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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

MSM’s Free Ride for Faux News

Eric Boehlert of Media Matters for America has a fresh angle on Fox News being taken seriously as a bonafide news organization. Instead of simply blasting Fox for its bogusity, Boehlert asks a more pertinent question:

I understand Fox News still wants to enjoy the benefits of being seen as a news operation. It still wants the trappings and the professional protections that go with it. But it no longer functions as a news outlet, so why does the rest of the press naively treat it that way?

Boehlert expalins further:

Rupert Murdoch’s cable cabal is now, first and foremost, a political entity. Fox News has transformed itself into the Opposition Party of the Obama White House, which, of course, is unprecedented for a media company in modern-day America. That partisan embrace means the news media have to expand beyond typing up Fox News-ratings-are-up and the White-House-is-angry stories, and it needs to start treating the cable channel for what it is: a partisan animal.
The press needs to drop its longstanding gentleman’s agreement not to write about other news outlets as news players –not to get bogged down in criticizing the competition — because those newsroom rules no longer apply. Fox News has exited the journalism community this year. It’s a purely political player, and journalists ought to start covering it that way.

Boehlert quotes Glen Greenwald’s observation that “Seems like a fairly new phenomenon that we now have a political movement led by a TV “news” outlet — that usually happens elsewhere” and adds,

In a follow-up email to me, Greenwald noted the similarities between Fox News’ overt role in U.S. politics with places like Venezuela, where the opposition TV station led the failed 2002 coup attempt against Hugo Chavez, as well as Italy, where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a media magnate, uses his TV ownership to agitate. “Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch are really using that model to organize and galvanize this protest movement,” wrote Greenwald. “It’s a totally Fox News-sponsored event.”
Completely detached from traditional newsroom standards, Fox News has become a political institution, and the press needs to start treating it that way. The press needs to treat Fox News the same way it treats the Republican National Committee, even though, frankly, the RNC probably can’t match the in-your-face partisanship that Fox News flaunts 24/7. Think about it: Murdoch’s “news” channel now out-flanks the Republican Party when it comes to ceaseless partisan attacks on the White House…in recent years the RNC used to use Fox news to help amplify the partisan raids that national Republicans launched against Democrats. It was within the RNC that the partisan strategy was mapped out and initiated. (i.e. it was the RNC that first pushed the Al-Gore-invented-the-Internet smear). But it was on talk radio and Fox News where the partisan bombs got dropped. Today, that relationship has, for the most part, been inversed. Now it’s within Fox News that the partisan witch hunts are plotted and launched, and it’s the RNC that plays catch-up to Glenn Beck and company.

Need some quantitative verification? Boehlert’s got it.

…The Fox News defense that it’s a just a few on-air pundits who (relentlessly) attack the White House and that the news team still plays it straight is, at this point, a joke. What kind of “news” team, in the span of five days, airs 22 clips of health reform forums featuring only people who oppose reform? What kind of “news” team tries to pass off a GOP press release as its own research — typo and all? What kind of “news” team promotes a partisan political rally? (Or did I miss the 100-plus free ads that CNN aired in 2003 promoting an anti-war rally?)

Boehlert also shares a perceptive quote from a New Yorker article by Hendrick Hertzberg:

This sort of lunatic paranoia — touched with populism, nativism, racism, and anti-intellectualism — has long been a feature of the fringe, especially during times of economic bewilderment. What is different now is the evolution of a new political organism, with paranoia as its animating principle. The town-meeting shouters may be the organism’s hands and feet, but its heart — also, Heaven help us, its brain — is a “conservative” media alliance built around talk radio and cable television, especially Fox News. The protesters do not look to politicians for leadership. They look to niche media figures like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, and their scores of clones behind local and national microphones.

Boehlert adds some scary statistics about the beliefs of Fox news viewers and he discusses the limp MSM reportage about Fox — essentially a free ride from some of the more ‘reputable’ national media, which Boehlert persuasively argues is the real scandal. Fox is now the most watched cable news program. But apparently that doesn’t mean Fox’s competitors have the good sense to take them on.

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