Concise critique of Fox News?
June 30, 2010 9:36 PM   Subscribe

Concise explanation of what is wrong with Fox News?

I need a concise and fair explanation of just what is wrong with Fox News. Yes, I know what is wrong with it: they misrepresent people and information, cover news in a very biased manner while not admitting their biases, etc. I can talk about this all day, and Jon Stewart does a good job of taking the wind out of their sails. But I need a very concise argument that relies less on video clips and more on the core of what is wrong with the network. Ideally, this explanation will also address the biases of NBC, CNN, etc. while explaining why they are not as egregious in their offenses as Fox.

I've seen the Media Matters site, but I need something summarized, not a long list of Fox's errors.

I am making this argument to a conservative friend who relies on nearly exclusively on network as a 'news' source.

posted by 4midori to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Personally I think Fox, MSNBC, CNN, etc. are all equally worthless. More heat than light, a non-substantive posturing instead of informed, useful stuff. The motivation is not providing useful information, but attracting viewers. Aggressive debating is good at this; dispassionately relaying the day's news is not.
posted by resiny at 9:54 PM on June 30, 2010 [7 favorites]

As far as I know FOX is the only 'news' agency in the US that has argued in court that the FCC's policy against falsifying news was not a "law, rule, or regulation", and that it is therefore their right to tell the news the way they want to regardless of the truth.

I'm not so naive as to think that other news sources haven't taken advantage of this as well, but FOX appears to have made it into an art form.
posted by foobario at 10:08 PM on June 30, 2010 [6 favorites]

Fox News is unabashedly a conservative "news" outlet. That means they deliver their news with a bias. Any news delivered with a bias tends more toward propaganda. FOX justifies this bias by accusing other news outlets of being liberal, as if that is some kind of journalistic crime.Here's the definition of liberal:

Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.

Now compare that to the definition of conservative:

favouring the preservation of established customs, values, etc., and opposing innovation

By definition alone, which ideological news source will be more apt to give you the truth?

I think William Gladstone sums up the differences nicely: Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence; Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.
posted by any major dude at 10:18 PM on June 30, 2010 [8 favorites]

All of the "news" organizations you mentioned have one thing in common: they are profit-motivated. They all make money by generating enough interest in their viewership that they can sell ad time and make a buck. That's why they all fail in some way to capture the spirit of pure journalism as many folks imagine it. It's why they don't do in-depth analysis very well, why they tend to focus on the sensational (e.g. Balloon Boy) rather than the important but tedious truth. And it's why most of them tend to avoid being overly partisan, because they don't want to alienate any part of their viewership.

Fox stands alone in the way they have opted to carve out their market share by catering exclusively to those viewers who are politically right-wing. It is all about niche marketing and Fox has chosen to cater specifically to conservatives. Hence, they present their news not only as sensationalized reporting, but also with a slant that will specifically appeal to right-wing viewers. By doing so, they build brand loyalty among that market, which in turn results in profitability when they can sell ad time to a loyal viewer base.

This means Fox, above all others, has an explicit agenda in promoting and fomenting a right-wing slant to all of their reporting. It doesn't hurt that the folks who own and run the organization have explicitly said that the network has a right-wing agenda. The result is a for-profit propaganda network.
posted by darkstar at 10:22 PM on June 30, 2010

*sell ad time to vendors trying to reach Fox's loyal viewer base
posted by darkstar at 10:24 PM on June 30, 2010

Here's the most concise I can get it:

Fox News spreads hate.
posted by GnomeChompsky at 10:26 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

I will also note that Rush Limbaugh is on record admitting that this is the reason he is so partisan and over the line. It's so he can so inflame his listeners and generate "the largest possible audience so I can charge confiscatory ad rates."

Glen Beck isn't the stupid moron he plays on his show, either. He's playing a role that is earning him tens of millions of dollars. He may believe some of the things he says, but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that he knows most of it is a cynical, profit-driven game for him. He's winning it, too.

Sarah Palin probably actually is as stupid as she appears. But she's learned how to milk that for a truckload of money, too.

It's all about gaining viewers to sell ad time, books, speaking fees, etc. Kind of like televangelists.
posted by darkstar at 10:30 PM on June 30, 2010 [10 favorites]

Any media outlet that has to assure viewers that it's "fair and balanced" is suspect.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:40 PM on June 30, 2010

FOX News sells fear. Conservative America likes being afraid of its own shadow. FOX News programming caters to that desire by amplifying those fears, sensationalizing and sometimes making up stories about blacks, immigrants, Muslims, Democrats, poor people, and other right-wing bogeymen.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:52 PM on June 30, 2010 [9 favorites]

You could compare Fox's journalistic faux pas to those done by the other companies. For example Dan Rather (CBS) passing off forged papers as evidence against Bush or Dateline (NBC) rigging GMC pickups to explode or 60 Minutes (CBS) rigging up Audis to accelerate when the brake pedal was pressed. Just do a side by side comparison and let him decide which is worse.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 11:04 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does your friend believe that Fox isn't biased? Or does he embrace the bias, and you're just trying to convince him that such bias is bad?

If it's the former, one easy thing to point out is how obviously slanted their anchors are, especially their "stars." Ask him to consider how he'd feel about an MSNBC that had not one, but two programs hosted by Democratic presidential candidates from the 2008 election, as Fox does with Palin and Huckabee.

Would he trust CNN if they booked Nancy Pelosi and David Axlerod on a daily basis not to interview, but to provide color commentary on political stories? Then how does he feel about Fox doing that with Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove?

And if he insists that all of that is just editorial stuff separate from the hard news, then ask him why all of their editorialists sit on one side of the aisle, and how such a bias on the opinion side could not possibly bleed over to their "normal" news programming.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:07 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Most news outlets sell to people who don't want to think too much.

Fox News sells to people who don't want to think at all.
posted by fleacircus at 11:16 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Here's my three word explanation which I hope doesn't deride Fox News:

Extreme Opinions Sell.
posted by chicago2penn at 12:01 AM on July 1, 2010

The extreme RW ideology of the fifties recycled and media mainlined, a desperate attempt to keep the war for profit Xtian West one step ahead of the game.
posted by hortense at 12:27 AM on July 1, 2010

Fox News is a character-driven mass appeal to a large audience that appreciates a good story and doesn't have the heart to talk back.
posted by parmanparman at 1:54 AM on July 1, 2010

Fox is probably the only network I can think of that takes part in the political process, i.e. taking prominent anchors taking part in the Tea Party rallies and promoting such activities. Come to think of it, the Tea Party owes a lot to Fox for its on-air publicity,

I cannot think of any anchors from MSNBC or CNN that in spite of their left-bias have actively taken part in rallies. Maybe there are a few, and someone will point them out.

But I think this activity of Fox anchors make them ineligible to be called a news organization.
posted by hariya at 3:56 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I mean, taking prominent anchors taking
posted by hariya at 3:58 AM on July 1, 2010

I'd recommend seeing the documentary "Outfoxed." It distills everything down to a handful of issues and presents interviews with "insiders." It's pretty bare-bones, no obnoxious narrator or stunts (no Michael Moore) to undermine its point -- just interviews and clips. If you're looking for a concise argument, this film will help you come up with one much more efficiently than looking around the internet -- and it will give you plenty of evidence to support your argument. (Of course, as with any film, it has a point of view so it's worth looking into the other side as well).
posted by Alabaster at 4:46 AM on July 1, 2010 [6 favorites]

Here's my take: FOX News is like a hot dog factory: they take perfectly good meat and add all kinds of unhealthy and in the longrun, potentially harmful ingredients, but pass it off not just as as perfectly good meat, but perfectly good delicious meat.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:56 AM on July 1, 2010

FOX news is comedy gold to the rest of the world.
posted by Nufkin at 5:27 AM on July 1, 2010

Just chiming in to say that before telling your friend a version of what foobario said, you should know that it's a little more complicated. I'm no friend of Fox, but it's worth noting that in the case in question, Fox did not challenge the FCC policy against news falsification; it challenged whether an employee's disclosure of employer conduct in violation of that policy gave the employee whistleblower protection under Florida law. Also, the case was about the news on a local Fox network and not the cable channel.
posted by Xalf at 7:31 AM on July 1, 2010

I'm watching this Q because i'd love to have a good answer to give to some friends and family. However, none of the answers presented thus far are anything i'd take to my brother-in-law - some aren't backed up by any facts or references, others are merely preaching to the choir. Closest i've found is related to the Obama Whitehouse's statements against Fox News in Sept. '09, which leads me to a table in wikipedia showing the 4-6pm and late night slots as "opinion", not "news". But I can't find that same info on the Fox News site itself, nor at the FCC. That would be convincing, IMO.

There's also the tidbit that the largest shareholder of News Corp outside the Murdoch family is a Muslim. That might be effective evidence for some folks.
posted by at at 8:15 AM on July 1, 2010

I will say that every morning, there is a strategy memo from on high, and every story is required to strictly adhere to it: basically the day's Republicans' talking points. Any deviation from the strategy memo pretty much means you're fired. It's not news: it's a messaging machine.

As a personal anecdote, I was with some friends taking pictures at a tea party rally in D.C. Fox News showed up, and the reporter and his camera man were actually guiding some of the (pretty sparse, really) crowd into a camera frame to make it appear there were a lot more people there. The reporter actually said "Guys, you can trust us.. Yeah, we're from Fox News, we're on YOUR side!" They directed when the crowd should cheer. They ended up doing about six or seven takes of the same report. It was very carefully orchestrated and probably the weirdest experience I've seen in terms of so-called news reporting.
posted by General Malaise at 8:15 AM on July 1, 2010

It's all theater. I'm not certain if Fox news (and the rest) actually try to cause division or if they merely cater to it, but one thing Fox does seem to do more often than the other networks is emphasize 'us' versus 'them'.

Very effectively, I might add.
posted by Mooski at 10:10 AM on July 1, 2010

I cannot think of any anchors from MSNBC or CNN that in spite of their left-bias have actively taken part in rallies.

CNN and MSNBC are not left-leaning. They are conservative-to-balanced.

Fox is just more right wing than every other corporate news outlet, so it seems like the others are "liberal".

If you want "lefftist" news that actually takes advertising, you will have to move to France or Italy.
posted by L'OM at 11:15 AM on July 1, 2010

Oh yeah: Fox is just over-simplifying the news to a point where it triggers emotional responses from shall we say less-sophisticated people.

It's the Roger Ailes MO: prey on emotions, fear, ignorance and patriotism. Why do you think the GOP provoked (or invented, I think) the anti-abortion movement 30 years ago? And anti-gay marriage "referendum". And anti-flag burning, anti-immigration. To get the working class (the rabble) to vote for Republicans.

Fox News is an offshoot of what Roger Ailes did to bamboozle the masses when he worked for Nixon, Reagan, GHW Bush and Giuliani. That's why these people continue to vote against their best interests.

"The guy on the news said all of these Muslims hate Americans."

"They said on the news that [Obama/Pelosi/goverment] is to blame for X, not [corporation/war contractor/Republican]." - That's Fox News in a nutshell.
posted by L'OM at 12:29 PM on July 1, 2010

I'm not sure that there is such an argument. Knowledgeable people -- including conservatives -- know that Fox is not news. The rest will never be convinced. You could do worse than starting with the Pew Research Center findings that loyal Fox viewers are the least informed people on earth, though.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:33 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

mattdidthat: "Fox News is not journalism. Fox News is entertainment, presented as journalism. "

This. The economics of cable suggest that, in order for a channel to get an audience, it has to target its programming to a particular demographic or lifestyle. Just like MTV is a lifestyle network and not a network based on an interest, just like even the Food Network is more oriented towards lifestyle than an interest (you're not learning anything about how to cook by watching Food Network Challenge or Ace of Cakes), Fox News is a lifestyle channel - it appeals to conservatives - hence the product integration with Hooters, hence Ollie North's War Stories. There are obvious dangers when a news outlet trades on a lifestyle more than it does on its own credibility.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:54 PM on July 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks to all--very helpful!
posted by 4midori at 10:50 PM on July 1, 2010

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (2004)
posted by jayne at 7:49 PM on July 2, 2010

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