Monday, July 19, 2004


me and hydro went to see outfoxed last night at a local party. "outfoxed" is a documentary about the fox news channel and argues that the channel is nothing more than a propaganda organ for the republican party.

it's not a hard argument to make. much of the film is just letting the fox tapes roll: the daily countdowns until bush is re-elected, the use of the terms "some people say" by their reporters to insert unsourced right wing opinion into news reports, and bill o'reilly's on-air ever-evolving versions of the truth and his abuse of guests to his show.

but it's more than just fox clips. they interview several former fox reporters and producers who speak of orders from the fox main office to shape their coverage. they also consult with with non-fox reporters (like walter cronkite) and media experts to get their opinion of how fox's tactics compare with mainstream journalism. they bring up the PIPA study from last fall illustrating that fox viewers are least able to answer factual questions correctly about current events in the middle east when compared with people who primarily get their news from other news sources. the film makers also presented statistics about the party affiliation of the guests on the channel, republicans are interviewed 5 times as often as democrats and the democrats tend to be moderate to conservative dems.

but most damning was the internal memos from the fox headquarters effectively ordering their newscasters to ignore or downplay negative news about the bush administration, to attack the administration's enemies, emphasize positive aspects of bush's policies, and generally manipulate the content of the news for partisan reasons. what is surprising is not that fox distorts (for that was fairly obvious to me the first time i tuned them in sometime in the 1990s), but rather that the distortion is so calculated. i guess i unconsciously gave them the benefit of the doubt--assuming that like most media bias, it was more an unintentional symptom of having human beings decide what goes on the air and what doesn't. but the memos illustrate daily orders to consciously create a right-wing view of the world, notwithstanding any embarrassing facts that might get in the way.

as i said, the argument that fox news is a right wing shill is not hard to make, but the film is put together as a fairly well-argued brief against the channel. it wasn't as polished or technically interesting as some of the other documentaries i have seen recently (but this has been a good year or two for documentaries). and the last part of the film didn't do that much for me, when they had a "what can you do about it" segment. i guess the corporation had a similar ending. but unlike "outfoxed", the corporation's ending didn't seem tacked on. maybe the makers of "outfoxed" didn't want to end on a low note. or maybe once i classified it as a brief-type argument in my head, the change of tone didn't seem appropriate anymore.

i'm beginning to wonder if documentaries are becoming the media for the left, kind of like talk radio has become for the right. after all this summer several overtly political documentaries have come out. F911 is the obvious example. but there's also , the hunting of the president (which i have not seen), "the corporation," and now "outfoxed."

meanwhile, when i went to outfoxed last night i wore my simpsons t-shirt without thinking about it (it's what i was wearing all day). it was only when i got home that mrs. noz pointed out that the shirt had a fox logo on each of the sleeves. d'oh!