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Friday, October 23, 2009

Best publicity ever

I watched Fox News a few nights ago and they were practically chortling over the fact that the Obama administration had singled them out for censure.

They couldn't have bought better advertising.

The White House is upset that Fox covered such topics as the tea parties, the town hall protesters, the ACORN scandal, and Van Jones' background.

The problem is, all these stories should have been covered. The real scandal is that the other media basically ignored them because they weren't good for the Democrats. Fox neither made up these stories nor lied about them. They simply committed the unpardonable sin of reporting them.

This prompted Barack Obama to say, in reference to Fox, "If media is operating basically as a talk radio format, then that's one thing. And if it's operating as a news outlet, then that's another."

When Obama made the rounds of the talk shows in mid-September, he very visibly shunned Fox. More recently, the White House made pay czar Kenneth Feinberg available to all the major television networks -- except Fox News.

Yes, Fox does lean right. But no more so than MSNBC leans left. Yet strangely, the White House has not thought to restrict MSNBC's access, even though it is at least as "talk radio"-like as Fox.

Anita Dunn, White House Communications Director, said, "We're going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent. As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don't need to pretend that this is the way legitimate news organizations behave."

Actually, Anita, this is exactly what legitimate news organizations do: they uncover stories which might put an administration in a bad light, and which are of interest to the public. This is why Fox News' ratings are so far ahead of MSNBC. In fact, much of the mainstream media is doing what Tass did back in its heyday: act as government mouthpieces. That is what is not legitimate.

Anita Dunn might as well have announced, "If you want the real scoop and not just the White House press releases, please tune to Fox News."

David Axelrod pretty much gave the game away when he said, "Our concern is that other media not follow their lead." (i.e., report stories like the town hall protesters and ACORN which don't cast us in a favorable light).

This is the closest I've ever seen to an administration trying to stifle the free press in America (other than on issues directly relating to national security). Yes, Nixon had an enemies list. But he never tried to muzzle them.

Now even ordinarily sympathetic commentators are saying that this incident is making the administration look petty.

Roger Ailes, President of Fox News, must be rubbing his hands in glee.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I‘m a huge fan of Fox and everything that they have brought to the media and democracy. Where would we be without that pompous hypocrite O’Reilly? Stewart and Colbert would certainly be much less fun to watch. And what’s TV without a raving modern day loonie like Howard Beale/Glenn Beck? OK, so the other Fox guys are much duller but you got to admit that the overall package is far more entertaining than any other cable news channel. No surprise their ratings are way better too.
What is Obama’s team thinking?? Their naivety and inexperience are shocking. Maybe Obama will hire some grown ups soon.
G

John Craig said...

Guy -- Thank you for your comment. Yes, O'Reilly is pompous, but he's also a lot more open-minded than either Olbermann or Maddow on MSNBC. I've never even seen Glenn Beck (am normally not watching TV at 5PM), though I keep meaning to. The real acid test is how many opposing viewpoints they allow on their shows. It's my impression that O'Reilly and Hannity allow opposing viewpoints on, whereas Olbermann and Maddow don't (I've watched all of them). In fact while I was writing this post it occurred to me that that would make a good post, counting the number of opposing viewpoints each channel allowed on in the two hour period from 8 to 10PM. I'll try to do that this week sometime. It will require a lot of pressing on the remote, but it would be interesting to find out.

I've never found Stewart and Colbert to be particularly funny, btw. They are both pompous hypocrites in their own way.

Anonymous said...

John, I do agree with your original post, despite my previous comment. While not much of a fan of the personalities, Fox is playing an important role in balancing the debate. Acorn is a perfect example of a story that the rest of the media would have been happy to see die.
I do regret that the debate is so polarized and consequently so stupid. The right's desperation to claw back some ground after recent defeats has had them indulging in nonsense that can only alienate independents. They would be much better to leave the Democrats to do a better job of alienating independents all on their own.
G

John Craig said...

I don't find the Fox personalities as off-putting as you do. I also don't believe that it's Rush Limbaugh who's leading the Republican party right now, despite what the mainstream media tells us. Sarah Palin is sort of an accidental political celebrity. The fact that McCain picked her out of desperation for her looks does not make her a viable candidate. But the fact that Mitt Romney isn't making much noise now doesn't mean much, either, he's got absolutely nothing to gain by making a lot of noise at the moment. Neither does Huckabee. I think Newt Gingrich would make an excellent President, he's probably the smartest of the lot, though he may have too many personal negatives to be elected. (Asking his first wife for a divorce while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer was not a smart political move.) I wouldn't even mind a smart guy like Karl Rove, who's always impressive when interviewed, but he's too closely associated with the failed Bush administration. In the meantime the Obama administration and their cheerleaders in the media are doing a good enough job of alienating the independents, I don't think the above-mentioned potential candidates have to show their hands at this point.