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.”
If that is the case, Massing should also be calling for an investigation of MSNBC. Its roster of “objective” anchors includes the ultra-liberal group which includes Chris Matthews, the just hired Al Sharpton, the just hired Chris Hayes of The Nation, Ed Schultz, and of course, the indomitable objective commentator Rachel Maddow. One of his charges is that Fox gave attention to “Climategate,” which he calls a “faux controversy.” As readers of PJMedia know, it was anything but that. But one is supposed to take Massing’s word for what is true, and what is false. After all, his words appear in The New York Review of Books. How could anything written in their imprimatur be anything but the truth?
Another thing he accuses Fox of is perpetrating during the 2008 campaign “troubling excesses and outrages,…which repeatedly sought to tie Obama to Bill Ayers, Louis Farrakhan, ACORN, and the like.” Somehow he omits Rev. Wright, since even Massing cannot fail to admit that tie. Let me take one of Massing’s examples, that of ACORN. Was Obama tied to the radical activist group at all? Let me cite what a sympathetic history of the group, written by one of its major admirers, says:
Using TV ads, accusations by local Republican officials, and the national debate, the McCain campaign took the opportunity to link its opponent to what it called an outlaw leftist group. Despite ACORN’s endorsement of Obama, he immediately distanced himself from the group. “The only involvement I’ve had with ACORN,” Obama told the media, “is I represented them alongside the U.S. Justice Department at DMV’s.” Dismayed, Bertha Lewis [ACORN’s then chief ] knew that Obama had failed to disclose the full story. For example, he had worked with ACORN on voter registration in Chicago. In addition, while he served on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, which funded antipoverty activism, the group had channeled $75,000 in 2002, to ACORN’s Chicago office. Before a television audience of more than sixty million, however, Obama had separated himself from ACORN, which had endorsed him in the primary election and helped him get votes.
So whom do you believe, ACORN’s sympathetic historian, or Michael Massing, who believes Obama’s own obfuscations?
So what Massing asks for is that the major media, not only outlets like The Nation and the NYRB, join him in going after Fox News. He is upset that media critic Howard Kurtz, now with The Daily Beast, has defended Fox and its aggressive stance in going after targets, including 60 Minutes style of TV ambushes. When Fox does it, Massing is mad. He quotes Kurtz as saying that news organizations are “not supposed to get along with these people….We’re supposed to hold them accountable.” Isn’t this supposedly the job of the press? Is Massing upset that Fox is doing that to a Democratic president whom he supports? Would he be as upset if a news network did that to Richard Nixon during the Watergate investigations, or would he say the same thing as Kurtz?
So Massing asks that the press investigate Fox’s programming, its ties to the Republican Party and the Tea Party, and to conservative think tanks and organizations. Does he also favor investigating NBC’s corporate contributions, how they affect MSNBC’s programming and the like? Is he upset that Morning Joe was forced to suspend journalist Mark Halperin for weeks, because of an inept word he used to describe President Obama’s political tactics? Or does he wish that he had been permanently fired? If someone used that term to describe George W. Bush when he was president, would Massing have argued that Halperin be given a Pulitzer Prize for telling the truth?
Yes, Massing is beating a dead horse. We don’t need him to tell us that Bill Sammon, Fox’s DC managing editor, is a conservative. We know that from checking out the book he wrote on George W. Bush. Yet Massing ends by saying the press should investigate Sammon’s “part in shaping the channel’s strong conservative slant.”
What Massing does not get is that Fox — which does have liberals regularly on its programs and does present their views — is obviously conservative. MSNBC has some conservative voices — particularly on Morning Joe — but its prime-time schedule and anchors are largely on the far liberal/left. Viewers, therefore, have a choice as to what shows they wish to watch. Massing wants Fox News off the air, because people choose to watch it, and they do not choose to watch MSNBC, whose ratings continually are far below that of its competitor. His answer is a federal investigation, leading to the network’s suppression.
This is the liberals’ real agenda, and that of Michael Massing, the media critic. It is to close down Fox News, and prevent people from hearing alternative views to those he subscribes to.
Decades ago, when the singer and actor Kris Kristofferson put out his first album, it contained a song he titled “Blame It On the Stones,” referring to how anger at the new youth culture was blamed by many people on the success and record sales of The Rolling Stones. Now, the Left has an easy answer why Barack Obama is falling daily in the polls: Blame It on Fox News. After all, why else would the electorate sour on our great charismatic president?