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Barely Legal: Now 18 years old, the Fox News Channel Trots On

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"When I design my army I will reign because I have more beefs than Saddam Hussein" -- Hip-hop artists Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth from "Mecca and the Soul Brother"

Let's keep it real: no one need ask the "army" designed by Roger Ailes over at the Fox News Channel, "where's the beef." For Fox, the question has always been: "Where's the journalism?"

Beef? Fox has got beef by the ton -- much of it over stuff as pointless as how terribly offended they were at the sight of our president holding a jobs report held together -- by a paper clip.

It's that kind of head-spinning, stomach-turning pettiness that could make a first-time Fox News Channel viewer re-check his program guide to see if instead of bringing up a news channel he had inadvertently tuned in to a crazy new reality show, perhaps named: "The Perpetual Pity Party of the Absurd."

One can just imagine his bewilderment once it's realized that what he's viewing is light years away from reality.

Welcome to Fox News.

Even if, during this departing Christmas season, there remain some Americans who still question the existence of Santa's elves, the existence of a seething mass of addled-out Fox News Channel stoners -- that predominantly red state army of enthusiastically misinformed Fox-only news junkies whose brains need Fox much in the same way a zombie needs brains -- is without question. We know they exist because, unlike Santa's elves, we've all seen a few.

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Which is why it is important that "normals" know that now, beating up on Fox News can no longer be considered an act of child abuse. That's because the Fox News Channel -- conceived by Ailes and birthed by Rupert Murdoch -- is now officially of legal age, having turned 18 just this past October 7th. To put things into perspective, CBS News is all of 87 years of age; NBC News is 73 and ABC News, 71.

But woe unto the optimists: those semi- or non-partisans who, at the time of the Fox News launch, held out hope that over the course of time, the newcomer would become an added plus in the world of broadcast journalism. That it would -- by emphasizing conservative viewpoints -- become a legitimate gateway to enhanced social and political exchange and augment the landscape of what some consider a narrow, liberal-focused "mainstream" media. The inclusion of Catherine Crier and Mike Schneider in an early on-air line-up highlighting staunch conservatives Bill 'O'Reilly and Sean Hannity helped establish hope that the new network's hard news reporting, news analysis and political punditry would present unsullied conservative insight the traditional way: through thoroughly-sourced, facts-based journalism. Indeed, Fox practically demanded this expectation from us. Its debut promised something we now know to be among the most blatant bit of hallucinatory self-flattery imaginable: "NEWS: FAIR AND BALANCED."

Instead, for the past 18 years, we trustingly-naive fools -- yes, I among them -- have had our mental faculties henpecked by a steady barrage of regurgitated wing-nut mumbo-jumbo and GOP talking-points. What we got was just a much bigger and more powerful megaphone for the right-wing echo chamber. Probably within 18 seconds into its launch 18 years ago, the Fox News Channel's place in journalism became at-risk for an asterisk.

In short notice, it became obvious that Fox News trots in a direction diametrical to that taken by any news organization on a legitimate mission to accurately inform. And sure enough, 18 years later it's beyond trite to point out that Fox isn't journalism but rather a marketing platform calculated to cultivate ignorance through a muddled, nearly satirical interpretation of "fair and balanced."

Keep in mind that "some say" Fox News is the "toy department" of broadcast news and consider TMZ as wielding far more credibility as a news organization . Those suggestions can't be too far off. It's now clear that Fox has become the principal vehicle of right-wing news and opinion to those prone to flights of revisionist fantasy. After all, what news organization other than Fox has an entire World Heritage Encyclopedia page devoted solely to its controversies?

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Of course, the case that Fox is no place but a showcase for partisan GOP and conservative political advocacy rather than a legitimate broadcast news organization was pretty much made ten years ago when Robert Greenwald released his documentary "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism." But as it has turned out, we probably didn't need what Hannity might call "a liberal hack" like Greenwald to prove Fox's journalistic nefariousness. From the onset Fox has pretty much admitted to it. In 2003, a Florida Court, ruling on a case that began in 1996 -- the year Fox was launched -- unanimously upheld Fox News' contention that there is "no rule against distorting or falsifying news in the United States."

No rule against it? From here that sounds barely legal. However, to a news organization with a conservative political ax to grind, when translated as: "ethics don't matter when rules against unethical behavior don't exist," it probably sounds good enough to Fox for a victory dance coupled with a squealing, Paris Hilton-esque primal scream: "SCORE ONE FOR THE CONSTITUTION, BITCHES; IT'S JOURNALISTIC FREEDOM OF SPEECH, FOX NEWS STYLE!!!"

And while you're at it, score another for the self-proclaimed "Most Trusted Name in News." To any purported news organization that views evidence-based journalism as a terrifying conflict of interest, such a ruling is -- as Joe Biden would probably say -- "a big fuckin' deal!" Damn right it is! It's like granting the owner of Kinkos the legal right to print and spend counterfeit money. Meanwhile for Fox, the moment that ruling was issued, the familiar " we distort; you decide" taunt of its critics became far more unequivocal.

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Anthony Barnes, of Boston, Massachusetts, is a free-lance writer who leans toward the progressive end of the political spectrum. "When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to (more...)
 

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