Friday, May 22, 2009

Unfair and Unbalanced. Clever as a Fox

A very smart friend of mine sent me this link for my commentary.

This video is from Fox’s Fox & Friends, broadcast May 19, 2009.

I watched this "news clip", and saw everything I dislike about American "news channels". 

Essentially, it was a Fox Attack Interviewer, trying to work over an interview victim and losing rather badly, watched amusedly by two other Fox staff who made no contribution beyond their vacant smiles. The reason he was losing was because he was attacking Jesse Ventura, the outspoken ex-SEAL and patriot, who wants to drag the entire Bush team into the courts for what  he sees as their their illegal conduct. (Sounds reasonable to me. Why would the President fear American justice?)

Brian the Fox Republican Interviewer playing the role of a shrill shill for the Bush Administration, was trying to twist Ventura's words and deliberately misinterpret his position, and not doing it well. 

Watching this link really drove home how Fox News is not a news channel. The ruse of putting words in other people's mouths is not the job of a news anchor. Their job is to interview people, and ask them to elaborate on the aspects of their views that would be of interest to the viewing public.

Now this is very common American misbehavior. It is insulting bad manners to say polarizing things to a patriot, like "I suppose you support the terrorists", which involves great leaps of logic, and was never implied in the interviewee. But I hear this kind of logic every day from argumentative Americans I regard as friends, who do not recognize it as incredibly disrespectful, and contributing nothing to the dialog other than move it closer to fisticuffs.

It comes down to respect issues, which used to be described as "good manners".

I have come to the conclusion that one of the reason that Americans will lose their place in the world is because they have bypassed the issue of learning good manners, or respectful social conduct and respecting othger people's views.

It has long been a tradition to see Americans out on the international scene regarded as the ignorant children of a socially retarded and very isolated country, in which business success has been enormously expedited by selling weapons to both sides in foreign wars.

Fox now employ this format, this total lack of manners being exhibited for the entire country to watch, on national television networks. They do it because it makes money.

Now the fact that an Australian owns Fox network is revealing. He built a global network of newspapers and television holdings from his base in Sydney, Australia, by delivering in each country what the locals wanted.

Rupert Murdoch, and his company, News Limited, have grown into a multinational news and entertainment provider, under the acute eyes of their management team. Like any smart entertainment business, they know their audiences in many different markets around the world. They publish the best and the worst with enormous success. Newspapers that range from the hugely respected "Times of London" and the "Wall Street Journal", to absolute sex and sensation rubbish like "News of the World".

Since their invasion of American media in the 1980's,  this management team has been very successful in driving a profitable wedge into the heart of American media, in both print and television. Remember the invention of the Fox network? At the time they started, the common misconception was that there was no room in the US market for another network.

They started out with "Married with Children", and "The Simpsons", which was a revelation to Americans for reality cartooning. The incredible accuracy of this pick as being appealing to the American mass market is proven by the fact that, all these years later, "The Simpsons" is still a very popular show, and re-runs of "MWC" still attracts a popular following.

Their next step in Fox's progress was to get more regional affiliate television broadcasters and extend their advertising reach. They figured the answer was to have the rights to broadcast NFL football games. This had been a traditional preserve of CBS, and it was a tacit non-compete with the other channels that put this in CBS hands every year.

In the News Limited management meetings, in their strategy sessions to beat out CBS, the question was, "How much do we have to bid to jaw-drop CBS out of the bidding?"

They looked at the current CBS contract, in which CBS paid the NFL $300 million. When the Fox offer came in, it was a mind-boggling, paralyzing $1,500 million. There was no competition from CBS.

The rest is history. Fox got the football. As a result, they lined up large numbers of local affiliates, and created a new national entertainment network.

The business follow-up for News Ltd in the US market was to launch a news channel, Fox News.

This was an incredibly bold move, because CNN had a stranglehold on the US news business, which they had cemented during the first Gulf War in 1991. The belief in the entertainment business was that this market niche could not be wrestled away from CNN.

Again, the rest is history. Fox News blew its way into the business, at one point actually overtaking CNN, and now shares that market niche with CNN as an equal.

I don't think the people who watch Fox realize that the Fox channels areÿallÿentertainment, designed to attract viewers in order to sell advertising. They think Fox is committed to a particular ideology. Nope. It is simply money.

What are the take-away understandings from this little snapshot of history?

Well, first, we can see that Fox really knows what a large number of Americans enjoy watching. It picked an entertainment niche, in which it has launched the whole idea of adult cartoons, and commentary on American society that is only relevant because it satirizes social stereotypes that people actually recognize! Consider "Married with Children", with a sex-mad mother and daughter, and dysfunctional and stupid father and son. This is a very interesting example of what Americans' like to watch, and this formula has a long history of success which Fox is merely exaggerating a little. Dick van Dyke Show? Father Knows Best? 

Then we have Fox News. I can imagine the management meetings, in which Fox characterized Americans, theorized their target market, and the presentation that would appeal to them. The questions were, "What is the largest market they can find that is not being well serviced, and what can they supply them with in the way of entertainment?".

I doubt that any American company would have tapped into that huge vein of religious irrationality and bigotry as cold-bloodedly as Fox. AS a foreign enterprise, they could dissect the national character of Americans, and the proof of the pudding is how much money they are making. Fox have really mastered their market.

This Fox News video clip is a perfect example of the approach that News Limited uses to optimize their success in the United States in their market niche. It has confrontation, irrational Belief driven accusation, insults, bad manners, and lots of aggressive shouting. And all the while, Fox are absolutely on the money, and making money! They attract large numbers of American viewers who like this kind of presentation, bad manners and all.

I have said for some time that it has been a freak of geography that has allowed America to be successful. American business grew rich selling weapons to Europe through two world wars, and emerged unscathed from both of them. The industrial base provided the springboard for the greatest manufacturing environment the world has ever known.

But in this process, Americans never developed manners or respect. They know what they are when they see them. They yearn for them, at times. But they don't have them.

Fox have analyzed the American taste, and recognize this as part of the US national character of a sizeable market sector. They feed Americans a diet of both entertainment and news through their television channels that shows people who are scraping the bottom of every barrel for behavior that can only be described as really bad-mannered and disrespectful.

It is funny and offensive and appeals to enough Americans to create a major entertainment business.

So in summary, News Limited is sophisticated enough to run the most important business newspaper in the USA, the Wall Street Journal, with the largest foreign reporting contingent of any US business. But their marketing skills have no fear or favor. They can also dish up television programming that keeps them at the top of the charts, mastering their chosen markets. Fox is simply making money, delivering what Americans want.

It should worry Americans that they find ideologues who shout down alternative opinions, and try to put words in their opponent's mouths, as acceptable discourse.

As times get tougher, I predict that this kind of behavior will result in real damage to the fabric of American society, mainly because, if you don't know the truth, you cannot plan for reality.

You see, it comes back to unreasoning Belief. 

Many Americans are True Believers, who do not want to be confused by the facts. They want to continue to believe in what they believe in, so they don't even look at alternative explanations, or evidence that does not support what they believe.

As a result, evidence gets suppressed. Suppress torture photographs? Of course! Suppress alternative conspiracy theories to the "Official Conspiracy Theory" of 9/11? Of course! Hold closed-door hearings to "investigate" 9/11, and avoid interviewing hundreds of eye-witnesses whose evidence conflicts with the Official Conspiracy Theory? Of course!

We Believe. We want to see the evidence that supports our Beliefs! Simply pretend that what we Believe is the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Like the property boom, and the economic "success" of 2003 through 2007. Many Believed it would go on for ever, and are still in denial of the recessional reality that is bearing down like a steam train.

The problem of Believing instead of Investigating means suppressing evidence so that the bus we are all traveling in can go straight off a cliff of ignorance.

Unfortunate end to the American Dream? We will find out when the Belief bus actually arrives at its unexpected, uninvestigated destination.

Examples like this Fox "interview" are part of ensuring every destination remains unknown and uninvestigated.

Stop believing. Start investigating.

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