Friday, June 25, 2010

Fox News' oily sheen Media Matters

Media Matters: Fox News' oily sheen

There is a disaster unfolding in America. The Gulf coast has become the scene of one of the greatest tragedies this country has ever seen. Innocent, hard-working people who were guilty of nothing except trying to earn their keep are up against it, their lives and livelihoods threatened by a growing, toxic mess that -- with a malignance that seems almost purposeful -- destroys everything it touches.

Oh, and there's an oil spill too.

That, of course, is the posture Fox News has taken towards the Gulf oil disaster, having decided that the real threat to the nation is not the millions of gallons of oil floating on and under the Gulf of Mexico but, rather, the Obama administration's reaction to the disaster and efforts to hold the culpable parties responsible. And, as you'd expect, such a ridiculous position requires some wild fractures of the truth and an almost complete abandonment of common sense.

The crux of the Fox News position is that the White House is simultaneously doing too much and not enough. If you've tuned in to the Murdoch network at any point over the past couple of months, you've probably seen the likes of Rudy Giuliani complaining that the Obama administration waited 50 days or so before offering any sort of response to the oil spill. America's perpetually confused mayor was off by about 49 days -- the Coast Guard was on the scene immediately and the president dispatched officials to the region the day after BP's rig exploded. None of those easily verifiably facts were enough to stymie the conspiracy theory, articulated by Fox News' Eric Bolling, that Obama "let it leak so he could renege on his promise to ... allow some offshore drilling."

Those Fox Newsers who were magnanimous enough to acknowledge that the White House was, in fact, responding to the disaster concocted a series of lies to claim that they were dragging their feet. Did the administration turn down foreign assistance for the clean up effort? Did the White House unreasonably delay the purchase of Maine oil booms? Did Obama dally in approving sand berm construction? The answer to each of these questions is "no," but on Fox News they were presented as the absolute truth.

The flip side to the administration's allegedly criminal neglect was their allegedly criminal efforts to hold BP accountable for the disaster. Echoing Rep. Joe Barton's (R-TX) now-infamous apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward over the deal the administration struck with BP to establish a $20 billion escrow fund to pay for spill-related damages, Fox News personalities rushed to declare the fund a "shakedown" and a "stickup." Others declared it was unconstitutional for the government to force BP to set up the account (even though BP volunteered to do it).

Indeed, BP has had no better friend than Fox News (no offense to Rep. Barton). Every move the administration has made to hold the oil company accountable has been met with derision from the conservative network. Glenn Beck likened the congressional hearings into the oil spill to the Salem witch trials and the McCarthy hearings. Fox Business host Stuart Varney claimed the administration is "demonizing" BP and trying to "seize its assets."

The question that remains is: Why? Why would Fox News so vociferously and ardently defend BP when even Republicans were fighting to get in front of microphones to denounce Rep. Barton's apology and the company's approval rating is, quite literally, somewhere between O.J. Simpson and Saddam Hussein? It's the same reason they attacked Obama when he sent 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, and the same reason they attacked him for asking that the country pray for the Gulf coast. It doesn't matter what Obama does, Fox News will automatically gainsay it. It doesn't matter if they make no sense, look foolish, or wildly contradict themselves -- if Obama does it, it's wrong. He could replace Teddy Roosevelt's face on Mount Rushmore with Ronald Reagan's and they'd attack him for desecrating an American landmark.

But such things are to be expected from the self-proclaimed "voice of opposition."

Conservative media uses McChrystal controversy to label Obama "anti-American," anti-military
The week's big story came when Rolling Stone published an article quoting Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his aides making unflattering remarks about the Obama administration and its allies. The remarks not only relieved McChrystal of a job, it also gave the conservative media the opportunity to bash Obama as anti-military and dredge up old falsehoods.

Limbaugh, who said "what McChrystal has done here is not defensible," wondered how people like McChrystal can serve under someone like "community organizer" Obama, who has an "open disdain" for the military. Limbaugh added that Obama hopes for military defeat.

Beck, who said McChrystal "probably should" be fired, proclaimed that "we're intentionally having our troops very busy" and "break[ing] the spirit of our military." Last weekend, Beck endorsed the idea of a "private army" taking charge of the war in Afghanistan, with Beck specifically claiming that there are "private individuals that could probably take care of things in Afghanistan better."

Gretchen Carlson, meanwhile, twisted McChrystal's interview to falsely suggest that Obama doesn't support the Afghanistan effort. In Carlson's view, the decision over whether to fire McChrystal was so heavy that it compares to her own duties hosting a cable TV morning show (much to Jon Stewart's amusement).

Following Obama's announcement that Gen. David Petraeus would replace McChrystal, the usual cast of characters went into Obama attack mode. Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and Monica Crowley accused Obama of being thin-skinned. Hannity, Fox & Friends, Michelle Malkin and Clear Channel radio host Jim Quinn distorted comments Obama made during Senate hearings in 2007 to falsely accuse him of "chastising" and "excoriating" David Petraeus. Limbaugh falsely accused Obama of not voting to condemn a Gen. "Betray Us" ad from several years ago.

Finally, radio host Michael Savage said the "Marxist, backstabbing anti-American" Obama made "the worst decision" because he "replaced a fighter with a fainter."

Only two months until Glenn Beck brings the civil rights movement "back to its conservative white roots"

This week, when Glenn Beck wasn't busy smearing President Obama and George Soros with blatantly false and absurd conspiracy theories or devoting entire shows to defending Joe McCarthy's legacy, he was promoting his upcoming 8-28 rally in Washington, D.C.

After Beck discovered that he accidentally scheduled the rally on the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech, he saw a great opportunity to engage in his favorite pastime: delusional self-promotion.

According to Beck, his rally's scheduling was "almost divine providence" because King's legacy has been "corrupted." As a result, Beck has repeatedly characterized his rally as a way to "reclaim the civil rights movement," saying things like "we were the people that did it in the first place." As usual, every Beck story needs a villain, and he has blamed the "distortion" of the civil rights movement on -- you guessed it -- "progressives." As Stephen Colbert put it: "Finally, someone is bringing Martin Luther King's movement back to its conservative white roots"

As reported by Media Matters' Will Bunch, top U.S. civil rights leaders have accused Beck of "hijacking" King's legacy, and have planned a counter-rally the same day as Beck's.

According to Beck, his rally "will be remembered in American history as the turning point," and "is going to be one for the history books," because it will be seen in 100 or 200 years as the "moment America turned the corner."

Based on the way Beck has promoted the rally, hopefully this "turning point" will be the moment everyone in the country stopped taking Beck seriously