Fox News: The Most Powerful Propagandist Since Goebbels

Fox News waited until the last day of 2011 to publish the most absurdly hyperbolic piece of journalistic comedy/trash of the year. And that’s a high bar for Fox.

Dan Gainor is a VP for the Media Research Center, an ultra-conservative operation that exists to bash Democrats and advance the myth that the media is liberal. In an op-ed for Fox, Gainor breaks all records for overstatement and ironic tunnel-blindness. He begins the unintentionally hilarious article by declaring that the…

“Huffington Post, HuffPo, as it is sometimes called, has evolved from a simple news aggregator into one of the most sophisticated propaganda operations the world has ever seen. […and that Arianna Huffington is…] the most powerful propagandist since a guy named Goebbels.”

That’s the kickoff to Gainor’s Fox News article that castigates Arianna Huffington and the Huffingtong Post as left-wing missionaries of fascism. [This just in: The CEO of Huffington Post/AOL, Tim Armstrong, has contributed the maximum donation this year to the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney.]

It doesn’t get much better after that. Gainor carelessly contradicts one of the primary edicts of conservative free marketing: that Fox News and talk radio are so abundantly successful because the media consuming public prefers the conservative message. He says of Huffington that…

“The site was started by political chameleon Arianna Huffington, who used to be conservative before she discovered it was far more lucrative to be liberal.”

There you have it. Apparently the people do want liberal media. From there Gainor goes into a diatribe against HuffPo that would make a much better tirade were it directed at Fox’s own Fox Nation. It’s astonishing how oblivious he is to the twisted irony of his words. For instance, he wonders aghast that “Everywhere you look on the site, Republicans and conservatives are doing something bad.” Replace “Republicans and conservatives” with “Democrats and liberals” and you have a perfect description of Fox Nation. Then he continues his HuffPo rant…

“The few stories that mention Democrats at all are such puff pieces that most journalists would be embarrassed to be associated with them. One shows a baby putting his hand in Obama’s mouth: ‘Obama Gets A Mouthful,’ readers are told in this thoroughly silly story.”

Fox Nation - Obama Eats Baby HandIndeed. A thoroughly silly story that most journalists would be embarrassed to be associated with. Which must be why Fox Nation featured it for six days running as their “Pic of the Day.” And their version was adorned by a mocking headline that evokes child abuse and cannibalism. Would they have chosen that imagery for a white president?

But Gainor is clearly unaware that he is insulting the journalistic integrity of his pals at Fox. Just as he is unaware of the similarity of the following invective aimed at HuffPo to the Fox Nation business model:

“Of course, they don’t write it all themselves. The HuffPo staff is masterful at combing the internet for stories and digging through them for one nugget that makes their point. They write a couple graphs about the nugget, package it with a sometimes huge headline and a stock photo and, voila, their work is done.”

That’s Fox Nation in a wing-nutshell. Except that they write none of it themselves. Every single article on Fox Nation is merely a reference and a link to some other (usually brazenly biased) source. And often its presentation is overtly dishonest as demonstrated here. And Gainor isn’t through yet.

“But the site doesn’t work if it doesn’t generate traffic. After all, Americans aren’t forced to read Arianna’s propaganda. So it’s filled with sex, more sex, comedy and enough other trash to keep people visiting.”

You mean like this? I took a look at Fox Nation’s “Pic of the Day” for just this year and found an abundance of evidence that they are obsessed with naked women, particularly their breasts.

Fox Nation - Sex

And being a young blonde in a short skirt appears to be a prerequisite to be a female reporter on Fox News. Just ask Megyn Kelly, Martha MacCallum, Shannon Bream, Gretchen Carlson, Monica Crowley, Ainsley Earhardt, Courtney Friel, Alisyn Camerota, Molly Line, Molly Henneberg, Julie Banderas, and Steve Doocy. [Oops. I have to scratch one of those. Julie Banderas is not a blonde].

For Gainor to use an editorial on Fox News as a platform to gripe about the Huffington Post being a liberally-slanted web site is an Olympian feat of hypocrisy. But for him to venture off into Nazi references is offensive in the extreme. Arianna Huffington is not responsible for the slaughter of millions of innocents and the comparison to Hitler’s regime trivializes the horror that was the Holocaust. Furthermore, his assessment of HuffPo as biased is an affirmation of acute self-delusion. He is so altogether unaware of his perversion of reality that he can utter this phrase about HuffPo without meaning it sarcastically: “It’s also unmatched on the right.”

Unmatched on the right? Certainly Gainor has read Fox Nation. He is also presumably aware of The Daily Caller, The Blaze, BigGovernment, Townhall, National Review, Weekly Standard, Drudge Report, RedState, WorldNetDaily, Washington Times, NewsMax, and many more.

Gainor’s editorial is typical of the ignorance-inducing disinformation that is the hallmark of Fox News and his own Media Research Center (publisher of the reprehensible net newsrag, NewsBusters). He launches odious insults, accuses his targets of improprieties that he engages in himself, and ignores obvious information if it contradicts his predetermined conclusions. And all of this intellectual mendacity comes together at the start of a new year as if to christen 2012 for a journey to new and more loathsome states of dishonesty and thought control.

Happy New Year, America.

On AOL Acquiring Huffington Post

The announcement last night that Huffington Post is being bought by AOL has already generated a cyber-boatload of analysis, criticism, and speculation – mostly speculation.

I have long had an ambivalent view of HuffPo. While it gives opportunities to some progressives voices who are often shut out of the broader media, it also hosts some reactionary conservatives whose views are unproductive and dishonest. They have also taken a lot of heat for their gossipy celebrity content which I simply ignore.

AOL, although independent from TimeWarner for a little over a year, is still a giant corporation with many of the same principals and shareholders as prior to the separation. And therein lies my pessimism about the future of the HuffPo/AOL alliance.

The last thing independent media needs is more consolidation. By forming ever larger organizations, they fall into the same traps that Big Media always face. Their business mission ends up suppressing whatever aspirations they have for incisive journalism. They pander to advertisers and seek out stories that titillate rather than educate.

Arianna Huffington is predictably excited about the new arrangement. Why wouldn’t she be? The deal puts a value of over $300 million on her six year old venture. And she will become the head of all of AOL’s media properties. But she should be careful. She is also going to have a board of directors to which she will have to answer. And the obligation to appeal to a much broader audience could result in a dilution of any personality. Like other big news enterprises, she will have to cater to the lowest common denominator.

That’s why independence in the media is so precious. It allows for diversity of opinion and is the single best way to produce reporting that challenges the status quo, rattles societies gatekeepers, and enhances accountability. Those are the things we lose as media enterprises get more bloated and reliant on corporate infrastructure.

The combined AOL/HuffPo is still not as big as Fox or Comcast/NBC, and if they struggle mightily they may be able retain some independent identity. But on the whole this is not a promising development, and it is contrary to the direction that media should be heading.

Huffington Post: A Tool For The GOP?

Michael Calderone has a column at Politico that suggests a new tactical approach by Republicans to get their message out. He asserts, that the GOP is exploiting the broad reach of the Huffington Post to expand their media presence. It’s not a particularly bad idea as HuffPo is cracking 8.8 million unique visitors a month. But it is a cynical effort to advance propaganda and, to the extent that HuffPo is an accessory to it, it is shameful and counterproductive.

The insidious element to this plot is that the GOP isn’t trying to reach out to new voters or gain access to people that might not otherwise be exposed to their views. They are taking advantage of the popular web site to use as a platform from which to launch their viewpoints into more mainstream media in much the same way that conservatives have used the Drudge Report. In his column, Calderone interviewed a collection of Republican press reps who confess to this strategy.

John Hart, press secretary to Sen. Tom Coburn: [I]t’s one of a handful of sites that can have an instant impact on the national debate.

Brian Rogers, spokesman for Sen. John McCain: HuffPo and [Talking Points Memo] really are the assignment editors for many in the Washington press corps – particularly the cables.

Brad Dayspring, press secretary for Rep. Eric Cantor: The reality is that at the end of the day, like them or dislike them, sites like The Huffington Post, Plum Line, Salon, and others can drive news.

Michael Steel, press secretary for House Republican leader John Boehner: Republican aides [are] being sure to engage with liberal websites like Huffington Post – just because for no other reason than they drive a lot of cable coverage.

Alex Conant, former RNC national press secretary: When I was at the RNC, it wasn’t something that could be ignored. To the contrary, I thought the more we could work with them – recognizing they had a bias – the better off we were.

Republicans are well aware that much of the audience at HuffPo is not sympathetic to their cause. But that’s irrelevant. Part of the strategy is to drive a wedge between the Democratic establishment and its activist base. Another part is just to garner more publicity:

“Huffington Post reporter Ryan Grim, a former POLITICO staffer, said that after the House leadership released a video earlier this month questioning the White House on national security, a senior House Republican aide reached out to make sure he’d received it – that’s despite knowing how the site would probably play the story (and how commenters would react).

The piece that resulted – “House GOP Obama Ad Aims to Terrify” – likely appealed to liberal Huffington Post readers, while also drawing attention to the Republican clip, which is what the party wanted all along.


Liz Mair, former RNC online communications director: While I certainly never expected left-of-center sites to echo our message, giving them access to information or background they needed to report accurately (if not favorably) was certainly something I thought of (and think of) as useful, given that their audience is not solely comprised of Democratic activists, and given that storylines that begin on left-of-center blogs frequently find their way onto the nightly news and into other outlets where a lot of swing voters get their information.

HuffPo, for it’s part is not the least bit concerned about how they are being used. Arianna Huffington told Politico that the attention the site gets from Republicans…

“…is a reflection of our traffic, our brand, and the fact that we are increasingly seen … as an Internet newspaper, not positioned ideologically in terms of how we cover the news.”

HuffPo is, of course, a business, and it has every right to pursue a mission that furthers it’s financial interests. However, if their stock in trade is their audience, then there is something untoward about exploiting them to benefit an ideological opponent. In other words, HuffPo should not be permitted to sell us out to right-wing flacks who just want to do us harm. If it is our patronage that makes HuffPo such a valuable asset, perhaps we ought not to be so patronizing.

There is nothing wrong with providing a forum that presents diverse opinions and perspectives. But there is a limit reached when you are seen by one side as simply an avenue to advance their public profile, further their media strategy, and beat you, and your audience, over the head with your own bat. You know you’ve reached that limit when Grover Norquist says of you…

“There are fewer better places to refute the opening bid by the [Democrats] than to plant your flag in the middle of The Huffington Post.”

HuffPo would be wise to consider that, if it is their readers that make them an appealing political community, they may want to avoid alienating those readers by serving the interests of their opponents. How many HuffPo readers would continue to visit the site were it to turn into a fancier version of the Drudge Report? And once readership scales back, how many Republicans would still view it as a useful platform?

Continuing down this path would be a downward spiral for HuffPo. They should take note of this and correct course as soon as possible. The market has no need for an Internet news/community that caters to the far right. They already have Fox Nation.

The Fox Nation Launches A Dud

This morning there was a disturbance in the Force. The Fox Nation debuted amidst fanfare and the gnashing of teeth at tea parties everywhere. However, reports of the Fox News secession movement appear to have been a little overblown (by me, mostly). The reality of the Fox Nation is significantly less substantial than previously predicted.

The Fox Nation is apparently not an attempt to abandon the Union (although my satirical representation of it as such was actually taken seriously by some right-wing conspiracy theorists across the InterTubes). It is merely a low grade, right-wing, knockoff of the Huffington Post. The partisan character of its Fox News parentage, however, is plainly visible. The “fair and balanced “ collection of articles featured at the top of its page (see picture above) present the President as “scary” and promote the rightist triumvirate of Limbaugh, O’Reilly, and Beck (oh my). Digging down further we find a plethora of partisanship in reporting:

  • Chris Dodd’s cavalcade of scandal
  • Lobbyist scandal to ensnare Murtha?
  • Dick Morris: Obama soft on terror, hard on charities
  • Daily Beast: Who did Pelosi’s face?
  • Affirmative Action for Muslims in the White House?
  • Stacked!! Obama fills town hall with supporters
  • Hannity holding Tea Party on Tax Day
  • WaPo interrogation story ‘rife with misinformation’
  • Video: Bill Maher smears US troops
  • Limbaugh ratings skyrocket after Democrat attacks

Of course the headlines on Fox Nation must not be taken too seriously. For instance, the article about Obama stacking his town hall with supporters doesn’t actually produce any evidence of that being done. In fact, it reports that invitations were sent to many groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. With regard to the Huffington Post, Fox Nation takes a swipe at them as well, with an article derogatorily titled, “Huffington Post to rummage through your trash.” The actual article is about a new investigative journalism venture by HuffPo, not some dumpster diving sensationalism. We’ll leave that to Fox. Recall also that O’Reilly has compared Arianna Huffington to Nazis. I don’t expect it will be long before he and the rest of the Fox lineup will escalate their war against HuffPo as a competitor the way they have with NBC.

Obviously the intent of Fox Nation is to inject a negative tone whether or not anyone ever clicks through to the articles. And it’s revealing to take a look at the heavily right-weighted array of news sources employed on Fox Nation – including four owned by Rupert Murdoch:

  • New York Post (Murdoch)
  • Wall Street Journal (Murdoch)
  • Fox Business Network (Murdoch)
  • The Sun (Murdoch)
  • Michele Malkin
  • Andrew Breitbart
  • Washington Times
  • NewsBusters
  • National Review
  • Conservative Express
  • NewsMax
  • Matt Drudge

In the end, the Fox Nation is nothing more than a dressed up version of the Fox Forums that already pollute the web. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a potential threat to civil discourse and domestic tranquility. Fox Nation aggregates the Fox audience under a single banner that gives them an identity and a flag to fly. The comments section is as ideologically monochromatic as you would expect from the Fox stable of so-called “news” enterprises. It is also overtly hostile to anyone not sufficiently attuned to neo-Dark-Age conservatism. The community, hyped as “a place to call home,” is as rabidly anti-Obama as it is bewitched by Beck.

It’s still early, and perhaps this is just the first phase of the eventual division of America. It goes without saying that Fox has as its purpose to be divisive and that Fox Nation is in alignment with purpose. It just remains to be seen how far they will go. And for this reason it remains important to keep an eye on future developments.

This just in: Fox News Senior VP Bill Shine says of Fox Nation, “We’re calling it a mix between the Huffington Post and Drudge.” Hmmm.