Begala Joins the Fight Against Fox
by Chris Bowers, Wed Mar 21, 2007 at 06:14:27 PM EDT
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.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.
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.
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.