UNFAIR and UNBALANCED!
Selling Snake Oil News
Jesse - Editor, TvNewsLies.org - 01-September-2003
So FOX News claims to own the slogan, â€œFair and Balanced!â€? Now, thatâ€™s even more amazing than if Charles Manson had made â€œSugar â€˜N Spiceâ€? his trademark. False and misleading advertising is clearly forbidden under federal law and in most states in this country. One has to wonder why there is no similar regulation guarding the people of America against the deceptive dissemination of misinformation disguised as â€œnews!â€?
FOX News really takes the cake. Describing FOX News as â€œFair and Balancedâ€? may possibly be the greatest misrepresentation of a â€œproductâ€? since the cure-all tonics of the past. Like Fox News, the phony elixirs of the old west were sold by con men trying to make a fast buck! Anyone tuning in to FOX News, at any time of day, hears a slick and polished sales pitch for something that looks like news, sounds like news, and is even called â€œnews.â€™ People rely on networks such as FOX news for information which they need in order to make informed decision that can drastically affect their lives. When they tune in they believe theyâ€™re getting news. What theyâ€™re really getting is a large dose of snake oil that is totally useless and very, very dangerous.
For the sake of brevity, we have selected a sampling of news categories covered by the FOX network in the recent past. An analysis of the way in which these important news topics were reported will illustrate whether or not the FOX News claim to being â€œfairâ€? and â€œbalancedâ€? is in any way valid or justified.
Letâ€™s Talk FAIR:
- TOPIC 1:
EXAMPLE 1: Election Coverage: - Candidate Lies, Election, 2000:
Misinformation: reported in depth, nonstop, for the entire duration of the campaign: Al Gore claims that he invented the Internet.
Fact: Al Gore never made such a claim. The quote that has been misrepresented reads as follows: Al Gore: â€œDuring my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.â€?
Fact: Gore accurately claimed that he took the initiative in creating the Internet, not that he created it. In 1986, Al Gore, (D-TN), actually introduced S-2954, the Senate bill that created the Supercomputer Network Study Act. This was never reported at any time, but became one of a series of misrepresentations designed to convince the public that Al Gore was a liar.
Misinformation (in the form of omission) was evident regarding a number of serious questions about George W. Bushâ€™s military record. This information, unlike claims about the Internet, had direct relevance to the election, as the new president would assume the position of Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
Fact: A year of Bushâ€™s AWOL status while working on a Senatorial campaign was never questioned investigated or challenged by FOX News. This was a most serious issue for a presidential candidate. By law, a any member of the armed forces who without authority goes or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to remain away there
from permanently is guilty of desertion! (Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 85). FOX did not deem this matter at all newsworthy.
FACT: FOX totally ignored charges that strings were pulled to get George Bush into the Texas National Guard so he might avoid active duty in Vietnam; they never asked questions about his receiving a promotion to 2nd Lieutenant without having attended the required OTC; they took no notice of evidence that Bush was assigned to flight training on an obsolete airplane, in essence guaranteeing that he would never have to fly in actual combat.
- Questions about Example 1:
Was it FAIR to report, distort, discuss, ridicule and debate Al Goreâ€™s choice of words when describing his very important historic role in the evolution of the Internet? Was it FAIR to distort facts so that the public would believe that Gore was a habitual liar?
Was it FAIR, at the same time, to exclude any mention of so vital an issue as the military record of George Bush? Would FOX News have ignored this issue if it had been Al Gore (or Bill Clinton) whose military record had so many allegations of manipulation and favoritism?
- TOPIC 2:
EXAMPLE 2: World News: Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.
Misinformation: FOX News replaced the globally accepted term â€œsuicide bomberâ€? with â€œhomicide bomber.â€? FOX News had never used this phrase in the past about any other such act. Although they have since used the phrase to describe actions by non-Palestinians, â€?homicide bomberâ€? was introduced specifically to describe the actions of Palestinians.
Fact: Palestinian who blow themselves up are suicide bombers. The epithet â€œhomicide bomberâ€? is an editorial comment, presented without identification as such, and designed to pass judgment rather than report the news.
Misinformation: FOX News omits any details of provocation when acts of violence by Palestinians are committed in response to act of equal or greater violence by Israelis.
Fact: Israel defied the recent cease fire by launching missiles into a residential area of the occupied territory, killing a moderate political leader of Hamas, as well as a number of unarmed civilians. This was by followed a Palestinian suicide attack on an Israeli bus. FOX News focused on the â€œterroristâ€? attacked by the Palestinians, omitting the events that led to the retaliatory attack.
Misinformation: FOX refers to military missile strikes by Israel directly into heavily congested civilian populations as â€œtargeted killings.â€? Civilian deaths among Palestinians are â€œunfortunate,â€? while the deaths Israeli civilians are â€œmurdersâ€? committed by the acts of â€œterrorists.â€?
Fact: Thousands of Palestinian civilians, including many children, have been killed during Israeli military actions during the past two years. Recently a FOX reporter commented that it was â€œunfortunateâ€? that there were civilians around when the Israelis killed a child during one of their targeted killings. They do not condemn the use of military helicopters that fire missiles into heavily populated civilian areas as criminal acts of violence in violation of International Law..
Note: A recent study showed that the death of a Palestinian child killed as a result of Israeli military action is 20 times less likely to be reported than the death of an Israeli child killed during a Palestinian action. FOX has good company.
Misinformation: Targeted assassinations of Palestinians by Israelis are reported as legitimate acts accepted by International Law.
Fact: Such assassinations are violations of International Law. In 2001, Kofi Anan, Secretary General of the UN, called on Israel to stop what has come to be known as â€œtargeted assassinations.â€? No comment has been made about Israelâ€™s decision to ignore the request and continue its policy of defiance. Had these been the actions of Saddam Hussein, one wonders about FOXâ€™s response.
- Questions on Example 2:
Is it FAIR to use emotionally charged and prejudicial terms when reporting the actions of people involved in a war against a nation they perceive to be their occupiers and oppressors?
Is it FAIR to report acts of retaliation as if they were first strikes against an opponent? Is it FAIR to ignore provocative acts by one side of a conflict that resullt in retaliatory acts of revenge?
Is it FAIR to treat the deaths of innocent Palestinian civilians differently form the deaths of innocent Israelis? Is it FAIR to report the deaths of Palestinian children as â€œunfortunateâ€? collateral damage?
Letâ€™s Talk Balance:
- TOPIC 2:
EXAMPLE 1: Selecting the News: Deciding What the Public Needs to Know
Misinformation is achieved by distracting viewers from news that is embarrassing to or critical of the Bush administration. Recent topics that have received complete and thorough coverage on the FOX News network include virtually every court proceeding, press conference, in depth discussion, viewer e-mail, pinion poll, comprehensive speculation and debate about: Laci/Scott Peterson, Kobe Bryant, Martha Stewart, Robert Blake, and lest your forget - Gary Condit.
Fact: Far more important topics that have gone unreported, and have had no coverage whatsoever include: a) law suits by the GAO, the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch against Vice President Cheney regarding his secret energy policy meeting notes, b) recent court disclosure that these secret meetings (dating back to April 2001) used detailed maps of the oil pipelines in Iraq, c) billions of dollars in contracts given without competitive bidding to Halliburton, Dick Cheneyâ€™s former company, d) the secrecy of the Bush administration dating back before 9/11, e) the virtual elimination of our environmental protection laws, f) the dangerous restructuring of the FCC rules regulating media ownership, and f) the problems of possible manipulation related to the new computerized voting machines.
Fact: Distraction news has served to keep the public unaware of the true chaos in Iraq. The true numbers of civilian deaths in Iraq alone have now been estimated to be more than 37,000. This number does not include the wounded. The number of military deaths that are not combat related have been totally ignored, as have been the number of wounded and the severity of their injuries. The absence of factual reporting form Iraq on FOX news reinforces the propaganda from the White House designed to give the public a false picture of success in which the people of Iraq are thrilled by the present invasion, and all is progressing as planned. The failure of the military action in Afghanistan has been both under reported and/or ignored as well.
- Questions about Example 1:
Is news BALANCED that focuses on continuous, unrelenting coverage of sensational, lurid, or titillating criminal proceedings at a time when so much news of great importance should be reaching the public?
Is news BALANCED that excludes important information concerning the questionable actions and /or controversial policies of our elected leaders?
Is news BALANCED that reports only events and information about a controversial war that favor the administration?
Is it BALANCED when it deprives the public of their right to know about events that seriously and dramatically affect their lives?
The Bottom Line: FOX News is not a news network. This country does not have a broadcast news network. This becomes evident if you count the number of relevant â€œnewsâ€? stories per hour reported by any one of the so called networks. It becomes even more apparent if, when listening to a news report, you ask yourself how many people actually are affected by the story and why it is even being reported on a national news broadcast?
If FOX News thinks it is more important that the public be informed about every minute detail about the Laci Peterson murder than about a series of unethical and potentially criminal acts by the Vice President, they are sadly mistaken. FOX News is not FAIR and BALANCED. Not by a long shot. In fact, FOX News is highly UNFAIR and highly UNBALANCED. Their elixir sells well to an unsuspecting public. It also poisons the well of information from which the public feeds.
* * *
A final word to FOX News, CNN and MSNBC: It seems strange that you all now display the American Flag so prominently during your broadcasts, both as background themes and on the lapels of many of the on-air reporters. Commentators are being paid to be journalists, not ersatz patriots. You are supposed to report the news and tell the truth regardless of whether or not it supports the agenda or the image of the government. You are not paid to support our troops, our president or to promote the American image.
You are there to tell us what is going on in our world, be it good, bad, or indifferent. You are there to hold our government accountable for its actions by challenging any manipulation of the truth they disseminate to the public. You have created an unreal world for your viewers that is unbelievably inaccurate and distorted. You have turned Americans who want to be informed about the actions of their own government to international news sources for the truth. You have failed in your responsibility to the public and have betrayed their trust. History will look upon you as having darkened the name of journalism. Hopefully, future generations of Americans will know enough to demand that the American broadcast news media provide the information that is needed for them to be an informed electorate.
Journalism does not have to be fair, or balanced. It has to be complete and accurate. The American people must have access to the information that matters to us. Reality is not always fair and balanced. Give us some respect, and stop trying to make us believe that it is.
Regarding Media - Miles from 'fair and balanced' - A veteran producer this week alleged that Fox News executives issue a daily memorandum to staff on news coverage to bend the network's reporting into conformity with management's political views, refocusing attention on the partisan bias of America's most watched cable news operation. - According to Reina's letter, "Daily life at [Fox] is all about management politics....Editorially, the FNC newsroom is under the constant control and vigilance of management. The pressure ranges from subtle to direct. First, it's a news network run by one of the most high-profile political operatives of recent times. Everyone there understands that [Fox] is, to a large extent, 'Roger's Revenge' against what he considers a liberal, pro-Democrat media establishment that has shunned him for decades. For the staffers, many of whom are too young to have come up through the ranks of objective journalism, and all of whom are nonunion, with no protections regarding what they can be made to do, there is undue motivation to please the big boss." - At CBS or the AP, if a word got in that suggested bias â€” liberal or conservative â€” it was taken out. - "At Fox it was all about viewpoint. I'm not talking about the nighttime personalities. I'm talking about the news report. Fox executives will say their network only appears conservative because it is fair, when everyone else is liberal and biased. That's bull. Fox doesn't 'seem' conservative and Republican. It is conservative and Republican." - In his letter, Reina wrote that "the roots of [Fox's] day-to-day on-air bias are actual and direct. They come in the form of an executive memo" written by John Moody, the network's vice president for news, and "distributed electronically each morning, addressing what stories will be covered and, often, suggesting how they should be covered. To the newsroom personnel responsible for the channel's daytime programming, The Memo is the bible. If, on any given day, you notice that the Fox anchors seem to be trying to drive a particular point home, you can bet The Memo is behind it. The Memo was born with the Bush administration, early in 2001, and, intentionally or not, has ensured that the administration's point of view consistently comes across on [Fox]....
Outfoxed examines how media empires, led by Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, have been running a "race to the bottom" in television news. This film provides an in-depth look at Fox News and the dangers of ever-enlarging corporations taking control of the public's right to know.