Fox News: Partisan Propaganda Machine
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UPDATE: Not surprisingly, just as I was writing this post, Fox News did a "breaking news" segment that showed a crazed protestor screaming at Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (D). Here's the screen shot from Fox's website. I'm sure the protestor will soon be an "exclusive guest" on a Fox News program. As I said, this is not merely a right-leaning news outlet - it is a partisan propaganda machine.
To understand how Fox News crosses the line from right-leaning news outlet into partisan propaganda machine (and there is a difference between the two), look no further than exactly how the network is driving (or at least trying to drive) the health care debate via the congressional town hall meetings.
As a PR tactic, Fox's three-tiered formula is absolutely ingenious:
1. First, Fox has given a huge amount of airtime to covering the lobbyist-organized protests at the town hall meetings, without, of course, mentioning that many of the protests are organized by lobbyists. Mind you, we know this interest in protest and "democracy" is completely politically motivated because we know it is completely new - it's not some ongoing Fox News principle. This is the same network that regularly pilloried anti-war protests during the Bush administration, and gave them almost no coverage, much less positive, whatsoever. So Fox it's safe to assume that Fox is only now interested in protest and democracy because it might hurt President Obama, Democrats and the progressive agenda.
2. Whenever one member of the protestors in the Khaki Pants Offensive makes an especially circus-like scene, Fox then has that particular protestor on for an interview - all under the pretense that the protestor has made him/herself "news." In the last two days alone, I've seen Fox aggressively promote "exclusive" interviews with screaming protestors from Rep. John Dingell's (D-MI) and Rep. David Scott's (D-GA) town meetings. Fox dutifully promotes these people as persecuted martyrs, and their actual claims about health care are barely - if ever - explored for their veracity (or lack thereof).
3. Finally, after helping create the media image of mass protests, Fox has manufactured a reason to continue covering the supposed mass protests. And the cycle starts over.
What this does is create a vicious cycle whereby the small group of conservative activists who are terrorizing these town halls have an incentive to be more and more aggressive. They know that if they can go further than the last supposed martyr, they might get their mug on Fox News. And so from protestors trying to shut down town hall meetings with screaming we get protestors shoving matches and then protestors arming themselves and then protestors making death threats. This is the Fox News Incentive System at work.
David Sirota was the top spokesman for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee. He is currently writing a book on the middle class economic squeeze for Crown Publishers. You can contact him at Davidsirota.com.