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William Rivers Pitt: Breaking - Water Remains Wet

Breaking: Water Remains Wet

By William Rivers Pitt
(Including video report)
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Wednesday 01 June 2005

The sky is up. Water is wet. Fox News is biased towards the Republican party. These are the axioms that define reality in our world. The first two do not get challenged all that much, but the third - the Fox news bias - has been the subject of various and sundry arguments and excuses from those for whom that network happily carries all that wet water.

They are fair and balanced, right? They say so, anyway. Never mind that O'Reilly, Hannity, Gibson and the rest of them expend prodigious amounts of energy and lip-spittle flaying anything and everything that is not marching in lock-step with The Anointed One in the Oval. Sure, they've got Colmes on the Left, who on most days does a fair impersonation of the littlest puppy in the litter, the one who can't quite get to the milk. Aside from him, however, the voices you hear from that network are raised in gravel-voiced unison with whatever happens to be spilling from the White House press office.

So what's the big deal? Fox is just one news network. It isn't as though News Corporation and its far-right boss Rupert Murdoch control massive swaths of the news and information media, right? News Corporation only owns at least one station in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, Washington D.C., Minneapolis, Detroit, Phoenix, Orlando, Atlanta, Houston, Cleveland, Denver, St. Louis, Memphis, Greensboro, Birmingham, Austin, Kansas City and Salt Lake City.

News Corporation only controls the Sky Network in several countries around the world, DirecTV, the FX channel, Fox News, Fox Sports News, 20th Century Fox, the New York Post, the Boston Herald, The UK Sun, the UK Sunday Times, 20 other newspapers in Australia, The Weekly Standard, TV Guide, HarperCollins Publishing and twenty-two other publishing houses, StarTV which broadcasts to Asia, twelve different publishing companies focused on children's books, the L.A. Kings, the L.A. Lakers and the National Rugby League.

No big deal, right. Probably only a couple billion people a day watch, read or listen to something controlled by Mr. Murdoch and News Corporation. Their influence is far and wee...and fair and balanced.

It was something of a surprise, then, to read Scott Norvell's comments in the Wall Street Journal on May 20th. Norvell is the London bureau chief for Fox News, and perhaps accidentally let the mask of impartiality slip a bit. He was comparing the privately-owned Fox to the publicly-owned BBC when he said, "Even we at Fox News manage to get some lefties on the air occasionally, and often let them finish their sentences before we club them to death and feed the scraps to Karl Rove and Bill O'Reilly. And those who hate us can take solace in the fact that they aren't subsidizing Bill's bombast; we payers of the BBC license fee don't enjoy that peace of mind. Fox News is, after all, a private channel and our presenters are quite open about where they stand on particular stories. That's our appeal. People watch us because they know what they are getting."

It's an interesting perspective, that. Indeed, Fox News is a private channel, and the glory of private ownership, like private property, is that the owner can do whatever he or she wants with it within certain limits. Yet the airwaves upon which Fox is carried belong to the people here in America; we gave those airwaves over for free a few decades ago, but still lay claim to a say in what goes out over them from time to time.

Again, however, there are no surprises here. Water is wet, the sky is up, and Fox News loves George W. Bush. The Wall Street Journal revealed in an article back during the late campaign season in 2004 which said, "Mr. Bush believes the key to victory lies in his party's conservative core. He gave a rare interview over the weekend to Fox News, a network sympathetic to the Bush cause and popular with Republicans." Not long after, the Journal ran a pathetically abject 'correction' which stated, "News Corp.'s Fox News was incorrectly described in a page-one article Monday as being sympathetic to the Bush cause."

The sky is at your feet, and water has turned to sand.

One has to wonder, sometimes, what this dedication to all things Bush costs the producers and on-air 'talent' of Fox News from time to time, especially when the Commander in Chief does one of his firebombing-of-Dresden jobs on the Queen's English. An example of this happened during a press conference on May 31st. Bush was asked to reply to an Amnesty International accusation about our prison in Guantanamo being a brutal gulag. Quoth Bush:

"In terms of, umm -- you know, the -- the detainees, we've had thousands of people detained. We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees. It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on, on the word of, uhh -- and the allegations -- by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble -- that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report. It just is. And, uhh, you know -- yes, sir."

The word he was scrambling for was 'dissemble.' That means not tell the truth. Right. Pass the Pepto, Mr. Hannity. Mr. Gibson has to try and make a silk purse out of this sow's ear.

Every once in a while, however, some facts slide through the filter. The Fox News internet site ran an article on June 1st which opened with, "A British government memo that critics say proves the Bush administration manipulated evidence about weapons of mass destruction in order to carry out a plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein has received little attention in the mainstream media, frustrating opponents of the Iraq war."

The article went on to detail the facts presented by the Downing Street Minutes - that intelligence and facts were fixed around the policy of invading Iraq, that the case was thin, and that any invasion was, in fact, probably illegal. The article even quoted one Dante Zappala, whose brother Sherwood was killed in Iraq. "My family knows the consequences of the decision they made to go to war," said Zappala. "I can't speak for what the TV news decides to focus their attention on. They seem to have a willful deference to all relevant information. I think they've really just dropped the ball on this."

Not to worry, though. It isn't as though people actually read anymore. Television is king, and the remote is right there between the couch cushions. Right at this moment, a Fox News talking head is lambasting Democrats in the Senate for daring to think they have a say in who gets appointed to the Judiciary. The sky is up. Water is wet.


William Rivers Pitt is the senior editor and lead writer for truthout. He is a New York Times and international bestselling author of two books - 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence.' Join the discussions at his blog forum.

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