From Jim Gilliam's blog archives
Outfoxed F.A.Q.

July 21, 2004 2:08 PM

I've been getting questions about Outfoxed, here are some answers.

Q: Was it prompted by a specific incident? If so, what: was it the decision to invade Iraq, or the subsequent reporting of the war there, or the conflating of the justification for invasion with the anti-terrorism measures?

The idea for Outfoxed came about while making "Uncovered: The War in Iraq," which was in response to the Bush administration's changing rhetoric about why the U.S. invaded Iraq. A year ago, last July, Robert feared the rhetoric would continue its subtle shift, to the point where no one would remember Bush's original justification for war. He called me up, and the next day we started documenting it.

During the 4 months we worked on the film, we saw how critical the media's role was in selling the war to the American public, and specifically the role Fox News played in demonizing opposing viewpoints. Basic journalism standards were thrown aside in favor of flag waving. While Fox was the worst offender, even the New York Times was forced to apologize for their war cheerleading.

There just wasn't enough time to get into it, but since Uncovered was so successful (it has sold 120,000 copies and an extended version will be in theaters next month), we were given the opportunity to make Outfoxed.

Q: How do you answer the charge that you have done exactly what you accuse Rupert Murdoch of doing: setting your own agenda and selecting the evidence which proves your case?

Unlike Fox, we don't pretend to have opposing viewpoints. That's more a practical consideration than anything. Fox wouldn't even let us use their footage of Condoleezza Rice in Uncovered; we'd have been insane to think they would cooperate on a movie critical of them. So we operated in secret and built our case. Fox now has plenty of opportunity to respond on their 24/7 news network. Robert has even offered Fox the movie for free. They can air it and pick it apart afterward.

Q: What sort of reaction have you had from people who have seen it: agreement,criticism, anger that they have been deceived by Fox news?

The response has been incredible. Outfoxed has been #1 on Amazon's DVD chart since it was released a little over a week ago -- ahead of the Star Wars Trilogy and the Passion. At least two additional Fox employees have gone public verifying the movie. Fox is both obsessed and scared of the movie, offering up this gem from Eric Shawn, the Fox News reporter sent to cover our press conference, "It's unfair, it's slanted and it's a hit job. And I haven't even seen it yet." Neatly sums up the entire operation at FNC.

Overall, the response has been very polarized. Amazon is littered with five star reviews, and one star reviews. Similar to Fahrenheit 9/11.

Most people are not surprised that Fox News leans right. But they are surprised by the subtle propaganda techniques and the Republican -- not conservative -- agenda. (I address this a bit more in the next answer) Many have commented on the "some people say" sequence, and the sheer pathological hate spewed by Bill O'Reilly.

But most importantly, Outfoxed has provoked a debate.

Q: Do you expect the film to be able to change a significant number of people's views about Fox and is your method of distribution via the internet and house screenings chosen because it can gather a momentum to match more mainstream methods for serious methods for documentary films?

Many people think Fox is conservative, but Outfoxed reveals something much worse -- a Republican bias. Conservatives, at their core, are very critical of the government, but that's not the Fox News agenda. Instead they serve as an echo chamber for Republican talking points. Murdoch is legendary for his adept manipulation of politicians. He bought his first in 1972 when his Australian paper supported the opposition Labor Party. He even bragged about it, claiming he had "singlehandedly put the present government in office." He's continued with the same strategy for the past 30 years: Rudy Giuliani in New York City, the Communist Party in China, and now the Bush administration. His only ideology is Rupert Murdoch; if he doesn't get what he wants, he flips to the other side.

We want people to turn off Fox News and seek out additional news sources. News is critical to a democracy. If a CEO has a slew of lieutenants all telling him what he wants to hear while glossing over the bad news, he'll make bad decisions and the company will deteriorate. In a democracy, we're all CEOs, the media serves as our lieutenants, and the government works for us. If we're only told what we want to hear, we will make bad decisions. Witness the invasion of Iraq.

I come from a background in the internet, and I'm enthusiastic about the new guerilla distribution method we're pioneering. First with Uncovered, and now with Outfoxed. Previously, the only way for a documentary to be seen was to toil away at film festivals for several years hoping to pick up a distributor. But now we can go from concept to eyeballs in 4 months. This is an extraordinary innovation that is having an enormous impact on the political process. We're not just documenting what happened years after the fact, we're participating in the debate.

Outfoxed attacks the mainstream media, but what few have caught on to is that the movie itself provides the answer -- more in how it was made than even the message itself. Don't like what you're seeing on the news? Become the news!

This concept will be refined and accelerated in the coming years. With Tivo, blogs and digital video, the technology pieces are coming together to create an alternative to television news. Meanwhile, consumer habits are changing. As soon as someone gets a Tivo, they no longer tune into NBC on Thursday nights, they subscribe to Friends. They're watching shows, not networks. This combination is potent, and therein lies the solution. Which brings us to the next question...

Q: What would you like to see happen as a result: is there a case for requiring news channels to be balanced in their reporting. Is that acheivable in an entirely commercial context?

We certainly could require balance in news coverage -- we had something like that until Reagan ditched the fairness doctrine in the 80's -- but I think it's more important that people understand what they're getting so they can make their own decision. A news organization shouldn't be able to advertise with fraudulent slogans.

Blogs give me hope. The vast majority are non-commercial, and are serving as an effective watchdog on the mainstream commercial media. I no longer read a newspaper every morning. I subscribe to dozens of blogs across the ideological spectrum that cull news stories from all over the world. I understand the bias of each blog, and read with a critical eye. The same thing will happen to television news.

More from the archive in Media, Outfoxed, Tech, Television.

Outfoxed F.A.Q. (07.21.2004)

Next Entry: Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O'Reilly (07.21.2004)
Previous Entry: Doonesbury continues, Murdoch "amused" (07.21.2004)

Read the 12 comments.


Yes, the internet is the ultimate source for the whole truth! While the internet is awesome as a discussion medium, it is just that. Anyone can put up a web page and spin things any way they want. Blogs are always biased. There is no one editing them, researching what is claimed. While it is interesting to read people opinions and perspectives from a blog, how can you solely rely on blogs to get factual news? You have the patent for unbiasing people's views on the world news? And you subscribe to "dozens of blogs across the ideological spectrum"... Which spectrum is that? The liberal spectrum or both conservative and liberal? You have time to read all of this, pick out the facts and form your own indepedent opinion? Wow!!

Tue Aug 24 2004 12:37 AM

Jim Gilliam:

That's the point: "Blogs are always biased." So is everything, but at least blogs are *transparent*. And that is the key, both with bias, and with facts. If a fact is screwed up on a blog, someone's going to call you on it, either in the comments, or on their own blog. Your polyanna notion that newspapers get all their facts right is charming. If you want to check blogs that specialize in fact checking, try the nonpartisan sites and Spinsanity.

The blogs serve as a way to distribute story selection. Every day newspapers pump out thousands and thousands of stories, and no one has the time to read them all. But with a couple dozen carefully chosen blogs, you can get a good read on which news articles you'll be interested in, along with commentary about the article or the topic which helps in reading the article with a critical eye.

Tue Aug 24 2004 8:05 AM


RE: "at least blogs are transparent"...

beware of 'astroturfing'. Astroturfing is the practice of an advertising campaign disguising itself as a grass roots movement. Blogs, among other things, can be used in astroturfing campaigns.

Still, giving the "anyone can publish" nature of the internet, blogs do offer great opportunity for viewpoints other than the oligarchy to express themselves.

Thu Sep 2 2004 3:06 PM


All you FNC haters just don't have a clue do you? I guess if you're a lib and you're used to getting your lib viewpoint day in and day out from network news and the NY Times then FNC would seem like a "right-wing" news channel because they don't play by the lib playbook, but the reality is that they ARE the closest thing to "fair and balanced" on television today. Try comparing FNC to Drudge, Limbaugh, or Savage and you surely have to agree that they are more to the center than Right Wing Radio!!! Besides, if FNC is such a big Republican propoganda wagon, then why in the world were they the ones who outed Bush's drinking issues just days before the 2000 election? Seems to me that if they were REALLY right wing then they would have waited until after the election or just buried the story (like the liberal media tends to do for anything anti-Kerry). Face it, Outfoxed is a waste of film, tape, or harddrive space (and time for anyone who watches it). The non-Kool-Aid people out there know where to go for the truth and that's why FNC is cleaning the clocks of every other news channel in existance.

Thu Sep 16 2004 11:12 PM

raging red:

Good media isn't about telling both sides of a story or issue, but getting at facts and the truth. It's about truth-seeking. Each person determines what her own opinions are.

Bush's drinking issues were no secret. People knew about them well before 2000. The issue dogged him in his gubenatorial campaign, so nobody "outed" him in 2000.

Thu Sep 16 2004 11:44 PM


raging red - No...good media is about giving ALL the facts in an unvarnished way to allow the viewer to make up his or her own mind. The problem with the liberal media is that they tend to present only one side of the facts...kind of like being in the jury and hearing only the prosecution all day long without ever hearing from the defense. FNC attempts to give both sides of the facts and not leave out the details of one side or the other (bias by exclusion). The boneheads who made "Outfoxed" just can't handle the fact that there is finally a media outlet (other than the internet) where people can go to get all the facts and not just the ones that make Kerry look like an angel and Bush look like the devil. That's why FNC is destroying all the other television outlets. Even if every single right wing nutcase watched FNC (about 25% of the population) it still wouldn't account for Fox's dominance. Clear minded individuals are getting the message and tuning in and the death grip the NY Times and other liberal media outlets had over driving liberal-friendly news is over. Every time I pop over to a blog site or forum and read all these posts from libs whining that they don't have control over the media anymore and whining about how bad FNC is I laugh. Then I see something like the fact that FNC beats MSNBC by TEN TO ONE during primetime (God Bless Bill Oreilly) I grin, laugh to myself again, and take joy at all of you lib's pain and misfortune. Finally you guys have to try to win voters with logic, reason, and facts in a fair debate instead of a one-sided daily monologue from your liberal media surrogates.

Sat Sep 25 2004 9:11 AM


You know the more you hear from these conservatives the more you realize they are the last people on earth you want running this country. Their ability to do anything other than try to be right is virtually non existent. They can’t debate a topic, they can’t discuss varying opinions on any issue and they never admit they are wrong unless it serves them. Just constant raging about being right. Any opinion other than their own is branded. Therefore anyone with a contrary idea that hasn’t been pre-screened as a conservative is a whacko. And they are looking everywhere for whacko ideas aren’t they.
Yep God Bless good old boy Bill Oreilly they ‘laugh to themselves’ like some kind of retarded redneck. ‘Glad he’s out there kicking liberal ass’ ain't that right Clem.
They portray conservatives as some kind of victims of liberal media. Yes, the poor old conservatives, drowned out for years by the liberal media. What kink of hogwash is this. You’d think the poor old conservatives were never heard, never had control of congress, never elected a president. The bs just gets thicker and thicker with these guys. They just harp about how anyone with a brain that can think about a topic from more than one angle is a liberal whacko and not thinking clearly. The only thing they understand is simple concepts like ‘kick your ass’ and ‘flip flopping’ and ‘no spin’. If you look and listen carefully you’ll see that these persons accuse everyone else of the crap that they themselves, are doing. It’s complete projection. Scary thing is, the paranoid bastards actually believe they are right. Who let the Neanderthals out?

Sat Sep 25 2004 7:59 PM


Nice grandstanding there Michael. Keep on drinking the Kool-Aid there buddy. You complain that non-liberals can't debate and you fill your whole response with about as much fluff as a bleach-blonde silicone enhanced trophy wife. The problem is that the overwhelming majority of independents (like myself) are flocking to FNC and you guys just can't figure out why.

Mon Oct 4 2004 1:42 PM


Just wanted to say, that it sucks when in the midst of working near full-time and going to full time school, I had the same fate as you. I, too wanna help get Bush out of the White House. I saw the first film, haven't yet seen outfoxed, but good work. Keep it up. Maybe we can get the power back to the people.

Tue Oct 5 2004 2:30 AM


Carterartist: Surely you can't be serious!!! How does electing Kerry return "power to the people?!?!" All you're doing is returning power to the DNC. The DNC and the RNC are BOTH evil. They are BOTH power mad. They are BOTH driven, bought, and paid for by corporations. Fine, throw out the RNC and oil, tobacco, and whatever other corporations pollute them and you inherit trial lawyers and the entertainment industry via the DNC. The poverty rate is just as bad today as it was when the DNC started. Those who live in the inner cities will tell you it's just as bad or worse than before. The DNC doesn't care jack about the poor. The DNC doesn't care jack about African Americans. All they want to do is buy your votes with some entitlements here and there and then stay in power. We all might as well be slaves on a plantation to the DNC because that's what they see us as. The RNC is just as bad. Until we have a true 3rd party that's for the "people" and not for the "party" then we're all gonna keep getting hosed.

Tue Oct 5 2004 9:31 AM


To whom this may concern;

What is with this Kool-aid nonsense? I love that in your arguement to displace anything the previous persons said about "Republicans not being able to debate matters" was to just insult them. Rather bad insults if I say so myself. You are just proving yourself wrong, and for every Republican that comes into this message board to rant about how we are Un-patriotic and dirty hippies, there will be ten of these so called dirty hippies to wave you away with a little something I like to call FACTS, TRUTH, and DEMOCRACY.
If you would like to argue further, please read the constitution.

Mon Jan 10 2005 11:24 PM


They are a popular news network ... so what?
That only shows how easy it is to make people believe things that are simply not true (This is also well historically documented). The people who defend FOX, stating that they give them the truth really don't have any concept of what truth is (They are clearly showing this by defending it). And defending a news network for political reasons is just foolish anyways. "Facts" and strong political convictions don't mix well. Never did.

Wed Jun 8 2005 8:58 PM

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