Murdoch in the Morning, Part II: Watching Fox

Published: Tue 26 Jul 2011 11:07 AM
Murdoch in the Morning, Part II: Watching Fox
Friday 22 July 2011
by: William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed
File this under "Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time." I did a running diary of the Fox News coverage of the Murdoch hearings in Britain on Tuesday, and thought it would be a fine idea to watch Fox for a few hours on Thursday to see how often they talked about that testimony, as well as the whole phone-hacking scandal. I decided to re-create a "Watching Fox" running diary I did ten years ago.
What follows is a blow-by-blow breakdown of my Thursday with Fox News. I lasted as long as I could, and I'm not doing it again for another ten years.
10:00 a.m. - Bring the pain. First thing on is a commercial attacking Obama for the health care bill. But here's the funny part: the voice-over says "My mom's Medicare is going to be cut..." but I guarantee I'm about to watch a day of Republican congresspeople arguing on camera to do just that in the debt-ceiling fight. The cognitive dissonance did not wait around to make an appearance.
10:01 a.m. - The "Cut, Cap and Balance" bill is up in the Senate. Romney is now tied with Obama in the presidential race, according to a "Democratic-leaning polling agency." Rich Lowry of the National Review comes on to say Obama will lose to any "acceptable Republican," which means (if you read between the lines) that Romney is not acceptable. Lowry thinks Pawlenty has a chance, and even squeezes Palin's name into his assessment.
10:05 a.m. - A "disturbing report": billions of U.S. tax dollars intended to rebuild Afghanistan may have wound up in the hands of extremists. To paraphrase, no, this is not a repeat from 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, or Iraq.
10:07 a.m. - The Wasserman-Shultz/Allen West dust-up comes up for coverage. Allen West (R-Nuts) says "Don't poke me in the chest." OK, I won't.
10:08 a.m. - Cut to a NASA news conference on the shuttle's final flight. The still pictures of the nighttime landing are pretty incredible. I will miss the shuttle flights. My grandmother took me to a launch when I was a kid. We were on a beach well away from the tower, and the ground shook when the launch took place.
10:11 a.m. - A video of Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Tea Party) is shown, in which he tells Obama to stop lying, that letting the debt limit slip is no big deal, and yes, Fox will have him in the studio shortly. This should be good.
10:12 a.m. - Commercial break, including an ad for a Jeb Bush interview with Sean Hannity on who he thinks will beat Obama in 2012. Fox News: Your GOP Campaign Headquarters!!!11!1!!11!
10:15 a.m. - Ha! They just showed pictures of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski! I just time-warped twelve years into the past. Cool...gonna go buy some Apple stock.
10:16 a.m. - Damn. Back in the present again. 63% of Fox News viewers think the debt limit is no big deal. Here comes Rep. Joe Walsh to make the case: Obama is lying, Social Security checks are going to go out. "My obsession is the debt crisis," he says. "August 2nd doesn't scare me." A graphic of the debt clock spins merrily above his right shoulder. He is gathering votes to oppose the McConnell plan in the Senate, which is funny, because all the signatories he has collected are in the House. Are they going to bring a Democrat on to counter his arguments? Sorry, forgot where I was for a second.
10:20 a.m. - "A fair and balanced debate, straight ahead." But first, more commercials.
10:23 a.m. - Oh, and P.S.: not one word yet about the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal, the testimony from yesterday...nada, zip, zilch, not even a pity-piece about the pie attack.
10:25 a.m. - Lindsey Lohan is back in court, and Fox is all over it. But wait, here's something really important: a report on the NFL lockout, which could end today. The Fox Network shows the NFC games during the regular season, so this is a pretty big deal for them. Losing those games will cost them an ocean of money. Plus, I love football.
10:28 a.m. - Democratic Senator Kent Conrad erupted on the Senate floor, attacking the "Cut, Cap and Balance" bill in pretty vigorous terms, and Fox is eager to cover that...but first, Kim Kardashian's lawsuit against a look-alike, and a flying car that may be coming to a neighborhood near you...and another commercial.
10:32 a.m. - Here is Conrad, who called this bill "the most ill-considered legislation I've seen come from the other side." Rep. Cantor (R-Tea Party) predictably lashed back, calling the Senate a failure for not passing the bill...even though they haven't voted yet.
10:33 a.m. - Kim Kardashian is suing Old Navy for using a look-alike in an ad. They're showing the whole commercial, and are now discussing the merits of her lawsuit. I'd much rather hear about this than Conrad's Senate rant. Yes, they have a "legal panel" to discuss it. Let's see how long they spend on this.
10:38 a.m. - Wow. Longest segment of the morning. They finally finished with Kardashian, cut to a shot of a bear in a swimming pool, and we're off to another commercial.
10:41 a.m. - A Vegas store is selling flat-screen TVs for 99 cents. Now they return to Allen West, who is presumably not being poked in the chest. He speaks like someone in the military, he explains, which makes everything OK...and this from the guy who left the military on an Article 15 judgment after torturing people. A Fox talking head says his behavior is acceptable because Democrats are bad people who lie about everything Republicans are trying to do. Also, the rules of decorum for House members are stupid, legislators should be allowed to speak bluntly...unless they are female Democrats. Makes perfect sense, or something.
10:46 a.m. - Still no mention of the phone-hacking scandal.
10:48 a.m. - "Are our playgrounds too safe? Are we not letting our children explore their fears?" More on the flying car, with the soundtrack from the Jetsons playing in the background, and another commercial.
10:51 a.m. - Pelosi and Boehner will be giving pressers soon, but here we go again with the flying car. "What is this car capable of doing?" can fly, dude.
10:55 a.m. - More commercials. Man, what an interminable hour. I'm beginning to realize why I haven't done one of these for ten years. ;kjfwbhv9'hioun...that was Boomer walking on my keyboard. I think he wants me to stop. I think he has a point.
11:00 a.m. - Covering the heat wave, and then another shot of a bear that crawled into someone's swimming pool. "America's Newsroom" comes to an end, and we're on to "Happening Now." A graphic shows that 60% of Fox viewers are against raising the debt limit. 55% think nothing bad will happen if they fail to raise the limit. 100% of William Rivers Pitt thinks these people are hopeless nincompoops, no graphic available.
11:03 a.m. - "Are we safer" after the bank bailout last year? And we go off into a long rant against any kind of financial regulation or reform. The Consumer Protection bureau takes it in the teeth (oh, and P.S., if you're reading this, Elizabeth Warren, please run for Senate in Massachusetts...please please please).
11:06 a.m. - 33 states are under heat warnings, 22 people have died, and roads are melting in Louisiana. Yeah, I can dig it; it is positively abominable outside here in Boston. Hmmm...swelter and maybe die outside, or watch Fox in the air conditioning? Death or Fox...a tough choice.
11:07 a.m. - No mention of the phone-hacking scandal. In case you were wondering.
11:09 a.m. - More on the final flight of Atlantis, more footage of the last landing. Fox manages to bend this story around an argument that Obama is a job-killer.
11:13 a.m. - Viewers get to choose what to cover: a long traffic jam, how long would you live with a snake, and what Santa Claus does in the off-season. Go to and vote. Um, no. And another commercial break.
11:16 a.m. - Onion headline: "Congress Continues Debate Over Whether Or Not Nation Should Be Economically Ruined."
11:17 a.m. - Steve King (R-Tea Party) says Obama intends to "punish America" with the debt ceiling. Once again, Obama is a lying liar. This whole thing is his fault and his doing. "The president is going to teach us a lesson for asking him to hold down spending." Will anything bad happen if the debt limit isn't dealt with? "A responsible commander-in-chief will service our debt and pay our troops. Obama has not done this. He is playing politics." People who don't want us to raise the debt limit are on the right track. My brain has begun to slowly, sedately leak out of my right ear and puddle on the floor.
11:22 a.m. - Thank God, a commercial break. Must wipe up brains.
11:25 a.m. - The Boehner presser: no tax increases involved in the debt limit. He praises "Cut, Cap and Balance," and presses the Senate to pass it...but somehow, "the ball is in Obama's court." Wow, Fox cut him off after less than a minute and cut to a report on the NFL lockout. No, Fox viewer, you are not allowed to hear your own leaders talk about your future...and, yeah, they never bothered to show Pelosi's presser.
11:29 a.m. - In San Diego, a dead child and a hanged woman in a mansion coming up in a moment, but first, more commercials.
11:32 a.m. - New York Times: "Even though many on Wall Street believe that a default remains unlikely, the financial markets are starting to become agitated. Volatility in stocks has soared, and some investors say stock prices are falling because a United States default could severely raise companies' costs of doing business. In the Treasury market, investors are starting to sell, fearing that the government will not make good on some interest payments that will be due next month. And complex financial instruments that will pay out if the United States defaults have become twice as expensive to buy as they were at the start of the year."
11:33 a.m. - Rasmussen has Texas governor Rick Perry five points behind Obama for the 2012 election. Perry hasn't even announced yet, which is proof positive for Fox that Obama is doomed. Bachmann got the same number. Romney leads Obama by one point, but that doesn't matter, because Romney isn't a real Republican, or something. Fox viewers think taxes on the middle class will go up if taxes on the wealthy are raised. The burns.
11:38 a.m. - A report on Obama's 2012 fundraising. If you pay the campaign $5,000, you get to hang out with a bunch of White House insiders. Fox is insinuating that any sort of fundraising by Obama or any administration officials is tantamount to stealing.
11:41 a.m. - Still nothing on the phone-hacking scandal.
11:44 a.m. - Fade into commercial break to "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey. I wish this show would end the way The Sopranos did. Abruptly.
11:45 a.m. - Wow. An AARP commercial against cutting Social Security and Medicare. Surprised they let that one slip through. Cognitive dissonance strikes again.
11:47 a.m. - NASA is planning to send another rover to Mars. George W. Bush will be pleased. A NASA scientist says Mars may have had life before Earth, and actually may have seeded Earth with DNA before there was life here. Fox-viewing Creationists just stabbed their eardrums with holy icepicks. Fox talking head: "I like that tiny moon thing out by Pluto." And we derp our way to another commercial break.
11:54 a.m. - More on the missing money in Afghanistan. "There have been many reports of this in the past," but we don't talk about that because, well, nothing bad happened during the Bush administration. Nothing bad! You hear me? Nothing!! "Is this money winding up in the hands of terrorists?" the talking head asks. "Well, no, there's no proof," is the reply, but we're going to talk about it anyway.
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11:57 a.m. - Fade to a commercial break to some song called "Touch Me," with the image of a TSA scanning machine.
12:00 p.m. - They just showed an ad for a cruise with the writers and staffers of The Weekly Standard. "Cruise with conservatives under a warm Caribbean sun!" OK, that's it, I'm taking a break.
12:35 p.m. - Had some lunch, watered the plants, punched myself in the face a few times, and it's back to the Thunderdome. Democratic Senator Shaheen of New Hampshire is on trying to pitch for the "grand bargain" plan, including the increase in tax revenues by way of closing loopholes. The talking head is pressing her on balancing the budget, and she says we have to be bi-partisan in the process and be willing to compromise and negotiate. She's never been to the House, it seems.
12:38 p.m. - More on the Allen West flap. He won't apologize. Don't poke him in the chest. West Tweets that it is an insult to the country to keep focusing on this, which is probably why he went on TV to talk about it some more. Next segment: "Playground Peril," but first, a commercial break.
12:41 p.m. - Naomi Klein: "Using a trumped up crisis to raid the public purse and attack the basic rights and benefits is a very old trick - but rarely is the shock doctrine tactic wielded as brazenly as in the pseudo debate about the debt ceiling. This is naked class war, waged by the ultra rich against everyone else, and it's well past time for Americans to draw the line."
12:45 p.m. - Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) is on to pitch "Cut, Cap and Balance." He finds the Senate to be a useless place where he can't get what he wants. The bill has "bi-partisan support," he says, apparently referencing the five Blue Dogs who supported it in the House. He says it again, and again, so it must be true. "The markets will leave us" if we don't pass this crazy bill...meanwhile, Wall Streeters are buying bomb shelters in case they do actually pass it. Hm.
12:50 p.m. - Finally, something important: safe playgrounds, are they too safe? Madonna sings "This Used To Be My Playground" as we fade to commercial. Time for my first beer. I'm pretty sure it won't be my last.
12:52 p.m. - Rush Limbaugh: "They're playing games with us on this heat wave, again. Even Drudge. Drudge getting sucked in here. Going to be 116 in Washington. No, it's not. It's gonna be like 100, maybe 99. A heat index, manufactured by the government to tell you what it feels like when you add the humidity in there." Thank you, beer.
12:54 p.m. - Here we go with the playgrounds. Are we making them too safe, denying our children the chance to learn through the agonizing pain of broken limbs? Basically, safe playgrounds are a wimpy liberal ploy. I knew it. And we go to another commercial break, this time with an ad for gold investments. Glenn Beck is pleased.
12:58 p.m. - Still no mention of the phone-hacking scandal. I left the TV on when I took my break, and even then, no word.
1:00 p.m. - Fox viewers have voted, and the video of choice is the massive traffic jam, which I think is an eerily accurate metaphor for Fox viewers' mental processes. We're on to "America Live" with a platinum blonde talking about the heat wave...but but but Rush said it was a government-manufactured hoax. I'm so confused.
1:03 p.m. - Bear in a swimming pool again.
1:05 p.m. - The unemployment numbers are in, and they are decidedly un-good. "We've been sidetracked by the debt drama," says one Fox reporter. No, really? I thought this was the most important issue in the history of the galaxy. Must be Obama's fault...yup, it is. "High unemployment means lower tax revenues," but aren't taxes bad? Help?
1:07 p.m. - Standard & Poors is going to meet with House Republicans today on the debt issue. I suspect a very vigorous spanking is in the offing: "Are you people F-----G CRAZY??!!?!"
1:08 p.m. - Back to the San Diego death mansion. "Naked and bound and hanging from a balcony." Big developments here. Obama probably did it. Thank you, beer.
1:12 p.m. - Giant dead fish washed up on a beach somewhere, and a missing mother of triplets is still missing. More on this...after some commercials.
1:14 p.m. - Boston Globe: "A new insurance program for long-term care may fall casualty to the so-called 'Gang of Six' plan to address the federal deficit. A little-noticed provision of President Obama's health care overhaul established a voluntary insurance program for in-home care in which individuals would pay premiums, then receive cash benefits should they become disabled and unable to perform basic functions like eating or dressing themselves. The bipartisan group of senators trying to develop a compromise to allow the president and Congress to raise the debt ceiling would repeal the program."
1:15 p.m. - The final Atlantis landing again. Tom Jones, former NASA astronaut, comes on to talk about the future of space exploration. We're apparently going to rent some Russian space vehicles to get to the international space station...wha wha? A poll praising President Kennedy on space travel? Write it down, folks: a Democrat just got praised on Fox. Good thing we're going to commercial again. I have to recover from that.
1:25 p.m. - John Huntsman's campaign manager just quit. And the GOP presidential field gets even more deranged.
1:26 p.m. - WHOA! PHONE-HACKING SCANDAL REPORT!!! They're discussing the testimony on Wednesday from Murdoch, Brooks and Cameron. "No inappropriate discussions took place," says the talking head. The investigation is widening beyond News of the World to other newspapers like the Mail and Mirror. Thanks to Parliament going on recess, there will now be "a little less hot air on the issue." Holy crap, they actually brought it up. I'm stunned.
1:27 p.m. - A teaser about the hikers who went over the Yosemite waterfall, and off to a commercial break. I'm still flabbergasted. They talked about the scandal. It actually happened. This agonizing day of unrelenting crap has not been in vain.
1:31 p.m. - Fox News poll says half of America thinks Obama is making the economy worse. Important words: "Fox News poll." Lars Larson, radio host extraordinaire, goes off on a frothing, spittle-flecked hate frenzy: "Obama is causing fear and uncertainty...higher taxes...the president himself is to blame for the economy...thousands of jobs lost because there's no oil drilling in the Gulf..." Etc. A somewhat-lefty guest is trying to get a word in edgewise, only to be cut off by a tag-team of talking heads who say Obama is to blame for Borders bookstores closing. Larson: "Regulations are crushing American business...ObamaCare is going to kill a lot of businesses...raising taxes is bad..." And the righties get the last word.
1:37 p.m. - The Yosemite hiker tragedy. Terrible story. Don't step over the railing, folks. That's why it's there. Upcoming stories about a leopard attack and the missing mother of triplets, but first, a commercial break.
1:42 p.m. - Here's the "Obama's gonna cut my mom's Medicare" commercial again, followed by an ad for buying silver and gold. Thank you, beer.
1:45 p.m. - The parents of the missing triplets mom are in the studio. Apparently her estranged husband drives by and flips the finger to volunteers who are looking for his wife. The Fox people are grinding these people's hearts into the studio floor. After six agonizing minutes, they finally cut to commercial. Ugh.
1:54 p.m. - Here we go again with Allen West, who thinks talking about this flap is an insult to the people. He'll be on in five minutes to talk about it some more. We move on to the body of some big sea creature that washed up on the beach, 30 feet long with lots of teeth. It could be a long-finned pilot whale, or a killer whale, or Glenn Beck. We report, you decide. Leopard attack report coming up, but first, more commercials about buying gold, starring none other than G. Gordon Liddy. Thank you, thank you, oh thank you beer.
1:56 p.m. - New York Times: "The Obama administration has informed Democratic Congressional leaders that President Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner were starting to close in on a major budget deal that would enact substantial spending cuts and seek future revenues through a tax overhaul, Congressional officials said Thursday."
2:00 p.m. - Another report on the looming Standard & Poors meeting with House Republicans, "especially the House freshmen." A Fox reporter on Capitol Hill calls the meeting "pretty remarkable," which should receive an immediate vote for Understatement Of The Year. The S guys are going to have a Come-To-Jesus conversation with these nitwits, and I would give half the blood in my body for a chance to be a fly on that wall. Cut to Senator DeMint (R-Dumb) demanding that Democrats pass "Cut, Cap and Balance" in the Senate.
2:04 p.m. - The government "has run a deficit every year since 1970, except for four years." They don't mention those four years, because that was when Bill Clinton was president. Funny how they skipped that bit. More shilling for "Cut, Cap and Balance" from the talking heads...with a sudden segue to the Allen West flap, again. And here he is to talk about it, even though it's an insult to the people to talk about it. "The DNC sent out a mailer with my Social Security number, and Wasserman-Schultz organized a protest outside my campaign headquarters," he says. All I want to do is poke him in the chest.
2:10 p.m. - Will West be at the S meeting? No, he has to go defend veterans from Obama...oh, and S is wrong, anyway. "Cut, Cap and Balance" rules his mind, and your world. Will the Tea Party House freshmen stand by that bill, even if S beats them with sticks? Blame Obama and the Democrats. Derp Derpitty Derp.
2:12 p.m. - The American power grid is under strain from the heat wave, the leopard attack is coming up, and we'll hit the San Diego death mansion again...but first, buy gold. From G. Gordon Liddy. Brain leaking again...pzzzzzcheeeeeezzzzzz...
2:16 p.m. - A cheating scandal in an Atlanta public school is going to cost some teachers their jobs, which, according to Fox, means all teachers are liberal leeches who suck. Back to the San Diego death mansion, and a rehash of everything they've talked about twelve times already today.
2:20 p.m. - For the record, there was that one 30-second report on the phone-hacking scandal, and nothing since.
2:21 p.m. - More on the heat wave, and the talking head risks the wrath of Rush by mentioning the government-hoax heat index. Another teaser for the leopard attack, and we're off to the gold store again.
2:25 p.m. - Finally, the leopard attack. Apparently the big cat ripped up eleven people in India before they finally killed it. Reminds me of Boomer. A report on cops who shut down a lemonade stand somewhere. Try to contain your shock, but they've cut to another commercial for gold, "because America is failing." I'm losing my will to live.
2:31 p.m. - Boston Globe: "House Speaker John Boehner predicted Thursday that a majority of House Republicans will end up supporting some kind of compromise as the Senate began debating a House-passed effort to tie an increase in the debt ceiling to conservative demands for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution." They haven't mentioned this yet on Fox, so it must not be true.
2:32 p.m. - Again with the Fox News poll that says 60% of Americans are against raising the debt ceiling. "60%!" exclaims the talking head. Pollster Frank Luntz is on talking about funny commercials that try to convince people that the debt-limit thing is no big deal. According to Luntz, Democrats are more against raising the debt limit than Republicans. Oh, also, water is dry, the sky is beneath your feet, and the moon is made of morphine.
2:36 p.m. - I really want to go to the moon.
2:38 p.m. - Weather report. It's hot.
2:40 p.m. - The Mayor of London is apparently annoyed with Obama over parking tickets. Another teaser on the cops shutting down the lemonade stand. More commercials.
2:43 p.m. - Here's a report on the Obama-Boehner deal mentioned above, with word coming that any new tax revenues in the deal won't come until next year. I know it's Fox, but this I unfortunately believe. "But now this also very important story," says the talking head, immediately jumping to the lemonade stand that was shut down by the cops. There's a car show a block away from where they're selling the lemonade, and the city council said that's a no-no. I'm going to eat my own teeth in a minute.
2:48 p.m. - Back to the alleged Obama-Boehner deal, and the upcoming sit-down between S and the Tea Party House freshmen. Moment of sublime humor: "Our next guest, John Stossel, is coming on to tell you why you should question many of the things you've been told." I have no words, and we're off to more gold commercials.
2:51 p.m. - "A Congressional aide briefed on ongoing negotiations between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama says the two principals may be nearing a 'grand bargain' to raise the debt limit which would contain large, set-in-stone spending cuts but only the possibility of future revenue increases. 'All cuts,' the aide said. 'Maybe revenues some time in the future.' The status of negotiations has Democratic aides on both sides of the Capitol nervous and unhappy. And the notion that the impasse over the debt limit may be nearing an end is sparking denials from both the White House and Boehner's office - in part, perhaps, because neither side has buy-in from their parties on a consensus plan." Hulk smash.
2:53 p.m. - John Stossel comes on to say all of American history is wrong. "I was taught that unions help the poor. That's not true! I was told that politicians change history. But historians say that politicians' sex lives mattered just as much!" My skin tries to crawl off my body and flush itself down the toilet as the talking head host says, "We've got a sexy Stossel coming up."
2:57 p.m. - One more time with the "Obama killed my mom's Medicare" commercial.
3:00 p.m. - New show, same story: the San Diego death mansion. One 30-second mention of the phone-hacking scandal in five hours.
That's it. I'm done. Thank you, beer.
William Rivers Pitt is a Truthout editor and columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.

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