AlterPolitics New Post

White House Repeats Message: Fox News Is ‘Propaganda Masquerading as News’

by on Monday, October 19, 2009 at 8:40 am EDT in Politics

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the serious threat a well-funded and popular propaganda organization — masquerading as a ‘news’ channel — posed to our country’s democracy.   Well, it appears the White House is now on the same page:

Last week White House Communications Director Anita Dunn told Time Magazine:

“[Fox News] is opinion journalism masquerading as news,” Dunn says. “They are boosting their audience. But that doesn’t mean we are going to sit back.”

A few days later, she revisited her Time Magazine comments with CNN’s Howard Kurtz, telling him:

“If we went back a year ago to the fall of 2008, to the campaign, that was a time this country was in two wars, that we had a financial collapse probably more significant than any financial collapse since the Great Depression. If you were a Fox News viewer in the fall election what you would have seen were that the biggest stories and the biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and something called ACORN.”

“The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. And it is not ideological … what I think is fair to say about Fox, and the way we view it, is that it is more of a wing of the Republican Party.”

“Obviously [the President] will go on Fox because he engages with ideological opponents. He has done that before and he will do it again… when he goes on Fox he understands he is not going on it really as a news network at this point. He is going on it to debate the opposition.  Which is fine, he never minds doing that.”

“It’s not just their opinion shows … Let’s be realistic here, Howie.  [Fox is] widely viewed as a part of the Republican Party: take their talking points and put them on the air, take their opposition research and put it on the air. And that’s fine. But let’s not pretend they’re a news network the way CNN is.”

“When the statements are untrue, when they mischaracterize, when they are using opposition research that is inaccurate, when people are just not being honest, absolutely we are going to go out there and we’re going to correct those facts.  We learned over the summer that the main stream media often will start covering these total inaccuracies as a controversy and that’s the way it gets into the press room and onto the front page of the New York Times.”

Dunn’s candor created a flurry of contrived criticism from main stream media pundits, who — after their own derelictions of duty in holding the neo-cons to account, not to mention their complicity in misleading Americans in the run up to the Iraq war — would prefer the spotlight never cast its beam back at the press.  Fox News pundits predictably erupted with outrage as their legitimacy as a news organization swept headlines everywhere.  They spent much of the week playing the victim — accusing the White House of enacting revenge on those who won’t tow the Administration’s line.

But the White House would not be deterred — in fact, they’ve been aggressively pushing the message forward.  Sunday morning’s political shows featured two high-ranking Administration officials — both on message — who continued to upbraid Fox News as more propagandist than ‘news organization’.

The President’s Senior Adviser David Axelrod told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos:

They’re not really a news station if you watch.  It’s not just their commentators, but a lot of their news programming.  I mean, it’s really not news, it’s pushing a point of view.  And the bigger thing is that other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way.  We’re not going to treat them that way.  We’re going to appear on their shows.  We’re going to participate, but understanding that they represent a point of view.

Over at CNN, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told John King:

It’s not so much a conflict with Fox News … It’s not a news organization, so much as it has a perspective.  And that’s a different take.  And more importantly is to not have the CNNs and the others in the world basically be lead into following Fox, as if what they’re trying to do is a legitimate news organization …

As I noted the last time I raised this topic, it’s perfectly acceptable for news pundits to share their points of view with their viewers, as long as their underlying reporting remains fact-based.  It would be a bit naive to believe that any news journalist could remain completely neutral from formulating an opinion on the news they report.  For this reason, the viewer is actually entitled to know where the journalist stands, if only for the sake of allowing the viewer to consider the messenger’s potential bias within his reporting.

Fox News’ credibility is what is being targeted here by the White House — not their opinions.  We all just witnessed a Summer of lies and distortions, as generated by Fox News and right-winged talk radio.  Their intentional misinformation campaign (death panels, etc.) nearly succeeded in torpedoing all efforts to reform our nation’s broken health care system.  It was within this context that the White House began to channel their energies towards dispelling some of the widely-held lies.  And to put a lid on it, they’ve begun to target the originating sources — the propagandists, masquerading as journalists — who championed the misinformation and helped to spread it like wildfire: namely, Fox News.

Those on the right will claim the White House efforts are a mere political ploy, but it is much bigger than that.  Lies, left unchallenged by the main stream media and perpetuated by Fox News over the last eight years, resulted in serious damage to our country on so many levels the effects will be felt for generations to come.  Finally, a spotlight has been shone directly onto the propagandists, during prime time, in front of millions; a feat few outside the White House could achieve.  Now that they’ve been exposed, we should take it a step further, and consider what safeguards might be implemented so that they can never again threaten our democracy.