As Marshall McLuhan once famously said: The medium is the message. Of course, McLuhan was referring to the embedded ability of the ‘carrier’ of the message to have a greater impact on its viewer, listener or reader, rather than the actual content of the message. To put this into context within media discourse, the message which television often connotes is a quick understanding of the news; brief and condensed reports where the viewer or reader no longer has to perform their own research. The viewer barely negotiates with this content, satisfied enough to watch the moving images, bright banners and other common staples of corporate news channels which distract the viewer with an overflow of information and illusory excitement.
Arguably the first news channel to adopt this method of delivering these stories to its viewers was Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News. Since its inception in the mid 80’s, Fox has grown to become one of the most widely known ‘false-truth‘ providers in the corporate news today. Greenwald’s own documentary on the subject examines the use of Fox News Channel as a means of promoting republican candidates in presidential elections, promoting Murdoch’s own agendas, Bill O’Reilly openly intimidating and throwing guests off the program for disagreeing with him on certain matters, the potential effect Fox News had on the Presidential election in 2000 and much more.
From my watching of the documentary, it’s plain to see that the above mentioned is, as far as I can see, true; especially Bill O’Reilly on the O’Reilly factor. In one segment of the documentary, Peter Hart examines O’Reilly’s interview with Jeremy Glick; the son of a 9/11 victim and activist. In the segment, O’Reilly openly attacks Glick and smears his name on live television before removing him from the set (Outfoxed: Bill O’Reilly attacks 9/11 victim’s son, 2007). As Peter Hart says in the beginning of the video “The O’Reilly factor is probably the perfect example of everything that’s wrong with Fox News Channel…”. I couldn’t agree more with Peter Hart.
Greenwald’s documentary was eye-opening to say the least, not that I didn’t already know the extent of Fox News Channels ‘corruption‘, for want of a better word. I didn’t realise just how corrupt it was in actuality.
However, there are always two sides to every coin and as biased as Fox News Channel can be, Greenwald’s documentary is just as biased. Greenwald himself is very leftist in his views, so it comes as no surprise that he would base his work on a right-wing news channel. My last thought on this matter is on Fox News Channel’s slogan which has always been “Fair and Balanced“. I do think, however, that slogan is the wrong word to use here. Perhaps idiom is a better word.
Fair and Balanced, as long as it balances on our ‘fair‘ scales. Such is the way that news corporations operate.
Outfoxed: Bill O’Reilly attacks 9/11 victim’s son. 2007. America: Robert Greenwald. [YouTube].
Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. 2004. America: Robert Greenwald.