Is there anything funnier to watch than the Left suddenly discovering the virtues of journalistic objectivity? Liberals arrogantly have ruled the news media roost for decades, regularly demeaning conservative ideas and leaders in their ongoing quest for progress and enlightenment.
But now that Fox News Channel is on the scene, dominating the cable news scene and showing America that TV news can be something different than the suffocating consensus of the liberal establishment, the left is in a panic. Objectivity is needed! Democracy itself is in danger!
When Fox News debuted in 1996, liberals couldn't contain their laughter at what they considered a sophomoric challenge to the dominant media. Then, Fox became a pest, the proverbial gnat that wouldn't go away. Ultimately - almost overnight - Fox overtook its cable competitors and became king of the hill. Fox became a menace on the media landscape that should have been aborted before birth, a blatantly biased and bullying blight on America.
That's the sour theme behind "Outfoxed," a new Michael Mooresque documentary funded and circulated by the radical lefties at MoveOn.org and the so-called Center for American Progress. A summary of its thesis comes very near the film's end when John Nichols of The Nation proclaims that Fox must be stopped because it "limits" and "narrows political discourse."
Welcome to the Fox-hater's upside-down world: decades of liberal TV news unanimity represented diversity, and a conservative alternative is the arrival of a narrowed spectrum of opinion? The advent of a network that doesn't treat conservatism like an infectious disease is a danger to democracy?
Fox's popularity is a result of a public that feels the other networks have been playing with dirty tricks and double standards in political journalism for decades, and see the "fair and balanced" product delivered by Brit Hume and Co. as real news instead. The leftist theorists interviewed in this film hate that "fair and balanced" motto, not just because they believe Fox doesn't live up to the pledge, but because they don't believe in it. They think conservative dissent is a clear and present danger to the socialist "paradise" they want to inflict on society.
The film's subtitle is "Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism." Here we go again. Liberals said the same thing about philanthropist and newspaper publisher Dick Scaife, who somehow waged "war on journalism" by trying to fund journalistic investigations of the Clinton scandals. Where were they when Ted Turner was at the helm of CNN portraying the Soviet Union in comically glowing terms? What about Pinch Sulzberger's Masters-bashing antics at the New York Times? That list goes on and on, seemingly unnoticed, but when one perceived conservative takes the reins of a media outlet, the horror!
It doesn't help matters that Robert Greenwald, the creator of "Outfoxed," is a very sloppy amateur at the science of media analysis. Actually, it's worse than that. This film is so dishonest that it leads one to conclude that liberals attacking Fox just can't get the job done honestly. Fox must be picked apart as if everything it does has never been done a million times over by the liberal competition.
For example, Greenwald uncovers memos from Fox vice president John Moody telling Fox reporters how they should approach the events of the day - as if Peter Jennings or other network brass haven't been doing the very same thing for decades. Former ABC reporters Bob Zelnick and Peter Collins could make a nice film about that.
Greenwald also thinks it's outrageous that Fox anchors use the formulation "some people say" to ask liberals about their critics. That complaint might have merit - if Greenwald would also consider that this device is used by every other single news network as a way of questioning politicians.
A classic example of the film's inanity is an incredibly silly attack on Bill O'Reilly because he said he almost never said "shut up" to guests. Greenwald goes about disproving this trite little point, but after finding an example or two, he ruins it all by gratuitously adding clips where O'Reilly used the words "shut up" in commentaries, or in questions where he wasn't telling a guest to shut up, but asking the guest if someone else should shut up. Now he's not making a point. He's un-making it.
And do we really need to point out that O'Reilly isn't a reporter, and therefore has nothing to do with the news product of Fox?
The liberal media elite's double standard in journalism extends to this shoddy film, which they've promoted as another noteworthy brick in the wall of anti-Bush anger. If conservatives ever tried to make a documentary about the liberal media this amateurish, it would either never be mentioned, or it would be pounded until it was flat as a pancake, and deservedly so.