Home > "Liberal" Media, Right-Wing Lies > The Fox Standard

The Fox Standard

November 14th, 2009

Remember when faking a news story meant that a journalist was forever shamed, stripped of any credibility, and banned from the business? Photographers who staged or otherwise faked images were fired. And such fakers still are held accountable, in some media establishments.

But not Fox.

I blogged on part of this story earlier, but there’s much more now.

Last week, Sean Hannity aired a segment on a rally held by Michelle Bachmann, one which drew only a few thousand people. Right-wingers have been trying to exaggerate those figures for a while so they can claim a larger following. Their lowball estimates start at 20,000, going up to 45,000. The fact is, however, photos taken of the event (see right) show no more than a few thousand people–4,000, at most.

Hannity showed footage of the actual event, but then spliced in footage from a different, much bigger rally held earlier this year–the “9/12” rally, which had maybe one or two hundred thousand people in attendance. This gave the impression of a much larger rally. Fake journalism, intended to create a false impression that a political cause was much more popular than it actually was.

It took Jon Stewart and The Daily Show to find it, and three days ago, he aired this:

A big question is, why did it take Jon Stewart to find it? Does the media at large blithely accepts Fox’s standard of faking or generating stories? Or are they simply scared into not reporting on Fox, knowing that Fox will label them as “liberal media” and accuse them of trying to “silence journalists”? Or, perhaps, they’re just lazy and believe what they see and hear.

Having been caught so blatantly distorting the news, Hannity “apologized”:

As you can see, Hannity didn’t take it seriously. One could kindly term that delivery as “tongue in cheek,” but certainly not “sincere,” “apologetic,” or “grave.” For Hannity, it was nothing more than a “gotcha.”

A couple of points, however. First of all, this was not a “gotcha.” Well, it was for Stewart, from a comedic standpoint. But this is not something that an actual news channel would let by with a smarmy, self-serving apology like that. It’s not a “whoopsie!” and just forget-about-it kind of event. This is faking news. Actual news channels would mete out severe punishments for something like this.

Second, Hannity was clearly lying when he said it was an “inadvertent mistake.” “Inadvertent” means “unknowing,” or “unintentional,” and that’s obviously not what happened. Now, if Hannity was also airing a piece on the 9/12 march, with that footage lined up, and when it came to Bachmann’s rally, a technician accidentally aired that footage instead of the Bachmann footage, well, that would be “inadvertent.”

However, that’s not what happened. The 9/12 footage was interspliced with the new footage–meaning that it was not a slip-up. You cannot “accidentally” send someone to the video archives, “unknowingly” take specific footage and “unintentionally” splice it into footage of another story which just “by chance” happens to segue so smoothly that most people will take it to be the same story.

It was no accident, and Hannity lied outright when he made that claim. [Update: a letter from a television professional to Andrew Sullivan explains in much better detail.]

Tds-Fox MottoAnd finally, as Stewart himself later noted, Hannity should not be apologizing to Stewart. A real news network would take this all very seriously, and apologize to its viewers for having let them down.

But, of course, that would be in the context of an actual news organization. And Fox has different standards–which is why Hannity’s statement was so snarky in nature. Fox never intends to air straight news, their intent is to color it, to create an altered reality to be sold to its willing viewers as a preconceived narrative (see Stewart’s truth-in-advertising motto at right). The people who watch Fox and believe what they see want to be lied to. Which is why Hannity did not apologize to his watchers–because there was no standard of journalistic integrity to be violated, no trust that was betrayed. Instead, it was all a joke–“Okay, ya’ got me! Ha ha!” And then on to the next lie.

But there is one more irony to note. In order to inflate the crowd number estimates for the Bachmann rally, Hannity slipped in clips from the much larger 9/12 rally.

But when the 9/12 rally was being exaggerated by right-wingers, a photo from an older rally still (a Promise Keepers’ rally from 1997) was slipped in to make that rally seem bigger.

So to make Bachmann’s rally seem larger than it was, Hannity showed fake footage from an older rally which itself depended upon fake images from another rally to inflate its size. A fake piled on top of a fake.

That’s what passes for “news” in right-wing America these days.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Right-Wing Lies Tags: by
Comments are closed.