> Volume 6 > Number 31


Robert Greenwald

David Brock
Walter Cronkite
Jeff Cohen
Bill O'Reilly

Release: 13 Jul. 04

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism


Anyone who still believes the Fox News Channel to be fair and balanced will likely steer clear of the documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism for the very reasons that the documentary makes clear. They are devoted to a news ethos that portrays one side of the news unapologetically, usually out of either agreement or misplaced nationalism (that FNC was first to integrate the American flag into their graphic doesn’t make them nationalist, more likely intelligent businessmen and opportunists). I have a family filled with these people, who usually spout the FNC line at any political debate, their bias clearly defined by a channel that has attempted to own the minds of the American people.

Though I cringe at the journalistic implications this has, I cannot help but commend it for its business successes. People do not want the news so much as they want to be pandered to, and that’s exactly what FNC thrives on. Most of its viewers are already sensitive to the conservative ideology, and the channel reads the news with a spin that inherently makes them happy or provokes them with the thrilling promise of patriotism. There isn’t intelligent discourse or meaningful analysis in this channel because those elements of shows like CNN’s The Capital Gang, CBS’s 60 Minutes, and MSNBC’s Hardball fail to get the same ratings as the abrasive jingoism of The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity
and Colmes. What may have started as Rupert Murdoch’s plan to get his ideology center stage has turned into an example of successfully counter-programming to the moderation of most news coverage. If larger cities can have a liberal newspaper and a conservative newspaper, why cannot cable news?

Outfoxed perhaps spreads itself thin by taking what might be described as a Fox News tactic on its subject while preaching to the choir. Instead of acknowledging the successes of Murdoch, they just revel in the deceptions. I do agree that the attempts to define the channel as non-partisan are disingenuous (their “We report, you decide” is closer to “We distort, you oblige”), but the fact of the matter is that its achievement is less out of lying to the public and more out of filling a niche. The liberals have their intellectual news sources like NPR, The New Yorker, and daily newspapers, while conservatives have traditionally only had the more populist talk radio. I’m not trying to argue that there’s a learning curb amongst the political ranks, but FNC’s no-thinking mentality has a place in the land of TV viewers who want bombastic graphics and over-simplifying statements. In this land, there’s only a coalition of the willing and an axis of evil, you’re either with us or against us. At its best, Outfoxed shows some of the tactics made by Murdoch and his lackeys to destroy those in the “against us” column, but it falls short of becoming a truly articulate argument against FNC instead of just another liberal finger-pointing experiment gone haywire: you’re either reporting for us, or against us.

[Postscript: If anything is achieved by Outfoxed, it’s that most critics -- myself included -- will take the bait and use their columns to present an articulate argument against FNC. What I regret is that the filmmakers are letting us do what they should have achieved in their film.]

©2004, David Perry,, 30 July 2004