Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Video Activism - Foxattacks.com - Behind Fox Attacks

This video tells the story behind the net roots movement that has become known as the "Fox Attacks" series. It covers several very important points about the power of video activism as it relates to the internet. Web producers should pay attention. You can do a lot more than just film your dog on a skateboard these days.

Robert Greenwald founded foxattacks.com as an answer to the distortions and propaganda that Fox News creates in their very agenda driven excuse for reporting. The Fox motto is "We Report, You Decide" but the reporting is so slanted that it is designed to help you arrive at the conclusion they want. Foxattacks.com has countered with the slogan "They Distort, We Reply." The victory that helped move this website into provenance in the blogosphere is the influence that they had, with the help of other online activists, on the Nevada Democratic Presidential debate that was supposed to be hosted by Fox. The argument was that Fox is not a legitimate news organization and therefore, they could not be trusted to host an event of such important public interest. I could not agree more.

The pressure of this movement was so strong that the major candidates, beginning with John Edwards, backed out of the debate and the Nevada Democrats eventually folded and backed out themselves. I consider this a major public relations victory for journalism. For the first time there was a very large and very public blow back against the Fox News brand.

In my view, we need more activism like this because Fox News is activism on a massive scale. Fox tells their audience what they want to hear based on the conservative agenda rather than what they need to hear based on objective reality. Fox also slants the stories to the benefit of themselves and their political allies and to the harm political opponents, all under the audacious title of "Fair and Balanced".

Their claim to balance is not that their individual stories are balanced but, rather, that their bias as an organization helps to "balance" out the bias of the "liberal media." The problem is that the "liberal media" holds the ORIGINAL ideal of balance first represented by the Fairness Doctrine and journalistic ethics. This definition says that they strive to give equal weight to both sides of any controversial story. Individual reporters can slip in both directions, at times but the goal of each story is supposed to be true balance. Those who are not following this practice are either bad journalists or editorial writers. At Fox, slating the story is the ideal. The majority of the programming is also editorializing and opining over events rather than trying to provide the facts in an objective way. This is not journalism and it does not deserve the respect or privileges that are attached to journalism.

In todays media journalism is failing and a great deal of the reason behind that is that Fox news has almost single handedly changed the definition of what journalism means. Journalism today means making money off stories not providing importaint information about issues of great public interest. The public is left to "decide" based on criteria that is first tested for ratings value. That is the Fox effect. If there were no political angle at all this would still be a great harm to the "fourth estate" that Fox has helped bring. The political angle just makes it twice as bad.

Lets take a look at the Fox Attacks examination of the latest issue Fox covered: The General Petraeus hearings, which were critical to the public understanding about the progress in the Iraq war. The very lives of our soldiers are at stake here so it is vital that we all know exactly where things stand. How was Fox's coverage of this event? Well. They sat down and counted the stories that were for and against the facts that Petraeus laid out and edited it all together. See for yourself:

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