Monday, February 14, 2011

Fox News = The Propaganda Organ of the Republican Party

In December, a study from University of Maryland researchers found that Fox News viewers were vastly more misinformed than news consumers who depended largely on other outlets for their information.  Fox News immediately attempted to discredit the study, but leaks from Fox News staffers and consistency in messaging have shown a disturbing pattern of talking points that are repeated on Fox News throughout the day.

A June 4, 2009 internal memo from top Fox News Channel editor Bill Sammon was leaked recently,that said, “FYI: My cursory check of Obama’s 6,000-word speech to the Muslim world did not turn up the words ‘terror,’ ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’.” Immediately, numerous Fox personalities grabbed the ball and ran with it; Megyn Kelly, Brett Bauer, Shep Smith, and other personalities on supposedly unbiased ‘news’ shows, even Sammon himself, used the fact that the president’s speechwriters had chosen to avoid that particular word choice as unnecessarily inflammatory to mislead viewers, suggesting that the President did not address Muslim extremism and intolerable violence during that speech.

Here's an excerpt from another leaked Sammon memo instructing on-air talent in how to refer to the health care bill:

1) Please use the term "government-run health insurance" or, when brevity is a concern, "government option," whenever possible.

2) When it is necessary to use the term "public option" (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation's lexicon), use the qualifier "so-called," as in "the so-called public option."

3) Here's another way to phrase it: "The public option, which is the government-run plan."

In another leaked Sammon memo, on-air talent was instructed to NEVER mention "global warming" without also calling the theory into question.

One of the most egregious examples of Fox News' acting as a propaganda organ was prior to the President's visit to India when some obscure Indian blogger claimed that over 200 million dollars a day would be spent on President Obama's trip. Right after the blog post appeared, and without bothering to do any fact-checking, Fox News anchors and commentators immediately began repeating the following lies:

1. The India visit is not an official state visit but more of a sightseeing trip
2. 40 planes, 3 Helicopters and 6 armored vehicles will be used to transport Obama's entourage
3. An entourage of 3,000 people will be traveling with the President to India
4. A flotilla of 34 warships will protect the President
5. Obama booked all 570 rooms, banquet rooms, and restaurants at the 5-star Taj Mahal Hotel

Fox News continued repeating the lies long after they were refuted. And even afterwards, as embarrassing as this incident should have been for them, they never did admit that their reporting was factually incorrect.

Fox News' cheerleading during the Bush administration reached its peak during the run-up to the Iraq War. Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan admitted he saw “FOX television as a tool” to get the White House’s “message out” while he was in the Bush administration. “Certainly there were commentators and other, pundits at FOX News, that were useful to the White House,” replied McClellan, adding that they were given “talking points.”

A former Fox News insider recently told MediaMatters:
"I don’t think people would believe it’s as concocted as it is; that stuff is just made up...It is their M.O. to undermine the administration and to undermine Democrats...They’re a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news...anything—anything--that was a news story you had to understand what the spin should be on it. If it was a big enough story it was explained to you in the morning [editorial] meeting. If it wasn’t explained, it was up to you to know the conservative take on it. There’s a conservative take on every story no matter what it is. So you either get told what it is or you better intuitively know what it is.”

Given what we know about the sources and the quality of the news that Republican voters regularly consume it's no wonder that they are so woefully misinformed and angry, and they vote accordingly. Watch the first five minutes of Fox and Friends in the morning and you can easily make a short list of the anti-Obama and anti-Democrat daily talking points that will be repeated by every anchor and commentator over the next 24 hours.

Another blog post by Ken Padgett
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