Say you think Fox News is politically biased and uses slick techniques to hoodwink viewers. They have the gall to call it "news". What do you do? Robert Greenwald interviewed some politically biased friends and used slick techniques to hoodwink viewers. He has the gall to call it a "documentary".
The interviewees include Noam Chomsky acolyte Jeff Cohen, leftist media reform champion Bob McChesney, The Nation correspondent John Nichols, socialist politician Bernie Sanders, Democrat politician Chellie Pingree, former TV newsman and left-wing blogger Walter Cronkite, ex-Fox employee and left-wing blogger Clara Frenk, and ex-Fox employee and Bush-bashing Iraq War critic Larry Johnson.
Of course Greenwald doesn’t come right out reveal this bias. Instead he leads his viewers to believe he sought out concerned professionals and neutral media experts. Bernie Sanders “independent Congressman”. HAHAHAHAHA! After a bit of research on the internet it’s obvious these people are so left of center that their opinion about Fox is about as predictable, and as useful, as a Muslim’s opinion of the Crusades.
And couldn’t they find even one ex-employee with some really juicy dirt? All we get is some whining about how out of place the poor partisans (who, other than Johnson, don’t reveal their partisanship) felt at Fox. That and a couple of emails similar to what anybody who gets email from their boss sees every day. Examples of Fox employees fired for their political views: zero. Fox’s real crime? Pinko McLefty gets a bad vibe, she’s not used to having her ideas challenged by Righty, and you know, like there’s a lot of pressure to do work and stuff.
Throughout the movie we hear the occasional anonymous voice, disguised by the same distortion effect almost 40 years of 60 Minutes has conditioned viewers to associate with the testimony of really serious whistle blowers. You might assume these would-be Deep Throats have substantial accusations to make. Nope, it’s just another slick gimmick.
If you thought the film’s subtitle, Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, meant you’d see some examples of, say, Rupert Murdoch waging war on journalism, guess again. But we do get to play name the zillionaire media mogul who created a cable news network, forbade the use of certain phrases, used innovative special effects, and blurred the line between news and entertainment. Hmmmm, "proud internationalist" Ted Turner? NNNNNNNNNNNNTTT! Sorry, you are politically incorrect. Ted came first, but he’s a liberal so he doesn’t count.
There were many trivial points. Like, some people say certain common phrases are a nefarious attempt to editorialize. Then again, some people say you can find such phrases just about anywhere you care to look for them.
Did you know Bill O’Reilly tells his guests to shut up alot? You would have learned that former Democratic speech writer Chris Matthews bullies people too, if only Outfoxed had been a truly objective documentary concerning abusive interview techniques.
Watch Outfoxed closely and you’ll notice the interviews have been cut up and glued back together with very subtle crossfades. Greenwald didn’t provide any examples of Fox News using this sneaky trick.
A central theme of the film is that Fox cheerleads for Bush and the RNC. This reflects a paranoia amongst leftists that says more about how out of touch with history and reality they are and how much they hate Bush than it does about Fox. To make their point Outfoxed reveals that Fox follows the president everywhere and reports his statements. Oh the humanity! You’d never guess there was a time, not long ago, when every news organization reported what the president said and did. Back then it was called "reporting". Nowadays reporters brazenly try to influence elections, back then they sometimes kept a secret or two to avoid hurting their president or country. The standards are different today. Any news outlet that doesn’t inject snide anti-American comments into their reports is ipso facto a right-wing mouthpiece.
Back in the day the press fawned over FDR and Kennedy even while they pretended to be above politics. Disgust over Vietnam and hatred of Nixon flushed out Cronkite (making his moralizing in this film more than a little ironic). Shortly afterward Dan Rather followed his mentor’s lead. By the early 70’s the charade of objective TV news was over. For several decades thereafter anyone looking for TV news that didn’t have an anti-corporate, anti-military, anti-conservative, homophilic, pro-feminist, multiculturalist, evironmental alarmist bias had a hard time finding it. For leftists it was the Golden Age of Journalism. Until Fox News came along.
Outfoxed would have you believe that Fox uses dirty tricks to get high ratings, and their viewers are gullible misinformed rubes. Poll statistics show Fox viewers think differently than NPR listeners. QED. It apparently never occurs to leftists that anyone but them is intelligent enough to discern a political tilt in their TV news, or that Fox’s popularity may result from supplying a legitimate demand for news that simply isn’t tilted leftward. They seem similarly dumbfounded by the failure of left-wing talk radio, in spite of the use of real dirty tricks.
Clearly Outfoxed is full of gaffes. But the piece de resistance is the deliberately misleading portrayal of Bush’s cousin’s role in the 2000 election. Greenwald made a documentary dedicated to this very subject so he should know the facts. How then can he imply Bush’s cousin, who worked at Fox, called Florida for Bush? Is Greenwald from some alternate universe where documentaries about bias repeat demonstrable canards? This more complete account makes it clear that all the networks, based on information from VNS, announced Gore the winner before the polls had even closed. Obviously this earlier call, which Outfoxed never mentions, had more impact on the vote than the call for Bush later in the night – and contrary to what Outfoxed implies, in no case was any call unilaterally made by Bush’s cousin. You’d have to be unfair and unbalanced to argue otherwise.