It’s Time to Scrutinize Fox
From Michael Massing at NYR:
Unlike the News of the World, there’s no indication (as of now) that Fox has engaged in illegal activity. What it has done is violate every journalistic and ethical standard. It has promoted preposterous conspiracy theories, peddled blatant falsehoods, and given a soapbox to all sorts of cranks and crackpots. It ballyhooed President Obama’s ‘terrorist fist jab,’ spread false reports that he attended a madrasa, gave Donald Trump a platform for questioning the president’s US citizenship, and endlessly promoted ‘Climategate,’ the faux-controversy surrounding the leak of emails from climate specialists at the University of East Anglia in England. According to a public-opinion study released six months after the invasion of Iraq, 67 percent of regular Fox viewers believed that the United States had found clear evidence that Saddam Hussein had worked closely with al-Qaeda; another poll released last December reported that 60 percent of Fox viewers believe that most scientists have concluded that climate change is not occurring—examples of how the network has contributed to the steady seepage of know-nothingness throughout the American body politic.
Politicians and journalists who criticize or challenge Fox often find themselves targeted. I know this from personal experience. In early 2009, I wrote a piece for the Columbia Journalism Review about the troubling excesses and outrages perpetrated during the 2008 presidential campaign by the right-wing media, including radio talk-show hosts, bloggers, and, most egregiously, Fox, which repeatedly sought to tie Obama to Bill Ayers, Louis Farrakhan, ACORN, and the like.
Not long after the article appeared, Mike Hoyt, CJR’s editor, received an email from a producer for ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ asking him to appear on the show. Hoyt replied that he faced multiple deadlines and so had to pass. A few days later, while waiting for an early-morning bus in Teaneck, New Jersey, to take him into Manhattan, Hoyt was suddenly accosted by a three-person Fox camera crew demanding to know why he had allowed someone like myself, who had contributed to a ‘radical, far-left’ magazine like the Nation, to write about Fox. Hoyt said that I had written for many outlets and that in any case the real issue was the argument I had made in the article. They were not interested in that, however. In a few minutes Hoyt’s bus arrived, and the crew tried to follow him onto it, only to be shooed away by the driver. A few days later, Bill O’Reilly played a clip of the encounter on his show.
Hoyt is but one of dozens of people Fox has similarly ambushed over the years. They have included high school principals, lawmakers, celebrities, and journalists. Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker was set upon for allegedly taking an O’Reilly segment out of context, while Amanda Terkel of the liberal Web site thinkprogress.org was targeted while vacationing in West Virginia, two hours from her home in Washington D.C., after criticizing Bill O’Reilly for calling a rape victim who had dressed provocatively and gotten drunk ‘moronic.’ Terkel accused Fox of stalking and harassing her. In several other cases, the police had to be called.
Fox’s on-screen stalkings have been no less disturbing. A good example is Glenn Beck’s oily campaign against George Soros. The billionaire investor and philanthropist, Beck repeatedly asserted, was the linchpin in a vast leftist conspiracy to control the world. In March, in an insidious two-part series titled ‘The Puppet Master,’ Beck claimed that Soros was ‘notorious for collapsing economies and regimes all around the world’ and that his ‘next target’ was the United States. Reaching back into Soros’ youth in Nazi-occupied Hungary, Beck claimed that at the age of fourteen Soros used to go around with an anti-Semite ‘and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off….’ Here, he added, was ‘a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to death camps.’ This allegation—based on Soros’ recollection that as a boy he had once accompanied a Hungarian official posing as his godfather while the man made an inventory of a house abandoned by Jews—was so spurious that even the Anti-Defamation League felt driven to protest.