The thing about Fox News that annoys most of the writers on Open Salon is the one thing that doesn’t annoy me. Fox, unlike any other TV news network that I know, presents the conservative point of view when discussing political stories.
To many writers on Open Salon, that is an offense to High Heaven. Anyone who belongs to or speaks for the Republican party is not entitled to exposure on TV, because the GOP is not a legitimate political party. It is an evil, subversive organization designed to wipe out everything people on OS and their friends and allies believe in, not to mention the people themselves. And what the political writers on OS believe, of course, has the full endorsement of God. There is only one legitimate party: the Democrats.
I lean to the conservative political viewpoint, so I am pleased that there is one place where it gets aired. Fox, as anyone who has watched it knows full well, also airs the viewpoints of liberals. They are thrown up against the conservatives in face-to-face debates, and everyone gets a chance to speak his mind. Try finding the opposing viewpoint on MSNBC.
True, the conservative viewpoint predominates on Fox. Most of the politicians it interviews are conservative, and when Fox assembles a panel of three or four experts to debate politics, chances are there will be only one liberal in the bunch, so the liberal viewpoint gets somewhat muted. But the liberals are there -- the damned sophists -- and no liberal ever gets the hook when he says something that Rupert Murdoch, Fox’s supreme leader, finds objectionable.
On every other news network, most of the time you will search in vain for any mention of the conservative viewpoint on a given issue, let alone a conservative news source or commentator in the flesh.
So that is what I like about Fox. But there are also things I don’t like about it.
Most of what bothers me is the network’s crass sensationalism in covering non-political news. Perhaps this is something that one has to expect from a Murdoch outlet, because Murdoch built his fortune from tabloid-style journalism.
The rule of thumb seems to be that if a blonde female goes missing, this fact is to receive ceaseless coverage, night and day, featuring the profound observations of pundits who call themselves “Judge.” Mr. Murdoch evidently finds it very troublesome when women go missing, so everyone on Fox finds it troublesome too.
Then there is the apocalyptic weather coverage. When the weather turns bad, anywhere in the world, Fox will inundate you with photos and videos of destruction. Anyone, anywhere, who happens to make a video of a tree falling on a house can be pretty much assured of having it aired on Fox. It doesn’t matter whether the house was boarded up and abandoned, it doesn’t matter if the tree fell in some desolate corner of Romania where no one lives, and it doesn’t matter whether no one in Romania even felt a drop of rain. Photos of destruction are newsworthy in and of themselves. When a tree falls in the forest, it makes a sound, because a Fox free-lancer with a telephone camera is bound to be there.
I believe it was during last year’s hurricane season that the meteorologists were predicting that a devastating storm would sweep through the South -- or perhaps it was the North; it doesn’t matter -- and Fox started setting up its cameras and deploying its reporters days ahead. When the storm finally came onshore, it was relatively wimpy -- technically not even a hurricane, just a rain shower.
The folks on Fox went into denial. They continued to cover the storm as though it was a Mayan-style, earth-shattering event. When a reporter on the scene, at some coastal location, truthfully stated that the surrounding area was fortunate to have escaped any serious peril, the Fox moderator practically shouted him down, talking over him and spouting the usual crack-of-doom garbage. I expected to see the moderator drop to his knees and pray to God for another Great Flood, but he didn’t -- at least not on camera.
Another thing I dislike about Fox is its coverage of terrorist suicide bombings. These bombings happen every day, perhaps most often in Iraq, and throughout the day the same bombing will be recounted at the bottom of the TV screen, in a streaming headline.
I don’t say that these bombings shouldn’t be reported, but what irks me is when Fox insists on describing the perpetrators as “homicide bombers,” rather than “suicide bombers.” “Homicide bombers” is redundant, because anyone who would set off a bomb among fellow human beings is homicidal by definition. But practically all such bombings are carried out as suicide missions, the homicidal maniac wanting to be sure that the mission succeeds. “Sucide bombers” therefore adds an extra, essential fact to the report.
I gather that the use of “homicide bombers” was first suggested publicly by Ari Fleischer, then the press spokesman for President George W. Bush. Fleischer, who must have taken his cue from Bush, explained that calling the killers “suicide bombers” tended to add a touch of sacrifice and glory to their evil deeds. Calling them “homicide bombers” made them seem neither selfless nor glorious, just nasty.
Murdoch picked up on Fleischer’s suggestion, but all the other media just laughed it off.
In recent days I have noticed that the usage has become inconsistent. Some bombers are called “homicide bombers,” but others are once again referred to as “suicide bombers.” It appears that there is a struggle for supremacy among the people who grind out the headlines that run across the Fox News screen.
When the guy who prefers “suicide bombers” takes a break, the guy who relieves him probably says: “Enjoy your time off, you bleeping Muslim sympathizer.” And when that guy comes back from his break, he probably says: “Time for your break, you corporate-climbing kiss-ass.“
However, he probably does NOT say that if Mr. Murdoch happens to be within earshot.