Sunday, October 25, 2009

FOX vs. Obama

The Obama administration has recently called out FOX News for what it really is, with some administration officials calling it "the communications arm of the Republican Party."

FOX News fans haven't taken it lightly: some conservatives have suggested that the president is behaving in a Nixonian manner, creating an "enemies list" the same way the disgraced ex-president did. Some have even suggested his administration is suppressing freedom of the press and free speech in general.

Is the Obama administration doing the wrong thing here? In a way, yes -- their objections to FOX News may have distracted the public away from important issues. By creating a "war" between the network and the White House, Obama has shifted the focus away from these issues and placed himself at center-stage.

But it's not entirely unwarranted. FOX News really DOES seem to operate as the media arm of the Republican Party. The loony rantings of Glenn Beck, the misinformation or distortion of the facts that Sean Hannity unleashes daily, the beyond rational control-freak mannerisms of Bill O'Reilly...and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Criticizing the Obama administration is perfectly acceptable -- but FOX News is conducting an all-out assault on the president, and has been doing so since he became a viable candidate against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. They continued it into the general election, and have continued it still into his presidency.

The network's guests that have appeared since then have characterized the president as, among other things, a non-resident, a Muslim terrorist, a Maoist, a communist, socialist, fascist, etc., with very little objection from the anchors conducting the interviews. The stories themselves are hardly objective (something conservatives supposedly clamor for in the mainstream media) but instead show a clear bias against all things left of center, especially if it's related to President Obama.

The "editorial section" has a clear bias as well, which is fine (that's what an editorial is meant to be). Their bias, however, is usually based out of distorted facts, mistruths, and flat-out lies -- lies that never go corrected by these hosts.

So who started this whole mess? When FOX snubbed the Obama administration earlier this fall by not airing the president's speech to a joint session of Congress, the administration did not include FOX in its rounds on Sunday morning talk shows when Obama appeared on five different programs. Since then, the war on FOX has escalated, with FOX claiming a clear bias from the White House against their news organization (which is kind of ironic).

Obama's advisers aren't wrong to go after FOX (they have a right to be critical of the news organization just as the news organization has the right to be critical of them), but they're not doing anything good other than antagonizing an already energized base of conservative critics. Still, simply ignoring the criticisms launched against the administration may be a greater crime to commit -- FOX is disseminating lies and mistruths about the president and some reaction to it is certainly acceptable.

So no, the president isn't suppressing free speech, as some conservatives may argue. The administration is just fighting back against clear biases a conservative network news station is making -- often with little to no evidence to back those biases. After all, the freedom to speech extends to the office of the president just as much as it does FOX News. Until Obama pulls a "Chavez" (that is, physically takes the cable station off the air), such claims are bogus, and without merit.

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