This is getting to be fun. Last Sunday, White House communications director Anita Dunn said what most rational observers of the news already knew: that Fox News is “the communications arm of the Republican Party.”
Today, another volley has been fired in defense of sanity. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was on CNN and this to say about Fox News:
“It’s not a news organization so much as it has a perspective, and that’s a different take [...] And more importantly, it’s important not to have the CNN’s and the others of the world being led and following Fox, as if what they’re trying to do is a legitimate news organization.”
Well said, Rahm. Especially the part about other news organizations and the need for them to avoid mimicking the dishonest methods of Fox. But that’s not all. White House advisor David Axelrod was on ABC’s This Week and said:
“It’s not really a news organization [...] We’re going to appear on their shows, we’re going to participate, but understanding they have a point of view.”
That is only partly good news. At least Axelrod recognizes that Fox is platform for a hostile, right-wing point of view, but why would he consent to participate with an enterprise that he concedes is “not really a news organization?” That’s like agreeing to participate with the National Enquirer. What’s the point?
Still, it is encouraging that the White House is aware of what they are up against. And it is even more encouraging that they are willing to openly and accurately characterize Fox as a fraud as regards the business of news.
Now all we need to do is get the rest of the political establishment to get on board. The first thing any Democrat or progressive should say when interviewed by Fox is “Well, if I were on a legitimate news channel I would say…” Properly identifying Fox News should be required in every appearance. Perhaps they could subtly interject reality by saying “Thank you for inviting me to be on Fox ‘so-called’ News,” or “the Fox Opinion Network.”
This new display of courage and honesty should also be taken up by the rest of the media. This is the perfect excuse for introducing a vibrant dialogue about the journalistic malpractice at Fox News and about the responsibilities of ethical journalism in general. Simply hosting segments with balanced discussions of these issues is a positive step. If nothing else, it reinforces the impression that Fox is a fake. The only response that Fox has been able to muster so far is that they believe their audience can tell the difference between news and opinion. That’s, in effect, an admission by Fox that their trade is opinion. It’s a lame defense and it isn’t even true. Studies have shown that Fox News viewers are far more likely to believe things that are demonstrably false than viewers of other news networks.
Fox News has been relentless in their disparagement of their competitors. they have placed advertising on the air and in trade publications that explicitly demeaned other news organizations. They routinely charge them with being biased and unprofessional. They even helped to promote protests against other news networks. For some reason, the targets of Fox’s attacks never seem to fight back. Well now they have an opening to do so in the form of addressing the allegations from the White House. If they miss this opportunity they are either incompetent or have a death wish. Fox has been eating their lunch in the ratings (on the cable side), and they have both a professional and a fiduciary duty to defend themselves.
Undoubtedly, Glenn Beck will do a show Monday accusing Axelrod and Emmanuel of being Marxists (if he hasn’t already). But the more he makes this ludicrous assertion the less power it has. He has already swept up Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Mother Theresa in his paranoid net. So bring it on.