Monday, July 21, 2014

Week of 07/21/2014

The Fox Crier Hypocrisy
Two hundred and twenty-five years ago this year… earlier this month as of this column’s publishing… French citizens stormed the fortress and prison known as the Bastille.  This began the long quest for freedom from French aristocracy known as the French Revolution, as well as the prologue to “The Terror” that would last pretty much until the end of Napoleon’s reign in 1815.
Prior to this event, there was a failed effort to bring American-style democracy to the French people.  Having helped America free itself from the tyranny of Great Britain, French people decided they too needed to be free from the tyranny of aristocracy and the Catholic Church, both of which held a stranglehold on the country.  Although the legislators were stymied by debate, forces loyal to both the conservative elites – otherwise known as the “Second Estate” – and the supporters of the masses, or the “Third Estate”, began positioning themselves and gathering arms and soldiers to stop what many saw was a building coup.
The Bastille itself was not being used as much of a “prison” when it was stormed on July 14th, 1789.  There were only seven actual prisoners there at the time.  But in addition to the arms and munitions stored there, the Bastille was infamous for being the preferred place to lock away the people that the “Second Estate” considered to be a threat.  Basically it was the Guantanamo Bay of its time.  So the “Storming of the Bastille” was really done for symbolism; as a way to say “no more” to the abuses of the elite.
For over two hundred years since, the French people celebrated this day just as Americans celebrated the Fourth of July as a monumental period in that country’s history.  A day symbolizing freedom from tyranny.
The irony was not lost, however, in how I was reminded of the importance of that day on its two-hundred-and-twenty-fifth anniversary.
I was reminded of the day by… of all places… Fox News.
Shepard Smith was wrapping up his show with his “On This Day” segment.  As Fox personalities go, Shep is tolerable.  He doesn’t read from the Fox script too much.  He’s not trying to re-write history to suit the GOP.  In fact, on more than one occasion he called out some of the GOP myrmidons on their garbage.  Anyway, it was Shep that was reminding me that it was 225 years ago that the French peasants, upset at the abuses of King Louis XVI, staged a revolt at the site of the largest abuse of government power at the time and kicked off the French Revolution.
But what got to me wasn’t the messenger or the message… but the specific medium.  Specifically, Fox News.
Why does it bother me, you ask?
Well it bothers me because of their recent history of dealing with people protesting the abuses of power by an elite few.
Let’s go back a few years, shall we? 
Large groups of people were upset at the ruling class and their ongoing abuses.  They gathered in various cities across America to voice their dissatisfaction, but most notably their presence was known in front of the source of our collective misery: Wall Street.
Hence their name: Occupy Wall Street.
How did Fox News handle this news?  Were they as “fair and balanced” as they continually claim to be?
Well in all fairness, it depended on which “personality” was covering the story.  But for the most part, they weren’t on the side of the modern-day “Third Estate”, seeking justice and a redress of their grievances with the “Second Estate”.  They painted the “Occupy” crowd as a bunch of clueless lazy liberal socialists and communists demanding something for nothing.  They were seen as rabble-rousing anarchists looking to overthrow the whole economic system simply because of a few “bad mistakes” made by so-called “job creators” in lending money to “deadbeats”.  And some of the personalities rejoiced when New York City’s notorious jackbooted thugs-with-badges moved in to remove the supposed “troublemakers”.
“The Occupy movement is dead” proudly and pompously proclaimed their prime-time personality.
It seems impossible to believe their arrogance until you keep in mind that Fox News is owned by News Corp and Rupert Murdoch, who also own the Wall Street Journal and the Dow Jones.  In other words, they are Wall Street!  They were the ones being protested against!  They are the modern-day “Second Estate”!
And that should make you wonder just how they would have reported the Storming of the Bastille when it was happening.  Given how certain personalities handled the “Occupy” movement, do you really think that “Ye Olde Fox Crier” would have been on the side of the Third Estate then?  Do you really think they would paint the scene the same way as Shepard Smith would two-and-a-quarter centuries later?
I’m thinking… no, they wouldn’t.
I’d be more inclined to think that “Ye Olde Fox Crier” would be condemning the Third Estate for their “treasonous actions” against the whole “Estates of the Realm”.  They might even accuse the “rabble-rousers” of being in league with the dreaded King George III of England, their old enemy, as revenge for helping out the American colonists.  They could even paint the commoners as “lazy good-for-nothing deadbeats that want something for nothing”, since their chief complaints at the time did involve the abysmal conditions they were left in while the First and Second Estates (church and nobility) were living comfortably.
While this is all just speculation on this commentator’s part, it is based on a simple truth when it comes to media groups such as Fox News: that despite their promises of reporting on the truth and “nothing but”, that they are really supporters of the status quo.  And when given the choice between our modern-day Second and Third Estates, the so-called “Fourth Estate” would rather side with the Second over the Third any day.
Let’s get brutally honest here… the modern-day multimedia world of news is, at the end of the day, just a business like any other.  They need to make money to survive.  Fox News certainly wouldn’t want to be on the side of the people criticizing Wall Street, since a major part of it is owned by their parent company.  That’s financial suicide for them.
And it’s not just Fox News.  MSNBC and NBC are owned by Comcast.  CNN is owned by Time Warner.  ABC is owned by Disney.  CBS used to be owned by Westinghouse and Viacom before finally splitting off to form their own company.  But none of them are really in a position to bite the Big Corporate hands that feed them.
Of course it’s easy for a cable news service like Fox News to talk about the plight of struggling commoners when the struggle is long over with and the commoners were victorious.  There’s nothing on the line for them then.  Just don’t expect that media to be as supportive of those struggling commoners when history repeats itself in the here and now.

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