More of the Same
Watching Robert Greenwald's "Outfoxed" with a MoveOn.org crowd at the Peace House.
3:30 PM, Jul 19, 2004 • By ERIC PFEIFFER
ON SUNDAY NIGHT, liberal activist group MoveOn.org organized more than two thousand screenings across the nation for op-ed filmmaker Robert Greenwald's assault on Fox News Channel, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War On Journalism. The DC Metro area played host to 16 screenings, with some 800 registered attendees.
With the end of the Sopranos season, my Sundays have been devoid of mob mentality, so I signed up to join the festivities. Unable to resist the masochistic temptation, I registered for a screening at an indigenous cooperative proclaiming itself the "Peace House."
Arriving on the scene, I was greeted by a large German Shepherd sleeping next to a Beware of Dog sign in the dwelling's open doorway. Above the door's mantle, the words "Peace House" were painted in green and yellow block letters. Behind me followed a married couple, slightly passed middle age, dressed in matching khaki shorts and white t-shirts, with Kerry/Edwards buttons fastened in bold display.
Approximately 20 of us had gathered for the show. Over the following 90 minutes I was educated on the insidious tactics employed by Fox News. Did you know, for example, that Bill O'Reilly often shouts? Perhaps more shocking, was the discovery that some former employees of the Fox empire were disgruntled when they left their jobs. However, worst of all was the revelation that conservative pundits are given airtime to match that of liberal pontificators on the nation's most watched cable news network. Something must be done.
Former Fox News producer Clara Frank explained to us the "most outrageous" moment in the network's history came in 1999 when Special Report anchor Brit Hume openly advocated for NBC News to air its interview with Juanita Broderick. Granted, Frank admits much-respected NBC veterans Lisa Myers and Tim Russert also advocated release of the video. But as Frank told it, "To even have an anchor going on the air wearing an American flag pin can be a problem."
Vermont's congressman, Bernie Sanders, seethed as he lamented Fox's success. But refusing to succumb to despair, he notes, "Thankfully, in the past year or so, progressives have been making their own strides in getting on talk radio and cable news. We don't yet have our own political plan in place, but much progress has been made." MoveOn.org is surely part of that progress--the group provided most of the funding for Outfoxed's $300,000 budget.
Also onscreen were Eric Alterman, David Brock, and Al Franken, who appear in succession attesting to the wicked nature of conservative media. Socialist media advocate and Free Press co-founder Robert McChesney goes a bit further saying, "This is precisely the prescription for what a press system should do according to Goebbels in the Third Reich."
In recent days, Outfoxed has received its share of criticism. Director Robert Greenwald admits that he used all of the Fox News footage without the network's consent. After the New York Times ran a glowing, in-depth profile of Greenwald, FNC spokeswoman Irena Briganti accused Times editor James Ryerson of limiting her network's response time to under 24 hours, "He said it was part of the deal we made with the subject that we would hold off on contacting you." Ryerson responded, "I can't remember what exact conversation we had. We certainly contacted Fox News and gave them plenty of time. She may have misunderstood something."
Outfoxed relies heavily on memos circulated by Fox News VP John Moody that Greenwald claims show an editorial bias in dictating the day's coverage of events. However, USA Today revealed that Greenwald intentionally excluded a number of Moody memos instructing reporters to give equal time and credence to speeches given by John Kerry and "not overdoing" credibility given to Kerry critics.
After the movie finished, I made my way across town to Visions Cinema, which also hosted a showing of the film, where Greenwald and Al Franken were conducting a video conference beamed to several of the screening locations. I expected to find a ravenous crowd of hissing twentysomethings. Instead, the loudest sound coming from the theater lobby was a collective order to hush.
Most of the audience had stuffed itself into the bar area, where six smaller televisions and one giant projection screen had been switched to a National Geographic Explorer documentary entitled Girl Power, examining the sexual prowess of female fish, primates, and birds.
Eric Pfeiffer is a Senior Writer for National Journal's Hotline.