Oh, it has been an interesting seven years at the top, hasn’t it? However, seven years is not a direct reference to the Bush administration’s two terms in power, but to Fox News’ reign as the number one cable news channel — a title that has absolutely everything to do with the outgoing president and the coverage he received by the so-called “fair and balanced” network. It seems as if Sept. 11 was the push that Fox News needed to get its slimy head completely out of the womb and into the ass of Bush Jr. Ever since, the two entities have enjoyed an effortless, co-dependent and totally platonic romance that went something like this:
Bush launched a war against the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden and then ended up in Iraq on a search for weapons of mass destruction, which he couldn’t (re)locate, so instead he hung Iraq’s “dictator” Saddam Hussein and finally set up an empire (read: embassy) in Baghdad. All the while, Bush was suckling the pups over at Fox News who gave the studio cameras a sinister glare and essentially repeated, “terror,” “terrorist,” “terrorism” and “terrorized” while photo boxes showed such images as a desert in the Middle East that Middle Easterners don’t even know exists, Osama Bin Laden smiling (only because his family was flown safely out of the United States by Bush right after Sept. 11), the colors orange or red in a rectangle and some very scared and angry looking folks wearing red, white and blue. Thus, to watch Fox News during this time was to be exposed to a troubling overreliance on fear-mongering that was essential for building support and advancing the Bush administration’s destructive policies — irrespective of reality and the inevitable consequences.
But those days are over now. Unlike Dick Cheney, the new Vice President Joe Biden probably won’t be giving orders demanding that hotel rooms he stays in are tuned in to Fox News and Fox News only. Also, unlike Bush, surely President Barack Obama will want something else on the screens in Air Force One (though those little boxes may suffer some sort of identity crisis from such a sudden shift after two terms). And the days of special access for the station’s “journalists?” Over! Calling the new president “Barack Hussein Osama” (a typo!) and the new first lady “Obama’s baby mama” (in jest!) were poor moves on their part. As a result, Obama has remained guarded about giving interviews to the channel’s primetime interviewers. To date, he has only given two major interviews to some of Fox’s top anchors, specifically Chris Wallace and Bill O’Reilly.
So, what’s next? Can a station that has stayed on top while on the defensive find success in being on offense? Of course. One only has to look at the new primetime line-up. First it’s Glenn Beck, then Sean Hannity followed by Bill O’Reilly. What is more offensive than Sean Hannity hovering over two prostitutes at a brothel in Nevada and asking them if they believe in God? Or when Glenn Beck told Keith Ellison, a Muslim congressman, “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies?” Six months later the “Picture of the Day” on Beck’s Web site was a fake ad suggesting that the bodies of Mexican illegal immigrants be turned into fuel, and under the ad was a caption calling it a “brilliant creation.”
And what more do we need to say about O’Reilly than to remind you of his infamous freak out in which he huffed like a bulldog and shouted, “Fuck it! This fucking thing sucks!” and then proceeded to throw off his blazer. As if these guys aren’t offensive enough on their own, they love to give other irreverent conservatives airtime, such as the cigar smoking, gluttonous conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh who recently said, “I hope [Obama] fails?” before the president had taken office.
Fox’s success comes not from its journalistic merit, but from the selling point of cheap shots and low blows. They stayed on top of other news networks for the past eight years not because they told the truth, but because they dulled it for the sake of those Americans who couldn’t and wouldn’t believe what was really going on with our country. They drew in viewers in the same way that “Jackass” and “American Idol” does — hours of mind-numbing idiocy.
Will Fox News flounder? It’s highly unlikely. Will they keep their viewer base and stay on top? It depends. They will spend countless hours likening Obama to terrorists because of his middle name, Hussein, and treating liberals like socialists, but that can only go on for so long. The only things that can make or break Fox’s stride are the liberals themselves. Fox News has an uncanny ability to embellish facts and disproportionately focus on the trivial, but there is a limit to how much they can make up. If the next four years pass without scandal, apathy or poor decisions by the new administration, we may just see CNN and MSNBC move up in their ratings.
There is another possibility: Fox News will cut the crap and re-enter the realm of true journalism by serving as a much-needed beacon of constructive criticism amidst the Obamarama and cast a spotlight on any wrongdoing the liberals may be too starry-eyed to notice. In this way, Americans will have a more complete view of what’s going on in their country instead of a muddled representation of the issues at hand due to ideas being unnecessarily filtered through the right vs. left paradigm that typically dominates cable news shows. It is possible, but not probable.
According to The New York Times, Fox News “seems re-energized” and we can only imagine what that means. The boys in charge of their primetime slots are, as always, thirsty for a battle. But considering the turnout at the inauguration and Obama’s performance thus far, it looks like the pups may very well run out of material and lose their charge.
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