Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Country Wisdom: White House vs. Fox

Campaign attacks on Barack Obama and his crew as latte-drinking elitists are finally coming into play in their war of words with Rupert Murdoch's rough-and-ready outback minions.

Any country boy could have told them a basic rule of rural life: Never get into a pissing contest with a skunk.

Now, the Administration is finding itself befouled by controversy as an ABC correspondent asks at a briefing why "one of our sister organizations" was excluded from a round of official interviews and a moderate House Democrat calls the feud "a mistake...beneath the White House to get into a tit for tat with news organizations.”

The President himself, after pointedly meeting with Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich and other sympathetic souls, goes public on NBC. “What our advisers have simply said is that we are going to take media as it comes,” he observes. “And if media is operating, basically, as a talk radio format, then that’s one thing. And if it’s operating as a news outlet, then that’s another.”

Historically, that's a distinction the American people have always reserved the right to make for themselves. Back in the late 1960s, Richard Nixon unleashed his Vice President Spiro Agnew to attack the unfriendly media.

Agnew, who later resigned in disgrace for taking bribes, pelted them with alliterative epithets--"pusillanimous pussyfooters," "nattering nabobs of negativism" and "an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals," phrases coined by the recently deceased William Safire who later morphed into a respected New York Times columnist and Pat Buchanan, who is still pontificating for MSNBC.

Those attacks brought a backlash. Although I spent an evening with Mike Wallace and other journalists privately questioning our own fairness, the White House intrusion into that debate only brought public disapproval and recruited more media members for what Nixon would call his Enemies List.

The lesson here for the Obama people seems simple enough: Call out Fox's commentators for their lies and distortion, but don't try to neuter the network as a news organization. In city or country contests, that's not a winning strategy.

6 comments:

Fuzzy Slippers said...

Well said. I have to admit that I was heartened when the WH pool supported Fox and refused to sit with Feinberg unless Fox were also included. BO and his thugs were completely out of line, and we all know it. I'm really growing tired of their petty and underhand nastiness; they are certainly giving Nixon a run for his money. Hopefully, the same fate will befall BO in his over-reaching, blatant attempts to control everything and everyone. Oh, the joy when he is forced to resign in a cloud of disgrace as will surely happen if he continues down this arrogant, power-hungry course.

This WH's constant "calling out" anyone who disagrees is far different than simply pointing to "lies and distortions." If you haven't noticed, no one, not even MSNBC, let alone the WH, has or can point to any specific such "lies and distortions." They don't exist. Fox News, as opposed to its opinion shows, reports facts. Period. No one has disputed this in any specific instance, the administration is trying to paint with a broad brush Fox as if it were all Glenn Beck all the time.

The fact is the Fox's ratings are and have been skyrocketing. People aren't interested in orgasmic, blind worship coupled with laughable "stories" that fact check SNL skits. The fringe media is not Fox, it's MSNBC and CNN.

I do agree that Fox is "slanted" right in its opinion shows, but no one can deny that the rest of the alphabet media are slanted, as well. The truth, as most people realize, is in the middle. And frankly, Fox comes closer to the middle than the others; as evidenced by its increasing moderate and independent audience.

Holte Ender said...

The White House had made a mistake in singling out Fox, I didn't need the administration to tell me how unworthy Fox is to be considered a fair and balanced news organization. They just pander to their base, who lap up what is offered, infotainment, and the other networks are not much better.

jf said...

But, Fox IS different. And that is the White House's underlying simple message. I think it works.

jf said...

Any newS organization that has to constantly remind it's audience that it is "fair and balanced" probably isn't.

It's like, "hey mister, you want a date with my sister? She's a virgin."

Jim said...

Obama picks a fight with FOX and finds itself backing down from this childish fight. I'm sure the Taliban were not all that impressed. And a cheer to the other networks for standing their ground.

Charles W. Kim said...

As a local news reporter for more than 20 years, this is nothing really new...just a larger, national audience. There have been a couple mayors that refused to talk to my publications in New Jersey after some coverage critical to their administrations. It is childish, but also very arrogant to think that ANY news organization will only provide positive coverage. Even worse, is the "or else we won't talk to you" mentality that smacks of the spoiled kid taking his ball and going home for not being picked first for the team.
Freedom of the press is a vital component of our nation and was started by those certainly biased against British tyranny.
Every newsperson brings some personal bias to their job, but most of us can put it aside and professionally report the facts.
The administration needs to back off Fox News and let the citizens decide how legitimate they are as a news organization.
They may prove to be overly biased, or they may end up being the most legitimate of all of them.