Shut up! Fox News ‘scream machine’ wins America’s trust among domestic media
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is the author of 'Midnight in the American Empire,' How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream. @Robert_Bridge
The Murdoch-owned ‘scream machine’ has won over the hearts and minds of 29 percent of America’s news audience, with CNN pulling into a second place with 22 percent, followed by CBS News and NBC News (10 percent), ABC News (8 percent) and MSNBC (7 percent).
Although Fox News has denied in the past that it panders to the views of any particular political philosophy, 58 percent of Republicans said they pledge allegiance to the channel, a statistic that questions its claim of political neutrality.
But what disturbs me most about the results of the poll have less to do with Fox News and more to do with that 29 percent of Americans that finds the sly, hyperbolic Fox trustworthy. What part of the American mentality places its faith in playground bullying tactics? Is it the same part of the brain that causes Americans to favor the ultra-violent pastime of hit-and-run football as opposed to that of soccer, it’s more graceful and less injurious European counterpart? Is aggression hardwired into the American brain?
Anybody who has watched the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity – these short-fused, self-righteous, self-proclaimed Christians with a low threshold for any message that contradicts the Fox New worldview (which, ironically, has absolutely nothing in common with the Conservative credo) – knows what I am talking about.
Last July, for example, Hannity was the so-called moderator in what was meant to be a discussion between Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of The Jerusalem Fund, and Zuhdi Jasser, American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
From the opening round of this military tribunal, Munayyer, whose mistake was being sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, was shouted down and denied any opportunity to respond to Hannity’s aggressive line of questioning. At one point, hysterical Hannity implores Munayyer, a doctor, “What part of this can’t you get through your thick head?”
Whatever view a person might hold on the contentious Israeli-Palestinian issue is totally beside the point here. Hannity and friends could have been debating what soft drink tastes better, Coke or Pepsi, it doesn’t matter. To treat a guest on your show with such incredible contempt and disrespect, shouting him down because you find his personal views distasteful, is simply outrageous.
Is this really the way to build trust among your viewers?
Then there is Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News screamer-in-chief who appears to get much more pleasure from hearing the echo of his own voice as opposed to the opinions of his guests. Like Hannity, O’Reilly takes the whole concept of ‘ambush journalism’ to a whole new level, taunting and intimidating guests who were somehow born without the Fox News worldview.
Like a modern day Inquisition, it is the job of these meddling media missionaries, they apparently believe, to convert the ignorant masses to the way of truth through a whole lot of pain and suffering.
In 2007, O’Reilly interviewed Jeremy Glick, whose father was killed in the attacks of 9/11. The Fox News host’s notorious hair-trigger wrath was provoked by the fact that Glick had signed an anti-war advertisement that accused the USA itself of committing terrorism, thus possibly contributing to what happened to America that fateful day.
Here’s a brief part of the exchange:
GLICK: Let me finish. You evoke 9/11 to rationalize everything from domestic plunder to imperialistic aggression worldwide.
O'REILLY (index finger wagging at Glick): That's a bunch of crap. I've done more for the 9/11 families by their own admission - I've done more for them than you will ever hope to do.
O'REILLY: So you keep your mouth shut when you sit here exploiting those people.
In some ways, the bullying mentality behind such ballistic behavior is not so different from that which allowed some Americans to endorse ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ (i.e. torture) against our perceived enemies, and locking them away on a communist rock in shark-infested Caribbean waters.
The fact that the United States has still not closed down Guantanamo Bay - where over 100 souls are still languishing - is no coincidence. It has become the American way to drown out your enemy’s voice even when he is your guest – be that on Fox News or Gitmo.
Today, Bill O’Reilly is defending himself, and quite aggressively, of course, against allegations that his past claims of reporting “from the war zone” were somewhat fictional.
Last month, the US magazine, Mother Jones, claimed that O’Reilly’s heroic tales of war reporting in the Falklands War, during the 1982 conflict between England and Argentina “Don't withstand scrutiny—even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in.”
"Nobody from CBS got to the Falklands," according to veteran CBS reporter Bob Schieffer. "For us, you were a thousand miles from where the fighting was. So we had some great meals."
O’Reilly disputed MJ’s claims, telling the New York Times that the story was “a bunch of garbage.” He denied ever saying he was on the Falkland Islands during the war, but rather witnessed riots that took place in Buenos Aires following Argentina’s surrender.
“There was a combat situation when the Argentines surrendered and thousands of people stormed the president’s palace. The dictator [Leopoldo] Galtieri was trying to kill him. Argentine troops fired into the crowd. I was right in the middle of it.”
But MJ was having none of it.
“The protest in Buenos Aires was not combat. Nor was it part of the Falklands war. It happened more than a thousand miles from the war—after the fighting was over. Yet O'Reilly has referred to his work in Argentina—and his rescue of his cameraman—as occurring in a "war zone."
Meanwhile, a number of other claims over O’Reilly’s trustworthy are popping up like hydras.
The latest involves O'Reilly’s claim that he was present for the death of George de Mohrenschildt, an acquaintance of alleged John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald who committed suicide on March 29, 1977.
In an article published in Newsweek, investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein claimed it was "impossible" for the Fox News host to be there.
"O’Reilly’s insertion suffers from a reality deficiency disorder," he wrote. "I was the actual - and only - reporter interviewing de Mohrenschildt on the last day of his life."
In the spirit of gender equality, it is not only middle-aged white guys at Fox News who are gung-ho about planting the seeds of democracy in the crater pits of drone strikes.
Meet Judge Jeanine Pirro, who singlehandedly disproves the notion that only testosterone-laced males can be war-mongering savages, providing some subtle female intuition following the attacks in Paris.
“We need to kill them. We need to kill them. The radical Muslim terrorists hell-bent on killing us. You’re in danger. I’m in danger. We’re at war, and this is not going to stop,” Pirro fumes from her news desk.
“Bomb them, bomb them, and bomb them again…”
So much for females being the more intelligent sex, at least at Fox News.
Meanwhile, in numerous other Fox News segments regarding the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, residents of the French city awoke to the news that it was living among Muslim ‘no-go zones,’ where non-Muslims dared not set foot.
“In Britain, it’s not just no-go zones, there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in,” terrorism expert Steven Emerson told Pirro in a separate segment.
This example of trustworthy Fox reporting got special attention from no less than the British Prime Minister.
“When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools’ Day,” David Cameron said. “This guy’s clearly a complete idiot.”
Overall, the poll revealed a general sense of unease regarding the state of America’s network news: Just 7 percent of those surveyed think the information presented today is more trustworthy, with 48 percent responding that it is less so and 35 percent answering that it is about the same.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.