From Jim Gilliam's blog archives
Salon's review of Outfoxed
July 13, 2004 7:08 AM
Salon has a spectacular review of Outfoxed today:
I'm a neutral observer, of course, here to give you a fair and balanced report. But some people would say that Fox News Channel is nothing more than the private right-wing propaganda machine of a sneaky right-wing billionaire who is -- now these are just the facts, people -- not an American at all but some kind of Down Under, funny-accented, shrimp-on-the-barbie-eating, crocodile-hunting, profoundly un-American Australian, for goodness' sake.
And while I know Australia is not obviously very much like France -- treasonous, untrustworthy France -- let's look under the surface a little, OK? Do you know what one of Australia's top agricultural products is? That's right, it's wine. Draw your own conclusions, people, that's all I ask. And when you get right down to it, isn't there something French about Shep Smith, if you know what I mean? Isn't that "mousse" in his hair? Does that sound like an American word to you? Isn't there something about him that suggests the French government of, say, 1943? Something a little Vichy French? Nazi-collaborator French, possibly? I don't know, I'm only asking. You decide.
Maybe you think my parody of the methods employed by Fox News itself (yes, French and Australian readers, that's what it is -- please delete those partly composed e-mails) is a few truckloads too broad. After you see Robert Greenwald's documentary "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," you might change your mind.
Uprooted from the happy everyday babble of cable TV, the network looks more and more like a total propaganda system: Murdoch and his drones have created a dense and sophisticated weave of sound and image, drenched in the American flag and overloaded with authoritative-seeming info nuggets, whose exclusive goal is the dissemination of fear, confusion and disinformation designed to serve the ends of the governing regime.
As media critic Robert McChesney says in the film, it is much easier to propagandize a public that believes in its own freedom, and does not expect propaganda, than it was in a Soviet-style system where people were always suspicious of official pronouncements. In that context, it's no longer accurate to haul out the tiresome leftist chestnut and refer to a development like the rise of Fox News as "Orwellian." It's subtler, lusher, more sweeping and far more effective than anything Orwell ever imagined.
Furthermore, in the name of Jesus, what reputation has Fox News got to defend? Greenwald's talking heads make fine points, many of them, but the really damning stuff in "Outfoxed" is simply the tape. He builds his case by identifying a particular ideological device or technique, a particular political meme (e.g., Kerry as "opportunistic flip-flopper," one that may have cut uncomfortably close to the bone), and then providing examples of how Fox endlessly, mind-numbingly drills it into the viewer. (As the Boynton article explains, this required a team of volunteers combing through countless hours of Fox News broadcasts -- I don't think the concept of "combat pay" even begins to cover it.)
If Rupert Murdoch had created a news network that was overtly political, even if those politics were scarily right-wing, that would be one thing. We are supposed to live in a marketplace of ideas; everybody gets a chance to air his views, and some of us, like Rupert, get more chances than others. But Fox News is the modern mass media at its worst, pushed to its logical extreme.
Rather than politics, Fox News offers only lockstep ideology. It does not present arguments; it blends fearmongering and happy talk, rinses in red, white and blue, and pours the mixture down our throats. Instead of challenging its audience, it simultaneously terrifies and comforts them, painting a hostile world constantly in need of good, old-fashioned Republican-style American might. It shows us a busy screen of sound and fury, but devoid of all thought. It's a nonstop thrill ride for the paranoid American body politic, and the public -- at least Murdoch's target audience -- has been as delighted as kids on their first visit to Disney World. Fox News has conquered the TV news landscape so thoroughly that the other networks have remade themselves in its image. Maybe I was wrong about Shep Smith -- some people say he looks more German than French.
Salon's review of Outfoxed
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Previous Entry: The Fox News memos (07.12.2004)
Read the 2 comments.
Great review and can't wait to see Outfoxed. I'm from the UK and am still left wondering about Murdoch's influence of his UK arsenal. I don't see Sky News, but do see the front page of The Sun everyday in the shops (I dare not pick it up though). Murdoch shifted support from the Conservatives to 'New' Labour, some time in 1997 (there or there abouts), but today's Sun is slamming Blair for going to war with Iraq, which surely goes against Murdoch's stance on the war. i.e. It's a good thing. Is it possibly a shrewd move on his part to get rid of Blair or bring him into line on other matters? If Labours popularity is successfully shot to pieces (even more than it already has been by everyone!), perhaps Murdoch will later shift back to the tories again? Blair and Brown are starting to get a bit more left than they were when they first arrived in power... It would be interesting to see a similar study of the UK Murdoch press. There is major antidote to his news over here though. The Guardian, the Observer, the BBC and the excellent Channel 4.
Thu Jul 15 2004 9:52 AM
Outfoxed will be released on DVD in the UK a week from today, Dec. 6th 2004.
Mon Nov 29 2004 8:16 AM
Last week's soundtrack: