Dan Nichols watches Fox News
Depending on which polls you trust, the US presidential race is currently either tied or being won by Bush. This is amazing when one considers Bush’s appalling record. Part of the reason behind Bush’s lead is the way that America’s politics are covered by its media.
Apart from some newspapers, the US media is in general fairly unquestioning. Even so, Bush has a partisan ace up his sleeve in the shape of Fox News.
Fox News is Rupert Murdoch’s US news network and the most watched news network in the country. It is headed by Roger Ailes, a veteran political consultant for the Republican Party, who sets the right-wing tone for all of Fox’s coverage.
Things really went into overdrive for Fox News after 9/11: suddenly US flags were everywhere, the nationalistic rhetoric was pumped up to full volume. After the US attacked Afghanistan, they came up with a graphic in which a plane flew across the screen leaving explosions in its wake. As the smoke cleared, the slogan “America Fights Back” was revealed! It was so bad it ought to have been on a spoof programme.
Not all of Fox News’ propaganda is so mind-numbingly obvious. Sometimes they give the impression of being “fair and balanced” (as the slogan used to go) whilst in fact slanting their agenda towards the Republicans. The classic example of this is the show “Hannity and Colmes” in which right-wing talk show host Sean Hannity gets to run rings around “moderate” failed stand-up comedian Alan Colmes.
The trick of using a weak moderate as a supposed alternative voice is also used on Britt Hulme’s show. Britt, another ultra-conservative who is also managing editor of the network, chairs a discussion group which includes one of his old colleagues from the right-wing Weekly Standard, and two “moderates”. The right can make all the running.
Fox News leads the way in the US media in more than just the ratings. Since 9/11, Fox has led opinion as well and have helped to create a near-hysterical atmosphere around the “war on terrorism”. In this climate those who brand even the mildest critics of Bush as “traitors” or “un-American” appear to be sane and sensible!
If Bush wins in September, the US may join Russia and Italy on the list of those countries where the functioning of democracy is seriously curtailed by a compliant media.
Fox News can be seen on the Sky Digital network. Lots more information about the network is in Al Franken’s Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them…, now available in paperback from Penguin.