Fox News has long established itself as the biggest bully on the block. We already know that they have no journalistic standards. They will lie, proselytize, demean, and censor, all in pursuit of an ultra-rightist ideological agenda.
But it is not enough for them to spread disinformation on public policy, they are also engaged in a fierce campaign to discredit every outlet for news with whom they disagree. This campaign has the double-barreled benefit of advancing their political goals, while simultaneously tarnishing the reputations of their competitors.
This is not a new development. Fox has been shoving around the other kids on the press playground for quite some time. In October of 2007, Chief Bully, Bill O’Reilly, took a wild swing at the media with an overtly hostile tone:
“[T]here is a huge problem in this country and I’m going to attack that problem. I’m going to attack it. These people aren’t getting away with this. I’m going to go right where they live. Every corrupt media person in this country is on notice, right now. I’m coming after you…I’m going to hunt you down [...] if I could strangle these people and not go to hell and get executed…I would.”
Even then, the broader media community refused to fend off these assaults. They seemed to take the beatings like emotionally defenseless battered spouses who just kept coming back for more abuse. In response to O’Reilly’s tantrum I wrote:
“It is a little surprising that, in the aftermath of these threats, his targets haven’t bothered to stand up for themselves. Media organizations and individuals in broadcast, cable, and newspapers, are all being hammered by this seriously disturbed shill-miester and they don’t seem to have the slightest desire to defend their reputation or professional honor. How can they when they are so busy trying to emulate him?”
In the nearly two years that has elapsed, not much has changed. O’Reilly still harangues everyone from NBC to the New York Times; from Nobel laureate Paul Krugman to multiple Peabody honoree Bill Moyers. And of course, it isn’t just O’Reilly. The rest of the Rupert Murdoch stable is eagerly joining the attack. It’s even spilling out into the marketing of Fox News and its affiliates. Here are some of the ads they have run on air and in print:
So what does the allegedly responsible faction of the journalistic community do in response? Absolutely nothing. I have yet to see a single ad by any other network that addresses the biases of Fox News. Never mind that Fox is so much more corrupt than anything on America’s airwaves – and independent documentation proves it. But CNN, NBC, and the rest, seem to be hiding under their mattresses.
Given the brazen nature of Fox’s aggression, it would be understandable for the targets of their wrath to respond. It would be justifiable to expose Fox as a haven for hacks who are more committed to corporatist advocacy than to journalism, or even democracy. It would, in fact, be their responsibility to simply report the truth about Fox’s deliberately deceptive programming.
What’s wrong with these losers? They are neglecting their duties to inform the public. They are validating the allegations against them by surrendering to them. They have the truth on their side to fight back with, so why don’t they use it? On top of all of that, they are trailing Fox in the ratings which impacts their fiscal well being. Can’t they see that it would be in their interest to fire back at Fox?
A concerted effort on the part of Fox’s victims could turn the TV landscape around. If the other networks were to serve the audience by disclosing Fox’s suspect motives and reportorial failings, they could dampen the public perception of the Republican network. They need to deal honestly with Fox as a propaganda machine. They need to do more than take opposing positions in their programs. They need to take the battle to Fox with at least the same intensity as Fox takes it to them. They need to use documentation and mockery to illuminate to the world what is obvious to those of us who are paying attention: That Fox is a fraud and a joke.
They need to do these things as an act self defense. They need to do them to restore confidence in their product. They need to do them to compete with a pseudo-news enterprise that has no qualms about destroying reputations with insults and falsehoods. They need to do these things in the interests of both professional journalism and their own bottom lines.
In the end, the targets of Fox’s animus have to stand up for themselves. They can’t rely on gadflies like me to come to their aid. They have to bring their case to the people in their advertising, their on air promotions, and in their reporting. They have to demonstrate that they have pride in their work and faith in the truth. And by doing so they can revitalize broadcast journalism. They can prevail over Fox’s ratings domination. And they can help to diminish the crazed voices that are haunting the paranoid conspiracy brigades who watch Fox News.