Thursday, July 22

So I Ordered "Outfoxed" from Myself...

...and what a terrific deal I got ordering it through Hoffmania!

Okay, seriously. We watched it last night at our own house party attended by me, Bullitt (the missus), Hannah and Woody (the cats) and Jesse (the dog who the cats think is a real big cat).

We watched the "Making Of..." feature beforehand, and we recommend doing that before watching the big show. Nice backgrounding of the project and the horror of the participants after they volunteered to watch Fox News for several weeks is obvious.

Watching "Outfoxed" is very similar to seeing "F911" - we, on this side of the aisle, know just about all of it already, but seeing it laid out there on the screen in its condensed glory is a sight to behold.

There are three very effective scenes within the video. One is Fox's anchors' abuse of the term, "Some people say that..." as a way to inject their own editorializing of the story they're analyzing. Another is how they parrot almost word-for-word talking points laid out by memos and the GOP. The editing of these two pieces is truly a work of art. The third is a chronicle of boilovers by Bill "SHUT UP" O'Reilly which would be funnier of it wasn't so frightening.

There's nothing in "Outfoxed" that's really repelling aside from their agenda. They didn't show what I thought was the pinnacle of Fox's pandering to psychotics late last year - the showing of torture tapes made by Saddam's prison guards. This was unblinking video of bound and gagged people thrown off the roof of the prison and their resulting writhing in agony. Fox News showed this over and over and over during the day they obtained this "exclusive video" ("Exclusive" meaning no other news organization had the bad taste to run it). This of course was before our own Abu Ghraib nightmare which "Outfoxed" touches on.

There's a lot that's compelling about this documentary, and you'll get a workout shaking your head over what's passing for journalism today. I turned on CNN this morning to watch the 9/11 commission's Q&A session, and as soon as their anchors took over, I found myself shutting them off without even thinking. Yes, I did not want to watch cable news talking heads anymore, thank you.

There were a lot of things wrong with the country in the 60s and 70s, but the one thing we did right was journalism. Because networks' news franchises were their crown jewels, you knew you'd get the story without tinting or innuendo. They had their own rigorous standards and above all, pride.

This is part of the reason why the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine ("the "equal time" rule) during the Reagan administration seemed like a good idea on the surface - after all, no broadcasting organization would want to trash their good name and reputation. But the sale of all these companies after the relaxing of multiple ownership rules (yes, under the Clinton administration) to people with absolutely zero heritage, pride or reputation has created the ideological trainwreck we have today in broadcast journalism.

Here's the catch: Before 1987, radio and TV stations breaking the Fairness Doctrine could (and did) have their license renewals challenged by the public. This effectively kept them honest and made them strive to be at least trustworthy to their communities, lest they lose their stations. Today, with no such rule, PLUS no license the public can challenge to own a cable network, we're powerless to do anything, other than demand reinstatement of broadcast fairness laws AFTER we reinstate ownership limits. Yeah. Good luck on that, pal.

"Outfoxed" brings all this into crystal clarity (and made what you just read surface in my consciousness). It tries to offer solutions at the end, but it's a very long and very confusing row to hoe.

So I'll use my satellite TV thusly: Get my news from C-SPAN, and then switch to Aqua Teen Hunger Force before turning in for the night. Both are a lot more sane than Fox News.