainers take shot after shot at him to the great delight of a fanatically hostile viewership utterly uninterested in anything he has to say is unsurprising. The President of the United States is under no obligation to be to Fox News what the deadbeat babydaddys are to Maury Povich and Jerry Springer – the reliable ratings booster dragged on stage periodically to be humiliated, booed, and lectured at great length by people of dubious intelligence.