The Fox and the Pig
By Chez Pazienza: There’s an old saying that I’m a big fan of: Never try to teach a pig to sing — it wastes your time and annoys the pig. I think of this every time I get the urge to lash out at Fox News for some irresponsible, grossly unethical thing or other that the network has done or has had the gall to broadcast under the guise of being a real news organization. My criticism, like everyone else’s, won’t matter one bit — the attack will just bounce off of Roger Ailes’s prodigious belly like he was Kung-Fu Panda. Not only does Fox News not fret over its many detractors and their grievances, it generally welcomes the outrage as an opportunity to once again let its pit-bullish media relations department off the chain to maul the crap out of the poor bastard with the bad sense to hassle its master. The result is always bloody and the guy who dared to take a swipe at Fox rarely comes out on top.
Ailes learned from one of the most profoundly talented bullies in all of politics so it goes without saying that he’s not the kind of guy to respond, “Well, you might have a point there, my good man, but I suppose we’ll just have to chalk this up to a difference of opinion,” or even better, a simple “no comment,” whenever somebody calls his leviathan propaganda machine out for being what it is.
It’s with all of this in mind that I sit here wallowing waist deep in what I know is the futility of saying a goddamned thing about Fox News’s latest nakedly obvious and indefensibly biased attack on Barack Obama. If you haven’t seen what I’m talking about yet — the four-minute video clip that Doocy the Clown and the rest of the crew of local news rejects on Fox & Friends aired yesterday morning, benignly calling it a “look back” at the last three years of the Obama presidency — then I’m not going to go into detail for you. Suffice it to say that you really do need to see it with your own eyes to both believe it and — eventually, after it sinks in that you really are watching what you think you are — appreciate the sheer scope of its horribleness. It’s not news. It’s not even news by the very flexible standards of Fox News. At the risk of violating Godwin’s Law, it’s 1939-style propaganda and nothing more — not a thing more — and it quite frankly stands as Fox News’s darkest hour. It’s honestly so fucking shameless that even I wasn’t sure Fox was capable of creating and disseminating something like it, despite the fact that anyone as cynical as I am should’ve understood fully that it merely represents the Fox model taken to its logical conclusion.
It was always obvious, or at least it should have been, that at some point Fox News would stop even pretending that it was a responsible news organization, that it was “fair and balanced.” But the really awful thing here isn’t simply that the network had the audacity to run a four-minute hit piece on Barack Obama that looked as if it had been prepared by the GOP itself — which it in fact had, of course — but that it then couldn’t even cop to it. In an almost admirably subversive fuck-you to the indignant critics it knew would immediately pounce on it, Fox released a statement basically calling the piece an accident — saying that it had been created by an overzealous associate producer and implying that said mischievous imp would be dealt with accordingly. In case the title of “associate” isn’t enough to clue you in as to how much authority this person, if he or she really exists, would actually hold in the newsroom of a national cable outlet, let me help you out: blaming an AP for a four-minute-long package that aired not once but multiple times during one of the most popular shows at your network is like McDonald’s firing some kid who works as a fry cook in Des Moines because the company’s latest global ad campaign bombed.
It’s an almost comical conceit to throw an associate producer under the bus for something like this, but that’s the idea: Fox is basically taunting its critics. The network knows full well that there isn’t a damn thing anybody can do to stop it and it’s essentially insulting our intelligence and daring us to try. Fox News’s management doesn’t care one bit that you know they’re lying through their fucking teeth.
Quite a while back I wrote a piece for my website that asked a question that’s really worth considering in the age of Fox News: What do you do when an editorial outlet or broadcaster refuses to behave responsibly? We’ve come to a truly unprecedented moment in the evolution of the American media. Throughout history, those who practiced journalism and offered commentary in this country were, for the most part, responsible adults who understood the awesome sway they held over the public’s imagination. They adhered to a gentleman’s agreement that was largely unspoken because it didn’t have to be spoken: You don’t just go on the air or off to press spouting completely ridiculous, incendiary crap without the slightest concern for the facts or for the potential consequences of your claims. You weren’t running Fisher-Price’s “My First Television Network”; the airwaves and print outlets weren’t your own personal sandbox where you were king and could say whatever you pleased. Yes, you had the Constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech, but you knew full well that with that came responsibility — and since you were a grown-up and not some asshole narcissist obsessed with the sound of his own voice and drunk on authority, you for the most part behaved accordingly.
But Fox News changed the rules. It won’t behave. It won’t be controlled, cajoled or simply won over by appeals to its journalistic ethics because it doesn’t have any. A four-minute piece of televised political propaganda proves it — and Fox’s laughably horseshit response to being called out for what it did proves that it doesn’t even respect its critics enough to tell them the truth.
Turns out, in this case the old saying is half-right. Trying to teach this particular pig to sing indeed wastes your time — but it doesn’t even annoy the pig because the pig doesn’t give a shit what you want.