In the Henhouse

Regarding the latest kerfuffle between the White House and Fox News….

First, the mission of Fox News–like every other television news agency in the known universe–is to attract viewers and sell advertising. Journalism is not a mystical calling.  Cable news programs do not provide either their hosts, guests, or viewers mystical enlightenment. CNN, MSNB, FOX, and Al Jazeira do not compete for TRUTH they compete for viewers. If Fox News leans to the right, it’s because that’s the market niche they’ve focused on. Rupert Murdoch is a businessman; if he could make more money by pandering to the left, he would. Why does Fox News lean to the right? Because that’s how they make money. Fox News is winning the competition for ratings. The White House is probably helping.

Second, the White House is behaving boorishly.

As ridiculous and offensive as some Fox “personalities” are, none of them wield a terrible swift sword. Barack Obama commands enormous actual power–he’s Commander in Chief of the U.S. Military. Fox News is a freaking television show. In his capacity as Chief Executive, the President exercises prosecutorial discretion over the entire federal legal apparatus. If you don’t like the President, tough. If you don’t like Fox News, change the channel.

Finally, so what if Fox News is partisan? Are we supposed to imagine that the White House isn’t partisan?

If democracy is ever to work (an open question) it requires vigorous debate. Not more toadying.


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