Almost two years ago the New York Times published an article that revealed how intermingled the media had become with Pentagon efforts to advance the pro-war agenda of the Bush administration. The author, David Barstow, identified the networks and their “analysts,” many of whom were also lobbyists for defense contractors. Most of the television press went to great lengths to keep this story under wraps. The article later won a Pulitzer prize and still the electronic media ignored it.
Now the Nation has published an article that expands on this theme. They have documented numerous incidents of corporate lobbyists appearing on TV as analysts without divulging their corporate affiliations:
“Since 2007 at least seventy-five registered lobbyists, public relations representatives and corporate officials–people paid by companies and trade groups to manage their public image and promote their financial and political interests–have appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CNBC and Fox Business Network with no disclosure of the corporate interests that had paid them.”
In such an environment it becomes difficult to trust that we are getting honest, impartial assessments of the issues that are covered by these networks. But it isn’t just about issues. Politics in the press is just as badly tainted by contributors who have blatant self-interests that they are pursuing. In today’s New York Times they finally noticed that Fox News has become a private broadcast facility for Republican politicos. In a bit of unintended comedy the article’s author, Brian Stelter, observes that there is an obvious benefit for Fox News candidates like Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. Then adds…
“The benefit to the viewers is less clear. Some experts say the arrangements can cloud the objectivity of the news organizations.”
The main problem with that appraisal is that it presumes that the objectivity of news organizations like Fox is not already hopelessly clouded. Fox’s roster of “contributors” is infested with Republican uber-partisans like Karl Rove, Dana Perino, Dick Morris, Laura Ingraham, etc. And that doesn’t even include the presidential hopefuls that Stelter had referenced. At least he has come to recognize what I wrote about over a month ago when Fox hired Sarah Palin:
“Palin is joining fellow Republican 2012 presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum on the Fox roster. When Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty sign up we can declare Fox the official farm team for the GOP.”
Every day, in every way, Fox News becomes more and more an arm of the Republican Party. And with every step farther into that abyss they become less and less discreet about their bias. Their top news executives admit publicly that they consider themselves the “voice of the opposition.” They overtly promote Republican candidates and events. They have practically ceased to make any effort to hide that they are primarily functioning as a PR agency for the the GOP.
The question I have is, why hasn’t the rest of the media accepted this reality and adjusted their relationship with Fox? Fox ought not to be treated as a peer when it is, in fact, a player. It should not be off limits to point it out when Fox acts as a cheer leader for the right. The media should have the integrity and the guts to stand up when Fox displays its overt hostility for Democrats and progressives with whom they disagree. The media should not be afraid of calling out Fox’s unethical practices. Fox doesn’t have any problem attacking the rest of the press. They do it frequently, and with deliberate malice.
The victims of Fox’s assaults must defend themselves and their profession. By cowering in the shadow of Fox they will only harm their own interests. Their ratings will suffer and their audience will resent them. And the once noble vocation of journalism will get ever weaker. When will the honorable elements remaining in the media fight back?