As Juan Williams recently pointed out, the British News of the World hacking scandal does not seem to have extended into any of Rupert Murdoch’s American properties. Nevertheless, as Williams puts it in an interview with Howard Kurtz, “For people who don’t like Murdoch and don’t like Fox, people who are the haters, they’re looking for an opportunity to see if this can allow them to bring him down.”
True enough. Now to those MSM media outlets that are seeking to do just that, we can add the intelligentsia’s favorite outlet, The New York Review of Books. Blogging at their web page, media analyst and journalist Michael Massing argues, as the headline of his blog puts it, “It’s Time to Scrutinize Fox.” And Massing notes that all his colleagues are hard at work trying to bring Fox down: “Since the outbreak of the News Corporation scandal in Britain, journalists on this side of the Atlantic have been intently scrutinizing Rupert Murdoch’s American operations in the hopes of uncovering similar improprieties.”
They haven’t found any as yet, but that hasn’t stopped Massing from reaching his conclusions in advance of any investigation. Fox is guilty here, just as Murdoch’s staff in Britain was in using illegal and reprehensible actions to get a story. What have they done that is so bad? Here’s one of Massing’s examples. Their DC lobbyist, Michael Regan, is quoted in the Washington Post as being “one of the most muscular teams in town.” How terrible. A lobbyist who works hard for the firm he is hired to represent. The horror!
Then there is the dreadful New York Post. [I pause for journalistic integrity. Over the years, I have written many op-eds that appeared in their pages.] The paper is a tabloid. Massing’s charge:
Under Murdoch’s control, the Post has trafficked in the type of malicious, salacious tabloid journalism practiced by the now-defunct News of the World and the still-reeking Sun. The paper has delighted in breaking (and making) politicians, smearing enemies, and ridiculing many ordinary citizens. Its utter amorality was on recent display in its coverage of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair, when in a matter of days it abruptly pivoted on its front page from calling him a “perv” to labeling his accuser a “hooker” (for which she is now suing the paper).
Of course Massing knows that the maid is telling the truth, and that DSK is lying. Why am I surprised? After all, DSK’s integrity was sworn to by his wife and by Bernard Henri-Levy. Why could he be lying? I don’t know who is lying and who is telling the truth. But from what we now know about DSK, he is somewhat of a vile man, if not exactly a “perv.”
Now let us move on to Massing’s real target, Fox News. His wrath and anger is unsurpassed. Its first great sin: “Fox has helped to foster the Tea Party and amplify its message.” When the Tea Party emerged, no one else was giving it attention. I assume that Massing hoped that Fox would sit back and follow the MSM’s decision to emulate our president and lead from behind. But not only did Fox not do that, it put Tea Party people on its stations, let them get its message out, and hired hosts like Glenn Beck who openly sympathized with its agenda.
What really bothers him, of course, is Fox’s ratings. As he confesses: “With a daily prime-time viewership of around 2 million — more than that of CNN and MSNBC combined — it has become the Republican Party’s most powerful booster.” So what he is really upset about is that people choose to tune them in. And since they have made that choice and there is no mechanism to prevent folks at home from watching what they choose to watch, there is only one solution: Take them off the air!
More offensive to him is that Roger Ailes, Fox’s chief, does not particularly like the current Republican field of candidates, and therefore he had the audacity to supposedly call Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and ask him to enter the race. Well, we know Ailes is a Republican — he got his start as a media advisor to Richard Nixon. He is also a private citizen, and if he did call Christie, he obviously did that in his capacity as a concerned citizen and voter. But to Massing, such a call is something that should not have happened.
Massing himself admits, reluctantly I am sure, that “Unlike News of the World, there’s no indication (as of now) that Fox has engaged in illegal activity.” If that is the case — and it is — what warrants a federal investigation of the network? Massing has an answer. It violates “every journalistic and ethical standard.” These are the following, according to our intellectual media expert: “It has promoted preposterous conspiracy theories, peddled blatant falsehoods, and given a soapbox to all sorts of cranks and crackpots.”