[10 September 2008]
PopMatters Features Editor
In this election season, there are a few things that every American voter should know.
First, the Republican platform that suggests they are about “change” is insulting after years of their almost complete control of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches (up to January 2007). Second, Sarah Palin is a cynical, pandering, and borderline ridiculous VP choice, no matter how you spin it. Third, Barack Obama is neither the Second Coming, nor is he the Antichrist – but, since when is it a problem for a democratic politician to be exciting? Fourth, to be a “community organizer” is in no conceivable way a bad thing – community organizers are, basically, people doing what politicians are supposed to be doing, except they have to do it without financial support! And, fifth, CNN may not be a great place to get all your news, but FOX is, quite simply, not a legitimate news source.
If you are getting your information in whole or in part from FOX News, you really should diversify. Otherwise you’re likely to believe stuff that a) isn’t true, and b) is bad for America and the world.
I am not an American voter. I shouldn’t have to say this, and anyone who isn’t an American voter will know exactly why, but many Americans have trouble with the idea of a foreigner commenting upon their nation and its domestic affairs. This is, of course, arrogant and hypocritical, especially considering that although the world that resides beyond the US borders doesn’t get to vote for the US president and representatives, those politicians get to exercise power and influence on a global scale.
In my country, it matters a great deal (to our economy, cultural mood, and foreign policy) who is in charge in the US. So, if I have an opinion on the state of the US political machine, I get to say it. And, since I am not on a FOX news program at the moment, no one can tell me to shut up.
Robert Greenwald’s 2004 documentary on the inner workings of FOX News explores the central problem that this 24-hour “fair and balanced” news channel is essentially a propaganda engine for the Republican Party. It is an illuminating, frustrating, and utterly damning film. While it is no doubt hated by its critics – it has been called “rank propaganda ... the distorted work of an ultra-liberal filmmaker” by Bill O’Reilly, probably the figure whose reputation was most damaged by the film – it is seen as essential viewing by its fans.
In it you can see the connections between the GOP and the higher ups at FOX; the soft interviews of key Republicans (including the president); Bill O’Reilly insult a young man whose father was killed at the World Trade Center; a raft of on-air personalities using opinion as though it were fact; wide and repulsive use of the flip-flop card (as though everyone should have one idea and stick to it, no matter what, forever, even if they start to think it might have been wrong); and general jingoistic ultra-nationalism.
Unfortunately, but crucially, the debate over the integrity of FOX News lends itself to the kind of political absolutism that leads nowhere but the vacuum. But this is America these days: you’re either with something, or you’re against it, and never the twain shall meet. Just try democracy under those conditions. As Al Gore recently laid out in his under-discussed book, The Assault on Reason, without a public sphere in which to hold sustained, reasoned, well-informed discussion, there can’t be much progress.
FOX News seems designed to curtail any such discussion – guests who disagree with the basic FOX worldview are routinely cut off, and even pushed off air, never to return. This cycle must be broken. The rest of the world, those of us without a chance to cast a vote in the American elections that do, ultimately, effect us all, need your help.
This edition, newly minted for the current election season, includes a series of shorts that were originally produced for the Internet. They are of poor video quality (they are pixilated and badly transferred, it seems to me), but their message is clear, and they are always informative, entertaining, and well-researched. Just like the film they accompany.