Begala Joins the Fight Against Fox

First Mark Mellman, and now Paul Begala. It is exciting to see D.C. Dems kicking into action on this one:
That's why the Nevada Democrats did the right thing in refusing to allow Fox to pretend it is a neutral host for a Democratic debate. The more Fox is seen as "fair and balanced," the easier it is for the network to swift-boat Democratic candidates and propel misinformation into the mainstream media. Thank God Democrats are finally growing a spine and fighting back. No longer can Fox function as a Republican mouthpiece and expect us to put it on stage as a neutral news source. Like I tell my kids: NHD -- not happenin', dude.

To be clear, this is not a boycott, and it's not about Democrats being afraid to go on Fox. It's about how Fox is presented to the public when it voices its right-wing views. During the fight against Fox in Nevada, MoveOn suggested a co-sponsored Fox/Air America debate. Perfect. An avowedly progressive media outlet paired with the conservative Fox. The spirit of "Crossfire" lives. But MoveOn's compromise was not accepted, and ultimately Fox lost everything.

Looking forward, the victory in Nevada sends a powerful message to Fox: You're not going to be able to use Democratic debates to whitewash your right-wing bias the way Exxon green washes its reputation by buying off academics and PR flacks.

For Democrats, it sends an equally powerful message: Fight back; you can win. From its first days on the air, Fox News has smeared Bill and Hillary Clinton. And when President Clinton finally called Fox on it, the effect was electric. Across America, progressives were galvanized into action.
Great stuff. I the guest of a journalism class at Penn today, and we talked about the Fox fight quite a bit. At first, the students almost intuitively asked me questions that sounded like the early talking points from the Nevada Democratic Party: don't you want to reach Fox's audience, don't they have the most viewers, is Fox really that much worse than CNN or MSNBC, many Democrats already appear on Fox, couldn't you try to work with Fox to improve things rather than cut them out entirely, and does one debate really matter so much, anyway? I kept trying to get the point across that Fox's regular audience was not reachable, given the numbers that Mellman produced yesterday. They seemed to buy that. Then I argued that it was a top-down problem with Fox concerning the purpose and direction of the network--to become a mouthpiece for conservative Republican propoganda rather than a legitimate news gathering outlet--as laid down by the founders and top executives, and not with isolated, anecdotal cases of biased coverage. I'm not convinced at all that I successfully made that point. The final point which I tried to make, which I think Begala made quite well in his piece, was that the fight over allowing Fox to cover an important news event like a presidential debate was actually a fight over legitimizing Fox as a reputable news media outlet, and not really about the specifics of the presidential debate itself. I think I eventually made that point, as one student asked by the end of the class "if Fox just admitted they were conservative and pro-Republican, you wouldn't really have any problem with them, would you?" The student was right--I probably would not have any problem with them in that case.

I bring up the anecdote of the journalism class today to try and explain how the opinion of Fox held by many, as Matt has termed them, "low information elites," is quite prevalent in less politically dedicated circles as well. People know that Fox is conservative, but the idea that its purpose to actually a mouthpiece of the Republican Party and its regular audience is generally unreachable for Democrats, is not a widely-enough held perception. That is something the CBC can help change, because even the presence of a national debate on whether or not Fox is a legitimate news source basically guarantees that most people will no longer think of them as such. People have always had doubts about Fox, and as such any such debate will only cause them to reify those doubts, no matter who ends up defending Fox.

Tags: debates, Fox News, Media (all tags)

Comments

10 Comments

My Only question than

is why didn't Hillary and Obama have the guts to formally pull out .. and why do people like Dodd and Kuccinich still think we should have had it on FOX

by TarHeel 2007-03-21 06:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Begala Strikes Out Against Fox

Which class was this you attended here at Penn?

by pennquaker08 2007-03-21 06:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Begala Strikes Out Against Fox

Doesn't Dick Polman teach a class at Penn now?

by Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle 2007-03-21 06:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Begala Strikes Out Against Fox
Yes he does. and that was the class where I was guesting.
by Chris Bowers 2007-03-21 06:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Begala Strikes Out Against Fox

We have quite a few fantastic professors here...Sheldon Hackney, Alan McDiarmid (until he passed away a few weeks ago...), Mary Frances Berry, Michael Eric Dyson, Warren Ewens, Steven Hahn, Alan Kors, and Raymond Davis just to name a few. Now we can add Polman to that list.

by pennquaker08 2007-03-21 06:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Begala Strikes Out Against Fox

The only reason I have doubts about wanting the Dems to pull out of the Fox News debate was the fact that Howard Dean was on the other side.

I'm a huge fan of Dean's approach to politics, his strategy of appearing on places like the 700 Club to spread the message everywhere.  Personally, I felt like Fox News was a whole different story, in that they're an active propaganda outlet and we need to delegitimize them.  But Gov. Dean obviously didn't see it my way.  I'll always have a nagging doubt until we resolve that point.

by Steve M 2007-03-21 06:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Begala Strikes Out Against Fox

I share your respect for Howard Dean, but he was wrong about this, and so there may never be a resolution. I suspect that in time with the likes of Mellman and now Begala seeing things our way, Dean will come around to joining us against Fox.

by johnalive 2007-03-21 07:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Begala Strikes Out Against Fox

"even the presence of a national debate on whether or not Fox is a legitimate news source basically guarantees that most people will no longer think of them as such."

This is such an important thing to understand, and is worth emphasizing.

This is how the anti- global warming and anti-evolution crowd operate:  they challenge scientists and other proponents of sanity to debate.  The scientists and proponents of sanity agree to debate, on the mistaken belief that the forces of reason HAVE to win out.  In the process, they legitimate exactly what the anti-science crowds is driving for:  the perception that there is room for disagreement about things that in reality are indisputable.

Democrats need to learn how to pull this trick off.  The very moment that FOX is forced to debate its own legitimacy is the moment they are delegitimized.

by Transmission 2007-03-21 07:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Begala Strikes Out Against Fox

If you want to reach out to a Jewish audience, would you go on Pat Robertson's station?

No.

If you want to reach out to cright-wing fundies who home-school their children, do you take out an ad in The Nation magazine?

No.

If you want to reach out to Democratic or independent voters, would you go on Fox?

No.

As Atrios would say, this has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions

by midwestmeg 2007-03-21 07:58PM | 0 recs
Headline

Should it maybe be "lashes out" or something else? "Strikes out" sounds like a baseball metaphor that doesn't have the intended meaning.

by KCinDC 2007-03-22 05:02AM | 0 recs

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