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Book of Matthew: American propaganda: Fox News uncovered

Published: March 28, 2008
Section: Opinions

In the past, I have voiced my displeasure with the mainstream media. I’m sure there are some who will disagree, but I feel that the actions and words of the media are some of the greatest threats to America.

In high school, many of you were probably taught about a phenomenon called “yellow journalism,” the tendency of major turn-of-the-century news publications to exaggerate or even fabricate stories. In 1898, led by Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal, newspapers used this tactic in order to convince Americans that Spain had sunk the Battleship Maine. The main goal of this was to increase circulation, and it was successful. One small side effect was the Spanish-American War.

Given that this war was short, popular, and successful, American history books have a tendency to gloss over it, and to make the assumption that we screwed up once, but everything turned out okay in the end and we have moved on. When the chapter on the war ends, the term yellow journalism disappears.

But this is a dangerous assumption to make. Yellow journalism has never died; it has simply evolved, throughout the Cold War, and even now during the War on Terrorism. Our media today is just as willing to sensationalize stories as it has ever been, this time being led by the great media empire that is Fox News.

Fox News is currently the highest-rated cable news program on television. It was launched in 1996 by Rupert Murdoch, in order to balance a news media that he believed to be “predominantly liberal.” Thus, the “fair and balanced” news network was born.

I should probably take this time to point out what I feel is obvious. Fox News is neither fair nor balanced, and never has been. It is not balanced because it has operated with a conservative bias since its inception. It is not fair because it frequently engages in terrible journalistic practices that should have all viewers questioning every story that the network reports.

Did you know that 67% of Fox viewers believe that there was evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda prior to 9/11?

There was no such evidence.

How about this one. Did you know that 33% of Fox viewers believe that weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq?

No such weapons have been found.

This is no coincidence. For years, Fox News has gone out of its way to report stories that may not be necessarily true, but at the very least reinforce the neoconservative ideology. After forcing myself to watch their station, I have come to the conclusion that they have gotten away with this for so long by following two basic rules:

Rule #1: America is always right and if you do not agree with America, you are unpatriotic.

Granted, this rule assumes that Democrats hate America, and if we have a Democratic President/Congress, their actions must be anti-American, and therefore it is perfectly acceptable to criticize them. On the other hand, this rule assumes that Republicans love America so much that they must never be criticized.

For example, lets take a look at Sean Hannity, from the show Hannity & Colmes of Fox News. Sean is a conservative, and he makes no secret of it. On March 18, 2003, he responded to a remark by former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle by saying, “Forty-eight hours we’re sending our men and women in harm’s way, and there’s the leader of your party [Daschle] in the United States Senate disgracefully attacking our president at a time when we’re going to war. You ought to be ashamed. Every Democrat in this country ought to be ashamed of what this man did yesterday and what he repeated again today.”

Harsh words, considering that all Daschle said was, “I’m saddened that the President failed so miserably at diplomacy that we are now forced into war.”

However, the true irony lies with a quote by Hannity from May 10, 1999, regarding President Clinton’s intervention in Kosovo. He said, “They haven’t prepared for anything in this. And they’re running out of weapons to do it. And frankly, I don’t think Clinton has the moral authority or ability to fight this war correctly.”

But, but, Mr. Hannity, aren’t we at war? How can we be critical of our president when we’re at war?

Just remember kids, President Clinton was hurting America. But brave President Bush is going to kill those big bad Iraqis and make us all safe and warm at night.

Moving on…

Rule #2: If you repeat it, they will believe.

This is why Fox News anchors insist on repeating slogans like “We report, you decide,” “Real journalism, fair and balanced,” or my personal favorite, “This is the No-Spin Zone.” Regardless of how biased their reporting is, as long as they beat it into their viewers heads that everything is fair, people will buy it.

Of course, this rule has many other applications. Like during the elections of 2000 and 2004, when Fox News “analysts” told viewers over and over again that Al Gore was liar and John Kerry was a flip-flopper. Oh, and they were sure to mention that Bush was a principled leader, in case you were wondering.

Now let me tell you my last, greatest reason for despising Fox News. He is a man who embodies everything that is wrong with the mainstream media, and who follows the two previously stated rules so well one would think that he wrote them. His name is Bill O’Reilly, of the O’Reilly Factor.

Bill is an interesting guy. Politically, he resembles his friend Sean Hannity, but unlike Sean, Bill claims to be a registered independent (incidentally, this is completely false, and he is actually a registered Republican, as if it were a surprise). But, in his defense, Bill makes quite an effort to seem unbiased on his show. He claims to put no spin on the news, and invites Democrats and Republicans alike onto the show to discuss the issues. He does a great job at being unbiased, at least until his Democratic guest opens his/her mouth. That’s when things tend to go south.

See, Bill has an extremely right-wing view of the world that happens to include a deep aversion to dissent. Guests who are brave enough or foolish enough to disagree with O’Reilly often get shouted out of their seats, and if they are particularly vocal, he likes to cut their mikes and call security. Then, when the show is all over, Bill will turn to the camera and politely smile, reminding viewers all over the country that, “This is the No-Spin Zone.”

All in all, I would say that Fox News is as close to blatant propaganda as the mainstream media can get. No, I take that back. Fox News is blatant propaganda. It reaches so many people, influences so many opinions, and has brought cable news as a whole down to such a low level that I fear very much for our nation. Our government will never be effective unless we have an informed citizenry to elect its members, and we will never have an informed citizenry if networks like Fox keep spewing garbage and lies. My advice? Change the channel, and stop yellow journalism once and for all.