We watch Fox so you don’t have to!
I know your big question over the last week or so was undoubtably, “Where in the world is “Around the Block?” The fact is, I’ve been traveling in Japan. And while it’s easy to keep up with the news from back home in Japan, my schedule has been such that commenting on that news has been difficult. So today I’d like thank Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times for bailing me out as I take advantage of his November 16 column and borrow liberally from him.
A while back MSNBC had a terrific tag line: “We watch Fox News, so you don’t have to.” Before that Jon Stewart’s Daily Show provided plenty of insight (and ridiclule) into how Fox was covering their version of the “news.” And, back in 2004, when Fox News’ own tagline was “Fair and Balanced,” the documentary Outfoxed showed how the “news” channel’s purpose, despite its tagline, was the promotion of right-wing views. As Outfoxed’s filmmaker, Robert Greenwald, said at the time, “What we set out to do was to show that, in fact, the entire Fox News was not a news organization. The goal was not just to change that narrative but to change the impact that Fox News often had on legitimate journalists.”
And, it’s only gotten worse since then.
Nicholas Kristof, in commenting about impeachment in the Times, writes, “When President Richard Nixon’s Watergate misconduct was being dissected before congressional committees in 1973 and 1974, Republican support for him collapsed because most Americans shared news sources and inhabited a similar political reality. In short, facts mattered.”
And as others, including Dan Rather, who covered the Nixon impeachment for CBS said, “Back then, there were only three networks. And all of us had the same facts. With Fox and right-wing radio, that’s not true today. Today, there are two sets of ‘facts.’”
Because I don’t watch Fox, because MSNBC abandoned their tag line and because Jon Stewart abandoned us, I’ll rely on Kristof to do the Fox watching for me.
But first, for Kristof, the numbers: “Fox was the most popular television network for watching the first day of impeachment hearings this week, with 2.9 million viewers (57 percent more than CNN had).”
Think about that, you MSNBC devotees; you’re being overwhelmed by people actually watching “fake news;” by viewers who encounter a very different hearing than viewers of other channels.
Two specific examples from Kristof’s (probably painful) watching:
“With Rep. Adam Schiff on the screen, Fox News’s graphic declared in all caps: ‘TRUMP HAS REPEATEDLY IMPLIED THAT SCHIFF HAS COMMITTED TREASON.’ At a different moment, the screen warned: ‘9/26: SCHIFF PUBLICLY EXAGGERATED SUBSTANCE OF TRUMP-ZELENSKY CALL*.'”
“Fox downplayed the news and undermined the witnesses. While Ambassador William Taylor was shown testifying, the Fox News screen graphic declared: ‘OCT 23: PRESIDENT TRUMP DISMISSED TAYLOR AS A “NEVER TRUMPER.’ It also suggested his comments were, ‘TRIPLE HEARSAY.’”
I didn’t see it, but I can imagine what Fox’s screen graphics said during the Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony on Friday. How about this? “President called Yovanovitch ‘Bad News.’” “Trump says, ‘Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.” “She started off in Somalia, how did that go?”
Take that to the polling booth Fox viewers.
And, amazingly, after Trump’s malicious tweet about her AS SHE WAS TESTIFYING, the blind-sided GOP rabid mad dogs on the Committee went out of their way to heap praise on Yovanovitch; so much so, you’ve got to wonder, why did Trump fire her? Wonder of wonders.
But, does this kind of editorializing the “news” work?
- A 2012 study by Fairleigh Dickinson University reported that watching Fox News had “a negative impact on people’s current events knowledge.” The study found that those who regularly watched Fox News actually knew less about both domestic and international issues than those who watched no news at all. N.P.R. listeners were particularly well-informed, the study found, but even people who got their news from a comedy program like “The Daily Show” — or who had no news source whatsoever — knew more about current events than Fox viewers.
- This right-wing cocoon is a disservice to its own true believers — because it feeds them misinformation.
- In the Iraq War, when Fox News anticipated that troops would be welcomed with flowers and that the war would pay for itself, troops I accompanied in 2003 watched a feed of Fox News with me — and our jaws dropped as commentators ridiculed critics of the invasion and blithely insisted that Iraqis were welcoming us as heroes. The troops and I looked at each other in astonishment.
- During the 2009-10 swine flu epidemic, Democrats and Republicans initially expressed roughly equal concern. But then conservative commentators denounced the Obama administration’s calls for vaccination as a nefarious plot. Glenn Beck, then of Fox News, warned that he would do “the exact opposite” of what the administration recommended. As a result, Democrats in the end were 50 percent more likely to seek vaccination than Republicans, according to the Journal of Health, Politics and Law. Some 18,000 people died in that flu epidemic, so it seems logical that some died because they believed Fox News.
Kristof concludes his column with this:
“I wonder if Fox viewers are again being misled when they watch Sean Hannity celebrate the opening of the impeachment hearings as a victory for Trump and as “a lousy day for the corrupt, do-nothing- for-three-years radical extreme socialist Democrats.” That is, shall we say, a quixotic interpretation.
“In the meantime, Fox News is aggressively defending Trump, joining in smears of public servants and playing a role in history that embarrasses many of us in journalism.”
Let me close with a reprise: “People who regularly watched Fox News actually knew less about both domestic and international issues than those who watched no news at all.” And, “…the right-wing cocoon is a disservice to its own true believers — because it feeds them misinformation.
How does that make you non-Fox believers feel about how the impeachment process is going to turn out?
(*Note: In the only mistake Schiff has made in this impeachment process, his “parody” of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian president Zelinsky at one of the early public hearings, was unfortunate. As I commented at the time, “Congressman, leave the satire to the professionals; you’re a Congressman and a former prosecutor; they (Fox and your Republican Congressional “colleagues”) will never forget and will call you out on it at every opportunity)