James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Fox: Madness and sedition

Fox finally has gone too far.

We, the public, need to grab the fox by the throat and cut off its air supply, and by that I mean its money supply. The billions of dollars that pour daily into the pockets of Rupert Murdoch, the megalomaniac who owns Fox and its parent, News Corporation, must be seriously reduced, and only we, the public, can make that happen.

In “coverage” of the upheaval in Egypt -- read, as usual, propaganda from an extreme right perspective -– Fox “News” moved during the past week beyond mere metaphorical craziness and hyper partisanship into genuine insanity and sedition.

The parallels between the increasingly mad Howard Beale character in the 1976 film “Network” and Fox's Glenn Beck have become too real to be in the least amusing.

Day after day, Beck strides his set at Fox and rants, spit sometimes spraying from his mouth, his puffy face often growing red and his eyes crazily wide, waving his arms and looking and sounding more each week like somebody who is about to crack up before millions of viewers.

I am no longer sure, as I was sure and as many others think, that this is merely a case of an extreme cynic building his fortune and his power by misleading the ignorant and gullible with the carefully planned theatrics of a tent revivalist.

As the unpredictable and riveting events in Egypt unfolded this past week, I turned periodically to Fox to see what it was doing.

Until Friday morning, by the far the best television coverage from Egypt came from MSNBC, its coverage guided by the superb NBC chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel. It was followed fairly closely at times by CNN. The Murdoch gang's straight coverage was mostly OK, though the network devoted less time to Egypt than other big outlets.

But Beck clearly had lost touch with planet Earth. (He was not entirely alone in his thrashing around in a universe that doesn't exist; more of that shortly.) Anyone still taking him seriously as a source of information now believes that the Obama administration and numerous liberal American and European organizations and individuals planned and organized the spontaneous eruption of Egypt's people and are using it to bring about the destruction of this country and Israel (or Thiscountryandisrael; one word, one entity).


At least that's what Beck seemed to be saying with his flailing and sputtering gibberish.

On MSNBC Thursday, host Lawrence O'Donnell, and frequent guest and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson and another guest whose name I didn't get laughed out loud at Beck's ravings, especially the latter's assertion at some point during his diatribes that Code Pink, the woman-run antiwar organization, is behind what Beck is sure is the deliberate destruction of a wonderful ally of Americaandisrael.

I understand the impulse. More than once I also burst out laughing while listening to Beck during the past few days, though more out of astonishment at the depth of his madness rather than from amusement. But it's not funny, and it's no longer enough to mock the man. He's demented, but his words somehow still affect and even dictate the opinions of millions of pitifully ignorant Americans.

Other Fox "pundits" have compounded the damage done by Fox to this country over the past several days, whether out of true craziness or what I believe is unmitigated cynicism and self serving.

Other than Babbling Beck, the worst that I saw was Sean Hannity, who declared at one point that President Obama and other members of his administration are knowingly being guided in their actions toward Egypt by “agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.” No kidding. Hannity said that, and, like Beck, added that the goal fully supported by the U.S. president is an Islamic world government.

This goes beyond what rational people normally think of as the “craziness” of Fox and this country's extreme political right, which now includes a frightening number of members of Congress.

Large segments of the American public and some of people actually involved in our country's governance have gone into regions that reality cannot penetrate and where facts, no matter how demonstrable, have no weight.

There is serious danger that this country will be brought down by an internal army of the ignorant, and Fox is a powerful force in taking us in that direction.

Remember: Millions of people believe the Democrat-passed health care reform bill establishes a “death panel” to determine who lives and who dies. Every credible news source in the country has shown beyond doubt that the concept is a deliberate lie, but Fox continues to repeat it daily, and so the suckers believe it. The same thing is happening now with the even wilder lies now told about Obama and Islam.

Rational discourse on issues confronting this country is becoming almost impossible because Fox's lies and misdirection have confused and fooled millions of Americans. And no democracy can stand without rational discourse.

Like a Jim Jones, or any big-time con man, Fox's gurus frequently tell their followers, “Believe only us, don't listen to anyone else” and the followers obey. They're now at a state in which they are willing, even eager, to undermine the government of the United States at a word from Beck or Hannity or Bill O'Reilly. Fox's big names frequently let Republican politicians know during on air “interviews,” what their stances should be on various issues.

(“Don't you think that Obama is playing into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood,” O'Reilly says. “Well, I don't know that that's exactly right,” says the politician. O'Reilly leans forward and stares at the pol: “But don't you think that....” And the politician gets the message and agrees.)

The listeners believe, because they are told, it's about saving America. In fact, it's about power and money. Murdoch and his underlings have no more moral core than a narcotics mob boss or international arms peddler.

Through News Corporation and various related corporations, Murdoch owns Fox “News,” and 36 television stations in 26 markets, according to the most recent count I could find. He also owns the Wall Street Journal, 20th Century Fox film studio and a legion of other Fox television and print enterprises, including Fox Sports channels. And that's just in this country.

In my home town, Minneapolis, and its sister city, St. Paul, Minnesota's capital, he has, in addition to the usual Fox “News” cable channel, two local television stations (KMSP, Ch. 9 and WFTC, Ch. 29) and Fox Sports North, which is the main television home of the Minnesota Twins.

All of those outlets make their millions, or billions, by selling advertising. The advertisers are self identified. If the madness is to be reined in, the only thing that can be done is to pressure the advertisers to take their money elsewhere.

We need a whole lot of volunteers –- we need to be volunteers -- to sit before our televisions and list as many advertisers as possible on each Fox television outlet and, though it's less important, every Murdoch-owned publication. We need to find the addresses of the company headquarters of the advertisers. And we need to share that information with each other.

Then we must, by the tens of thousands, write the advertisers and tell them that no matter how much we like their products, we will not buy them so long as they are advertised on any Fox/Murdoch/News Corporation venue.

If you can't face writing a hundred advertisers, or even five, then write one. Please. This is important beyond almost anything else you might do in a given day, and it takes only 10 minutes to write a note with the simple message, address it and send it. You can copy the same note over and over and simply change the adressee. All you have to say is, “So long as you advertise on any Fox television outlet or in any Murdoch-owned publication, I and my family will refuse to purchase your products.”

Oh – and the right wingers who may see this needn't bother yelling at me about censorship. Since I, and we the public, have no standing as government officials it is, by definition, not censorship to refuse to do business with a corporation that offends you. Boycotts long have stood as an honorable way for individuals, alone and collectively, to combat the might of corporations and despots.

(A very unlikely, but possible, side benefit could be that forcing Fox/Murdoch to act with a modicum of human decency might actually save the life of mad Glenn Beck.)