Saturday, March 3, 2007

Anti-American Television News

"The only American news channel available overseas" -
Fox News

That's what Fox calls itself. It also happens to be true (a surprise in itself, coming from Fox). Although CNN International is available overseas, most of the time it doesn't show the same content as CNN in the United States. CNBC is mostly business news, so it doesn't count.

Let's suppose that Fox News was all someone knew about the US. How would this person tend to view Americans? I asked myself this question last night watching Fox News in Thailand, and here's the list I came up with.

The foreign viewer of Fox News is likely to conclude that Americans are . . .

1. Creepy: Fox News announcers are hired for their looks, not their journalistic expertise. No thought required. Just the capacity to emote sneers and display righteous indignation. Intelligence could hardly be a prerequisite for the talking mannequins of Fox News, as their task is to repeat White House propaganda -- over and over, endlessly. Wasn't it Goebbels who said that if you repeat a lie enough times and it will be mistaken for the truth? Had Nazi Germany a 24 hour news channel, one supposes it might have looked and sounded something like this.

2. Simple-minded. War on Terror. Us against Them. Tax cuts. On Fox News, just about every story has a simple answer. On Fox News you learn that "liberals" and "terrorists" are the root source of all problems. As a Thai friend told me: "Fox News makes the US seem like a big soap opera. But the plot and the characters of this soap opera are too simple to hold my interest."

3. Obsessed about their health. Seems like every five or ten minutes Fox News gives you a health report update.

4. Stingy. When some hikers get lost on a mountain, Fox News anchors reflexively snarl about how much search and rescue operations are costing the taxpayers. That taxpayers could be dinged ten-thousand dollars for a search and rescue operation invites serious discussion on Fox News, but not the $600 billion bill for the war in Iraq (Fox News is too "patriotic" to question the bill for the Iraq war).

5. Wilfully ignorant about what happens outside the US. A Florida girl with a bad case of the hiccups warrants more news coverage than a hundred dead Iraqis.

6. Mean-spirited. Fox News personalities come across as mean, bitter people who frequently express seething resentment about those "illegal" Mexicans, and any other would-be immigrants.

7. Power-happy. Fox News people come across as overly proud of American power and wealth. "We're great because we're strong" is the message. They are lacking in humility -- not exactly a sign of virtue to much of the world.

Most Americans are not power-happy, mean-spirited, or stingy. But watching smug and self-righteous Fox News hosts sprout White House propaganda before a set that prominently features the stars and stripes, I have to remind myself that they do not represent America. I have to remind myself that only a small fraction of the American public shares attributes characteristic of those intolerant Fox News personalities.

There is nothing quite like watching Fox News when you are overseas. That's when you realize that Fox News amounts to an incredibly powerful means of fermenting anti-American sentiment. That's when you realize Fox News provides actual testimony which explicitly confirm many of the worst prejudices foreigners hold against Americans. Fox News makes various myths that inform global anti-American sentiment seem true.

More ominously, overseas broadcasts of Fox News give foreigners the illusion that even the most egregious policies of the US government -- extrajudicial renditions, Guantanamo Bay, etc. -- are wholeheartedly supported by the American people. This happens because "fair and balanced" Fox News tends to downplay the extent of domestic US opposition to Bush Administration policies. In short, Fox makes it easier for people despise not merely the US government, but the American people.

The main effect of broadcasting Fox News overseas is to lend support to anti-American sentiment worldwide, shore-up the interests of Islamic terrorists, and give credence to the cause of various rouge regimes. Because overseas broadcasts of Fox News would seem likely to encourage anti-Americanism, it's fair and balanced to call this American news channel a gift to America's enemies.

1 comment:

  1. BRAVO, well said. Sometimes I suspect what is really the intention of Fox News. To stir the extreme right - to what? I am nervous now about people with guns and the slogan Timothy McVeigh had on his tee shirt about watering the tree of liberty. I am afraid for Obama. Where I live, rural Arkansas in an all-white county, I cannot say anything nice about Obama without worrying about my dogs being poisoned. I'm not being paranoid. I'm rather afraid right now and wish somehow Fox News could be halted from inciting such hatred in people. I think Obama has the potential to be one of our greatest presidents.


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