Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Watching Fox

We got Fox News recently, when we got Sky Satellite TV installed. It's owned by Rupert Murdoch and it shows Fox News, the exact same feed as is broadcast across the USA, except the adverts are cut and replaced by a weather forecast (in Celsius).

Fox is strange. In the UK there's a law against political bias in news reporting, and we're not quite sure how it can be legal to show the Fair & Balanced channel in the UK. However IMO it's a stupid law anyway, and I've been watching countless hours of the Evil News since Katrina hit.

Fox is strange. It reminds me of watching state-owned TV in un-liberal countries where the TV acts as an arm of government propaganda. In particular it reminds me of TV in France. Back when they were nuclear testing in 1995, I went to Paris on business. I turned on the TV and saw pictures of anti-nuclear demonstrators brutally attacking and beating French policemen. I went home, turned on the BBC and saw pictures of French policemen brutally attacking and beating anti-nuclear demonstrators. I guess the truth was probably somewhere in between.

Fox is strange. Since 2001 I've often had a feeling like I'm living in a parrallel universe, the demented imaginings of some science fiction author, where the timeline has deviated from its 'proper' course (say in December 2000) and everything has gone wrong. Watching Fox reinforces this feeling - the tv series Star Trek: Enterprise did a two-parter before the series ended, set in a parrallel 'evil' universe, the Mirror Universe. They replaced the "peaceful exploration" opening credits with something featuring missiles, an M1 Abrahams Main Battle Tank etc, it looked a lot like the jingoistic CGI sequences linking Fox News items.

But the strangest thing about Fox is Shepard Smith. Most of the male Fox anchors are either fresh-faced preppies or if older they're sinister, cadaverous creatures like Brit Hume and the one whose hair is the same colour as his flesh. Shep is more on the preppy side, but he's from rural Mississippi and his style is certainly different. We first saw him on the Sunday before the hurricane hit New Orleans, reporting from a bar in the French Quarter. He was obviously drunk, and rather worried he wasn't going to survive. On Tuesday morning (Monday night US time) I saw him again, alive and happy because he was ok, and the French Quarter was ok too. Only the water was rising. Wednesday, Shep was on the I-10 interstate over the city, with the people who'd been sent up there. They were already starting to die. Shep was pleading for somebody to do something. He was practically crying. Over the next two days Shep continued reporting the horrors from the dying city. Even from his Fair & Balanced reports it was clear a disaster of monumental ineptitude was unfolding, and Shep was telling it like he saw it. The other Fox journos on the ground seemed to be giving honest reports too; those closest to the horror were clearly affected. Yet, weirdly, none of this seemed to be making any impact on the anchormen in the studio. If they seemed bothered about anything, it was the reports of "armed thugs" who were slowing the otherwise exemplary relief effort. Shep disappeared from New Orleans at the weekend, replaced by Geraldo. We assumed he was taking a break after the trauma, probably shattered both physically and emotionally. I knew from Fox's website he was normally an anchor. I wondered what he'd say when he got back to his desk. Would he rail against the blatant injustice of what he'd seen? On Tuesday, there was Shep in the studio, all suited up. He smiled blandly and presented for an hour, quite untroubled. It was very Stepford Wives-ish.

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