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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/17/09

How Fox News Became Vox Populi

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Message Dick Thomson
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I have no more love for cable tv "journalism" than I do for GE, Chevron or whoever else is approving their scripts. I do, however, find the recent shift in programming an interesting lens into how the corporate agenda adjusts to a shift in political power.

For 8 years of Bush, Fox News committed nightly war crimes by running interference for the administration and generally promoting the neocon agenda of an endless war on terrorism, poor people and civil liberties. During that time, Keith Olbermann was putting out scathing rebukes of the war in Iraq, interviewing people like Jeremy Scahill and Seymour Hersh, and generally headlining MSNBC's "opposition party" approach to news. I'll leave CNN out of this critique — other than Lou Dobbs, who has some pretty good stuff, they basically do tabloid journalism (Campbell Brown and Larry King talk more about Jon & Kate and UFOs than the economy) and "inside baseball" coverage of politics.

Recently, the tables seem to have turned. MSNBC is now circling the wagons around Obama's struggling presidency, and Fox News is loosening things up — yes, there's still a lot of xenophobia and flag waving, but they've basically purged the neocon agenda, and started to sound almost — progressive. A few examples:

O'Reilly — Last night, he and Dennis Miller spent 10 minutes bashing Wall Street and lamenting our military presence in Afghanistan.

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Hannity — had a recent rally in California to get public water turned back on for a drought-striken farm valley. Last night, he let Juan Williams defend Social Security at length. Bill Kristol seems to have been relegated to the Sunday morning Fox hate-fest.

Greta van Susteren — a great interview with Jim Traficant about the power of the Israeli lobby, IRS and Justice Dept. Maybe a little too much love for Sarah Palin, but she's okay on the whole.

Cavuto — More interviews with Nader, Kucinich and the like than any other station can claim.

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Beck — okay, time to lay off the ACORN, but he's done a serviceable attempt at creating a corporate-friendly facsimile of the Alex Jones show. His agenda is still Republican, but his viewers may be learning a few things about the military industrial complex and corruption.

Of course, I'm leaving out the bad stuff, but this is a pretty significant shift from beating the war drums.

How about MSNBC?

Morning Joe — he's a free market bozo, and the show is a parade of IMF and Council on Foreign Relations spokespersons. I get it — Richard Haas thinks we need predator drone strikes on Pakistan. He does have some good guests like Matt Taibi and Anthony Weiner.

Dylan Ratigan — this guy's alright. I don't watch his show, but have seen a number of clips where he's making effective critiques of Wall Street.

Chris Matthews — see "Morning Joe". He's another demagogue windbag who lets his show get dominated by people like Chuck Todd. His evening show is a shout-fest and his sunday morning show is the McLaughlin Group.

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Ed Schultz — who?

Rachel Maddow — Rachel is okay. She's had pretty good coverage of single-payer healthcare, criticized the president's "preventive detention" policy, asks a few questions about Afghanistan, and had a really interesting show on "The Family" with Jeff Sharlet, but she spends more time goofing off than talking about Wall Street or unemployment.

Olbermann — for me, the biggest disappointment. Last night, he spent half the show bashing Glenn Beck and the other half interviewing members of Monty Python. Without Bush, he's not sure what to do. Seems to have stopped discussing issues and focused on nitpicking Republican charactures like Beck, Limbaugh and Palin.

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Dodd out. Your turn, Mr. Nader.