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Fairly Unbalanced

August 13th, 2003

We all know that Fox News is outrageous. We all know that it is just to the right of Attila the Hun. Still, it sometimes is surprising just how asinine they can get.

Next month, comedian and political satirist Al Franken (author of Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations) is due to release a new book entitled “Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.” But if Fox News, the prime target of this book’s criticism, has its way, the book will never see the light of day.

You see, Fox News, in 1995, registered the words “fair and balanced” as a trademark of their network. Never mind that the trademark “fair and balanced,” in describing Fox News, is about as accurate as “cute and cuddly” is in describing a school of piranha fish. Forget that Franken’s book is so clearly a parody of Fox News that only complete morons* would mistake it for anything else. Fox News is hell-bent on stopping this book from revealing to the public that Fox News is (gasp!) not unbiased.

(*Come to think of it, maybe Fox News has a point. After all, complete morons do watch the network in rather large numbers.)

Let’s remember, folks, that Fox News is the same network that, when American citizens participated in legal protests over what we now know was a sham of a war, taunted those same protesters on their streaming ticker-tape banner with jibes such as “Who won your right to show up here today? Protesters or soldiers?”, “How do you keep a war protester in suspense? Ignore them,” and “Attention protesters: the Michael Moore Fan Club meets Thursday at a phone booth at Sixth Avenue and 50th Street.” Not precisely “balanced” or “fair.” This is the same network that jumped the gun in Florida by proclaiming Bush the winner without enough data to justify the call–a call made, coincidentally, by a first cousin of George W. and Jeb Bush, the consultant Fox News chose to call the race in that state. But you don’t need to hear these and countless other pieces of evidence to see the blatant bias–all you need to do is turn on the channel–if you can stomach it–and watch them with an unbiased eye.

So now Fox News is suing Al Franken for using Fox’s trademark to “blur and tarnish” the network. Well, duh. It’s a satire, you dummies. What do they expect, praise? And let’s not let the hypocrisy slip by–this is a network that depends on freedom of the press, which protects satire, especially political satire. Fox News wants to sue Franken for that when they themselves satirize law-abiding citizens in their streaming banner?

But this is not surprising–we have seen all too much hypocrisy from the right in recent days. Take, for example, the claim that conservatives are all for the basic principles of upholding the rights of the individuals (e.g., to keep and bear arms) and the states (e.g., to have precedence in deciding issues over the federal government), and then compare it to the almost feral attack on individual rights (e.g., reproductive rights, right to privacy) and state rights (e.g., to choose how they count votes) when it suits them politically. Or take the fact that the right is pouncing on the California recall with glee on the basis that Gray Davis took a surplus and turned it into a deficit–while Bush did the same thing, far more his fault than Davis’, and to an almost unbelievably further extent–but there is no call whatsoever from these same people to hold Bush responsible, much less unseat him.

Not to stop at the standard traits of political bias and hypocrisy, Fox News reached deep inside itself to extract sheer idiocy and character assassination. In an attack that is not satire, Fox News is apparently, in the text of their court claim, calling Franken a “parasite” as well as “either intoxicated or deranged.” I swear to God, I am not making this up.

As for me, I am pre-ordering this book from Amazon. Join me.

UPDATE: Franken has recently responded to Fox’s action, saying he is not worried about the suit, considering the laws regarding satire. (Indeed, this could even help him out, considering the publicity involved.)

“And by the way,” he added, “a few months ago, I trademarked the word ‘funny.’ So when Fox calls me ‘unfunny,’ they’re violating my trademark. I am seriously considering a countersuit.”

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  1. August 13th, 2003 at 18:38 | #1

    Fox makes similar claims against Agitproperties.com in response to its O’Reilly Youth T-shirts.

    Fox, which clearly benefits from the freedom of speech, doesn’t seem to have any tolerance for freedom of expression for others. The problem is not so much the lawsuits (which Fox should not win in any freedom-loving court), but the fact that little people are intimidated by lawsuits from big companies. That in itself has a chilling effect on free speech.

  2. August 13th, 2003 at 23:41 | #2

    Last night just before midnight Franken’s book went to #1 on Amazon. It’s SITLL #1. The publicity has done him wonders.

  3. August 21st, 2003 at 10:33 | #3

    Hey, look, you’ve got Paul Newman on your side! 😉

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