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Murdoch may be prickly but Franken sure is cuddly

FREEwilliamsburg scored some press passes for the much discussed Fox News expose, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism Tuesday night. Eric Alterman (What Liberal Media?), Arianna Huffington (Fanatics and Fools), John Nichols (Our Media, Not Theirs), Nicholas Lemann (dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism) and Paul Starr began the night with a panel discussing the state of the media. Arianna was funny as hell, bitch-slapping the press-filled room by saying that journalists, across the board, needed a "spine transplant." Lemann sounded like a big pussy, claiming that it's too tough to get networks and news media to agree to do serious new stories. That's the last thing we need to hear from a dean of journalism. He should be rallying the integrity troops, not throwing in the towel.

The night began with a bizarre warning from the fire marshal that we should be respectful and contain our emotion. Al Franken, who was in attendance, hilariously ignored the advice by screaming out "fucking idiots" a few minutes later when a joke was made about network lawyers being in attendance in the audience. (His radio show on Air America is finally getting its stride—check it out if you were initially turned off, as I was. He's fatter in person than I'd imagined. Cuddly. I wanted to spoon him.)

As per the documentary — in case you've missed out on the press about it — it may or may not see official release. The director, Robert Greenwald, fears he'll get sued by Fox since it mainly consists of Fox footage, all of which was used without permission. MoveOn is sponsoring a series of house parties for viewings: http://action.moveon.org/outfoxed.

The most damning cases of bias uncovered by Greenwald involves leaked memos from Fox officials telling journalists and reporters how to discuss issues on air. Here are a couple of examples:

1. The pictures from Abu Graeb [sic] prison are disturbing. They have rightly provoked outrage. Today we have a picture—aired on Al Arabiya—of an American hostage being held with a scarf over his eyes, clearly against his will. Who's outraged on his behalf? It is important that we keep the Abu Graeb [sic] situation in perspective.

2. As is often the case, the real news is [sic] Iraq is being obscured by temporary tragedy. The creation of a defense ministry, which will be run by Iraqis, is a major step forward in the country's redevelopment. Let's look at that, as well as the deaths of a US soldier in a roadside bombing.

Murdoch's bizarre obsession with Ronald Reagan is discussed to hilarious effect and a montage with O'Reilly telling dozens of people to shut-up on-air is revealing and hilarious. Bush's presidency first being announced by his cousin on Fox is discussed in greater detail than it was in Fahrenheit 9/11 and is one of the film's strongest sections.

To its detriment, the ethics of other networks and news organizations is never broached and many of the clips that are used to prove Fox's conservative bias are taken out of context. The emotional plea for media reform at the end of the movie, scored to Clapton's "Layla," was horribly cheesy. Nevertheless, this is a movie that needs to be seen before Fox has it sealed away as evidence in their inevitable Fair Use trial.

The reception afterward was ghetto and cramped. So I left.

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[email protected] | July 2004 | Issue 52
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