Lately I've been obsessing over Fox News, but not in the hipster, I'm-being-ironic-by-watching-this sense. I don't watch Rupert's programs like my friends watch Small Wonder, the show about a little girl robot named Vickie, or Samuel L. Jackson's latest film debacle, Snakes on a Plane. Instead, I view Fox News with a sense of pity and awe much like when I watch Edward D. Wood Jr.'s Plan 9 Nine From Outer Space. The stiff acting, the horrifically fake sets, and the nonsensical plot...how could anyone remain so loyal to a vision that was so obviously wrong?
Rupert Murdoch is our generation's Ed D. Wood Jr: stalwart, stubborn, hopelessly misguided, and unlike Wood and unfortunately for the free press, successful. He has built an empire of media with the potential for immeasurable doom. Rupert, the man behind Fox News now seems to have successfully purchased The Wall Street Journal, a newspaper with a worldwide daily circulation of more than two million. He also recently bought the Bronx Times and The Bronx Times Reporter. Like The Blob, another awful movie my idiot friends watch "ironically," Rupert can't stop consuming independent media. Here is a partial list of what he already owns. For the sake of time and space, I will only include his United States companies. I could fill pages with his international companies.
Books: HarperCollins, Perennial, Cliff Street Books, The Ecco Press Quill, Regan Books, Amistad Press, William Morrow, Eos, Fourth Estate Access Travel, William Morrow Cookbooks, Branded Books Program, Greenwillow Books, Joanna Cotler Books, Laura Geringer Books, Avon, and Tempest.
International Terrestrial broadcast, cable & satellite (in the United States only): Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox Sports, WNVW - New York City, KTTV - Los Angeles, WFLD - Chicago, WTXF - Philadelphia, WFXT - Boston, WTTG - Washington D.C, KDFW - Dallas, WJBK - Detroit, WAGA - Atlanta, KRIV - Houston, WJW - Cleveland, WTVT - Tampa, KSAZ - Phoenix, KDVR - Denver, KTVI - St Louis, WITI - Milwaukee, WOFL - Orlando, WOGX - Ocala, WDAF - Kansas City, KSTU - Salt Lake City, WHBQ - Memphis, WGHP - Greensboro, WBRC - Birmingham, WPR - Chicago, KTBC - Austin, FX, National Geographic's cable channel (50% with GE and National Geographic), The Family Channel, MTM Entertainment, Fox News Channel FxM, TV Guide Channel , etc. (http://www.ketupa.net/murdoch1.htm)
Did you find your city? I bet you did. If not, don't feel left out. In one way or another, Murdoch owns your small town airwaves, and if he doesn't, Clear Channel does. So what does all this mean? America prides itself on a sense of competition and a dog-eat-dog capitalistic marketplace. If a larger business is more successful don't they have the right to absorb a weaker, less lucrative business? Sure, but conscientious citizens must always be the watchdog of such mergers. When ownership shifts, so does ideology. Newspapers and radio stations are not static entities. They are living creatures: owned, operated, and sustained by people with partisan ideologies, so ownership matters, and because of that it is important to pose the question: who is Mr. Rupert Murdoch?
My obsession with Fox News began the week I learned of The Wall Street Journal buyout. All month, the Bancrofts have been batting away Murdoch with the same zeal and insistence a fat girl displays whilst insisting she couldn't possibly eat the last piece of chocolate cake. Old money cannot turn away more money even if it comes from the New Kid in town. And so it goes. Rupert may have won control of another respectable newspaper. Thus, my obsession with Fox News began. Over the course of a few weeks, I visited Fox News online to gain insight into the world of Rupert. I wanted to see what the priorities were of the man who controls a large chunk of the world's media. A man like Rupert gets his hands dirty, so I knew the website would only contain stories that fit beneath the umbrella of Fox News's larger journalistic ideologies i.e. Rupert's ideologies. Rupert is like Big Brother. He's always watching you, and if you work for Fox News, he's REALLY always watching you. Fox News employees receive memos of distinct story guidelines - leads they are heavily pressured to follow - namely ones that cast the administration in a positive light. In Rupert's world, there is no freedom of the press.
Over the subsequent weeks, I collected screen shots from Fox News's front page. I noticed a few trends immediately. The first I call the Missing Sweet Piece of Ass Alert. This is not solely a Fox News trend. However, Fox News tends to be the biggest violator. Any time a pretty girl vanishes or does something terrible, Fox News becomes a twenty-four hour watch guard for the damsel in distress. But it's not just any damsel. There's a certain...type with which Fox News seems preoccupied. Rupert has in his possession a harem of beautiful anchorwomen who look better suited to strut down the catwalk than bunker down in a foxhole, which incidentally is also the nickname Rupert gives these little ladies. I kid. But seriously: there aren't this many blondes in the Playboy mansion. Not a Wolf Blitzer, Christian Amanpour, or dare I wish, Amy Goodman in the house. And their feature stories fall beneath the same poor grade:
From the week of July 2, 2007
1. Photo of Madonna. Headline: Material Girl, Indeed
2. Photo of Miss New Jersey . Headline: Defiant Beauty
3. Photo of Elmo. Headline: Foul-Mouth Elmo
4. Photo of young Iraqi girl. Headline: Hearts and Minds
5. Photo of Paris Hilton. Headline: Answering for Paris
6. Photo of Avril Lavigne. Headline: Play It Again, Avril
From this week:
1. Photo of Madonna. Headline: Eco or Ego?
2. Photo of Nicole Richie. Headline: Daddy's Little Girl
3. Photo of Miss New Jersey . Headline: Another Attempt
4. Photo of Eva Mendes. Headline: Va-Va Valentino
5. Photo of Clay Aiken. Headline: "Idol" Ire
6. Photo of Roger Federer. Headline: Federer Wins Wimbledon
Other featured stories and Most Read items (my comments are in parenthesis):
1. Alligator Wrestling Industry in Flux
2. California Cops Hunt Suspects in College Cheerleader's Death
3. Ex-JonBenet Ramsey Murder Suspect John Mark Karr Arrested for Domestic Violence
4. Police Suspect Foul Play in Disappearance of Colorado Mom Paige Birgfeld (Attractive, white woman)
5. Search for Missing Mom Lisa Stebic (Attractive, white woman) Shifts to State Park
6. Man Disguised as Tree Robs New Hampshire Bank
7. Deadly Birthmarks? Marked At Birth: A baby girl is bnorn with a unique tumor on her lip which is straining her heart
If Fox News was truly reflective of Americans' priorities, we would all launch into mass hysteria any time a blonde, pregnant woman disappeared instead of utilizing our time and energy to voice concerns about matters such as genocide, famine, and illegal wars. Homicides and kidnappings are tragic, but not more tragic than war simply because the former concern only a handful of people while the latter involve millions. By devoting a disproportionate amount of its time to lesser stories, Fox News deliberately misleads its audience. These are the important stories it suggests with constant regurgitation of the Missing Sweet Piece of Ass Alert and another trend: the Fool's Story.
When they're not talking about another missing blonde woman or child (Jon Benet being the classic example, Madeline Mccann the most recent,) Fox News covers the Fool's Story. This usually involves wacky pet stories, medical oddities, cheap gossip, and any number of other things your grandmother calls to tell you on slow Sunday evenings. For this reason, the Fool's Story can also be called: I don't CARE, Grandma. It's gossip. It's not news. News effects a large demographic of people profoundly. Poverty is news, war is news, blackouts are news, but a man robbing a bank while he's disguised as a tree? That story has no place in the margins of a serious news source.
Though tabloids have been with us for centuries, this trend is dangerous. Fox News doesn't parade around, delivering news tongue-in-cheek as The Daily Show does. Fox News masquerades as a legitimate source, and sometimes sets precedents for the news items of the day. If the Jokers are the ones reporting the news, where is the citizenry to find its facts? I fear Rupert's absorption of sterling news sources will cheapen them. Fox News became a mouthpiece of propaganda soon after its establishment. After 9/11 and up to the war, the channel recycled the administrations lies and perpetuated the mantra of fear, fear, and more fear. Are we to expect anything other than the slow desecration of valued news sources once Rupert purchases them?
The Daily Mail is a British newspaper. In its day, it was considered somewhat of a cheap news source much like Fox News. However, it was incredibly popular and had a large circulation. Rothermere, one of the newspaper's founders, was a staunch supporter of Adolf Hitler. During the lead up to 1939, The Daily Mail was the only British newspaper to consistently support the Nazi party. Now, I'm not going to be yet another liberal who compares George W. Bush to Hitler. That's not my point here. The comparison is between The Daily Mail and Fox News. It is a grave danger to freedom and democracy when too much power falls into the hands of one person, whether that person be politician or CEO. If one source of ideologies is constantly pumped through news sources, it wags the dog and becomes public policy. If people hear and read nothing but fear-mongering headlines, they are quick to surrender their power to the president say when he asks for their trust in time of war.
We, the citizens, must remain aware of who the puppet master is, to where his strings lead, and always remember these wise words:
"With your ancient, juvenile minds you have developed explosives too fast for your minds to conceive what you are doing. You are on the verge of destroying the entire universe. We are a part of that universe. This is our last..." -- The Ruler, Plan 9 From Outer Space