Whether you realize it or not, most of our major sources of news, whether it be on the television, in the paper or on the radio, are owned by a small number of corporations. While this might not seem like a big deal if they’re simply in the business of delivering the news, it’s increasingly coming with an agenda behind it. You see, it’s impossible to simply present the news and make it interesting enough to get people to consume it. There needs to be some opinion interjected to make it lively and sell ads. News, after all, is business. I personally don’t see a lot wrong with bias just as long as there’s enough outlets and opportunities for all voices to be heard. But how is that possible if just a few people are in control. Rupert Murdoch is the world’s foremost news philanthropist. His empire controls hundreds of papers, and radio and television stations around the world. He’s also apparently got a strong right wing opinion that he wants conveyed. With such a stranglehold on the news, some think he should be stopped or at least muzzled. Robert Greenwald’s Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism takes a page from Murdoch and his Fox News Channel as he exposes just how prevalent the slanted reporting is on the television station by slanting his own documentary.
Outfoxed pours through interviews with media watchdogs and ex-Fox employees and contributors to build a case against Murdoch and his lap dogs. They make a strong introductory argument, pulling clips and snippets to show the network’s pro-George Bush stance, including the daily countdown until Dubya is apparently going to be re-elected. It’s quite frightening actually because Fox appears to be putting a very patriotic spin on their stories where the players are heroes or villains. In simpler times the term was propaganda. So much for a station that publicizes it as “fair and balanced.” However, when I watch the news as it happens, I don’t always see the spins and agendas that are being pushed. The news is condensed into such small sound bites that it’s tough to see through it. But Greenwald points out many of the bents through Outfoxed‘s even further condensed bits and bites.
Today the lines between news, politics and entertainment are all so blurred that it’s hard to sift through which stories represent those that affect us. Sure, Jenn and Ben grabbed their share of headlines last year but does it really make a difference in our lives when we know who is sleeping with whom in Hollywood? Unless you’re one of the involved parties, I doubt it. Still, when the Bennifer saga came to an official end, Outfoxed shows that it was an event worthy of a news update, the original intent of which was supposed to be limited to only the most important of stories.
The problem with Outfoxed, which is the same for many of the current rash of political docs, is that they fight bias with bias. Sure, Fox News has some major issues that contradict their “fair and balanced” slogan, but does that excuse a filmmaker from making the same mistakes to make their points. There are several points in Outfoxed where very short clips of Fox News are strung together to portray them as hypocrites going against what is said on the air publicly. Bill O’Reilly’s The O’Reilly Factor is a particular target who Greenwald accuses of bending the truth to make for strong, patriotic pandering editorial commentaries. Yet when Outfoxed proves that contrary to a press release apologizing for using the phrase “shut up” in an isolated incident, Greenwald pulls together a series of “shut ups.” But where’s the rest of the sentences to provide context. While the claim appears valid that O’Reilly is indeed rude and totalitarian towards his guests, a simple string of phrases doesn’t constitute the “good journalism” this film is arguing in favour of. And where’s the dates to source the particular shows Greenwald is pulling from and calling into question? This isn’t isolated to one section of the film. It runs throughout Outfoxed and shows the same types of sloppy bias that Fox is notorious for.
Still, Outfoxed brings the news of one network into perspective and does a strong job of painting why this is such a problem. Television news has become fodder for photo-ops and press releases. As stations continue to be made corporate, fewer voices are being heard. Outfoxed is a vocal opponent to it. It shows that other voices can be heard given enough work. However to be taken more seriously, such documentaries as Outfoxed have to rise above those they are criticizing. Just like Fox News, Outfoxed needs to be more transparent and research needs to be more centered in order to make a good impact stronger.
Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism Gallery
Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism Trailer