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Fair and Balanced? What a Laugh!
November 7, 2003
By Gerald Plessner

Two of the fundamentals of political propaganda are the big lie and repetition. If the source is credible to the listener and the lie is repeated often enough, many listeners will absorb that lie as truth. If it touches a personal nerve or reinforces a prejudice, all the better. Add a little smirk to the lie - not obvious at first but an inside joke that the listener can catch on to and consider himself on the inside - and you have the perfect propaganda tool.

Such is the case with the Fox News slogan "fair and balanced." A very sophisticated propaganda tool, the slogan is both an inside joke and a colossal lie. Chosen with a certain cynicism, "fair and balanced" has enabled Fox News to say just about anything its owner or its chief executive want as long as the network poses itself as the anti-liberal font of truth. Its creators know that their slogan keeps their audience hooked and as a bonus, it drives their enemies crazy.

What the listeners don't know - or worse, do know but are unwilling to admit - is that Fox News is anything but fair and balanced. On the contrary, it is the master of spin, nothing less than RNC (Republican National Committee) radio and television. The greater question is, "Will their fans ever listen to the truth, and will the truth set them free?"

That truth now comes from a former Fox News professional, Charlie Reina, who was the producer of one of their most important shows, "News Watch." He worked for Fox for six years, leaving in a salary dispute and not as the disgruntled former employee Fox spokesmen have branded him.

Reina recently posted a letter on the respected Poynter.org journalism news website. His letter, which can be read at www.Poynter.org/column, details how Fox News content and attitude are dictated from the corporate office. The Fox media conglomerate is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, an arch-conservative former Australian and naturalized American citizen who has created an American television channel that is a copy of British trash journalism. Murdoch chose as the head of Fox News, Roger Ailes, a Republican operative with a reputation for take-no-prisoners politics. He worked on the campaigns of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and the first president Bush, for whom he helped create the infamous Willie Horton ads.

Ailes hates the establishment press because it has dismissed him as a biased political hack, not at all fair and balanced. Fox employees refer to the network as "Rogerís Revenge." Unlike respectable media which creates a wall between the journalism side and the corporate and advertising sides, Fox News top executives issue a daily electronic bulletin to all news staff, telling them what stories to cover and often telling them what to say about them. In Charlie Reina's letter, he tells how the Fox daily memo works: "If Fox anchors seem to be trying to drive a particular point home, you can bet The Memo is behind it."

Fox employees, most young and all non-union, live in dread of violating management's directions and desires. "The newsroom is under constant control and vigilance of management." When producing a special about former president Reagan, Reina was warned by his boss to "be careful how I handled the writing about Reagan. You know how Roger (Ailes) feels about him." In another case, Reina was told, "How the environmental special I was to produce should lean. 'You can give both sides, but make sure the pro-environmentalists don't get the last word.'"

Although Reina does not say that The Memo is distributed to Fox's on-air personalities such as Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity or Neil Cavuto, it is easy to see how they fit into the plan. They do seem to get the message.

O'Reilly always gets the last word, cutting off people who disagree with him and putting his spin on the guest's observations in his laughable "No Spin Zone." Hannity has his audience figured out pretty well. It is fascinating to watch and listen when he and the others attack the Democratic presidential leader of the week. He makes no secret of his Republican party affiliation and support.

And if you doubt how much Fox is worried by a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy, just count how many times a week Hannity attacks the Senator from New York. Neil Cavuto's smart-ass attacks on the people he dislikes (or perhaps it told to dislike) ranks at the top of conservative talk show cheap shots. His cowardice and crassness are pathetic.

With Fox News now shown up for what it is, Bill O'Reilly ravaged live on C-SPAN by Al Franken, Rush Limbaugh in drug rehab, William Bennett an unrepentant addicted gambler, and Laura Schlessinger's personal life a charade, one wonders when their fans will catch on to the big lie of RNC Radio and Television.


About the author: Gerald Plessner is a Southern California businessman who write regularly about issues of politics and culture. He would be pleased to hear from you and can be contacted at gerald@geraldplessner.com

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