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Friday, December 6, 2013

You just can't believe what Fox News says

Fox News is obsessed with Obamacare. (photo: Fox News)
Fox News is obsessed with Obamacare. (photo: Fox News)

Fox News: Now the Anti-Obamacare Propaganda Channel

By Reed Richardson, The Nation
30 November 13

he evolution hasn 't been overnight, but if you spend any time watching Fox News nowadays the endstate is unmistakable. When it comes to the network 's cable and online programming there are now but two overarching rules in place.

1) Take every opportunity to bash Obamacare.

2) When covering anything else, see Rule #1.

Anecdotal evidence of Fox News 's willingness to obsess over Obamacare to the detriment of other big news is aplenty, as I documented after sitting through six hours of Election Night coverage earlier this month. Ironically, the network 's fixation on the President 's healthcare reform law that night caused it to be late to the game in adopting the mainstream media 's McAulliffe-almost-lost-because-of-Obamacare meme. (Which was total bunk.)

But the most damning proof of this now singular devotion to all-Obamacare, all-the-time coverage comes in statistical form. A quick term search on FoxNews.com, for example, offers up a revealing pattern on the number of stories posted there for the past year/month/week/day:

Obamacare 1698 427 88 18
NSA 716 92 12 1
Benghazi 792 60 7 1
IRS 503 46 14 5
Budget deficit 467 18 2 0

As each of these much-touted-by-the-right-wing "scandals " have withered and died on the media vine without bearing fruit, the alleged horrors of Obamacare have been planted by Fox News to take their place. So much so that Fox 's Obamacare coverage now even eclipses cataclysmic worldwide tragedies like Typhoon Haiyan. Just how dramatically out of whack Fox 's news judgment is was quantified by Pew Research study last week. In tracking 20 hours of programming across five days in mid-November, Pew found Fox News devoted nearly eight hours - almost 40% of its entire newshole - to just one issue: Obamacare. As for covering the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in decades, Fox News devoted just six minutes of airtime - the equivalent of two commercial breaks. (Even opinion-heavy MSNBC spent 41 minutes covering Haiyan, and just over three hours on Obamacare.)

To be sure, Obamacare is a big story and some critical media coverage of the botched Healthcare.gov rollout is certainly warranted, as are questions about the president 's "If you like your plan, you can keep " broken promise. But fair-minded accountability journalism is not what Roger Ailes is trying to achieve with his network 's rabid focus on Obamacare. It 's not the quantity of Fox News 's coverage that 's problematic; it 's the quality. Or should I say lack thereof. When taken as whole, Fox 's news products have clearly metastasized into a toxic media mass of one-sided hyperbole, willful misinformation, and outright anti-Obamacare propaganda.

Consider these "fair and balanced " headlines - some "news, " some opinion - from just the past few days: 

"Obamcare Forcing People into Medicaid "
Or my personal nominee in the could-have-run-on-Free-Republic category:

But buried below the rampant bias evident in these headlines are even more misleading talking points. In the Medicaid story from above, for instance, the writer stokes fears of Obamacare by citing a flawed, oft-debunked study that suggests that Medicaid patients die twice as often as those with private insurance. (Here 's why that 's wrong.) And my favorite wingnut-special column from above throws everything but the socialized communal kitchen sink at the reader, whether it 's tired canards like "Chicago-style corruption " and "replac[ing] free markets " or actual falsehoods like Obamacare is ballooning healthcare costs (nope), and the law has ignited a wave of businesses hiring part-time workers (sorry).

In the past week, however, Fox News 's radically dishonest coverage has moved beyond to surreal to the absurd. Now so blinded by its outrage over the healthcare reform law, the network 's programming can no longer see anything else as but a reflection of Obamacare. Of course, the Iran nuclear deal was the big news over this past weekend, but even above and beyond the network 's standard bellicose blovation [a sample chyron: "Sucker 's Deal "], Fox News is there to remind viewers that it 's all just a transparent attempt at distraction.

There was half-term Gov. Sarah Palin on Fox News Sunday singing this same song to host Chris Wallace about Senator Harry Reid 's exercising of the "nuclear option. " But when, in the midst of his obsequiousness, Wallace actually pointed out to Palin that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says Obamacare will give healthcare to 30-million uninsured Americans while the latest GOP plan would only cover three million, Palin 's misdirection-as-response was the very definition of tinfoil-hat chutzpah. First, she dismissed the CBO 's numbers as unreliable and then had the temerity to call it a "sad state of affairs " that "a normal American " such as herself has to be so cynical about government. And, for that matter, why hasn 't Obama ever proved that his FEMA re-education camps don 't exist? Probably because if he did, it 'd all be part of grand scheme to…you guessed it…distract from Obamacare 's failures.

Sure, Fox 's lukewarm embrace of Obama conspiracies is nothing new. But still, it 's a wake-up call to our discourse when former President Bush spokesperson and U.S. foreign policy history buff Dana Perino prefaces a question about the timing of the Iran deal to conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer with the always responsible phrase: "I 'm not the biggest conspiracy theorist, but… " 

As you 'll no doubt be shocked, shocked to learn, Krauthammer agreed with her implied suggestion that this whole diplomatic initiative with Iran was little more than a panicked put-on by the White House. And who could argue with his logic, particularly since he does such a fine job of it himself: "They clearly were in a hurry, though they probably would have gotten here with or without the collapse of Obamacare, but it sure gave them an extra incentive to get in a hurry because they need any distraction, any distraction possible for a government in collapse. " So, not even credit given for being an efficient appeaser? Tough room.

OK, so what? Fox News long ago - like since its first day on the air - cast aside any pretensions about objectivity to promote its owner 's and president 's political preferences. And Obama 's presence in the White House has only turned that latent animosity up to 11. But when a network so fully walls itself off from impartiality and honesty, it really does matter, particularly when one political party is so in thrall to their propaganda that it bases its dogma on it.

Case in point, only minutes after the nuclear deal with Iran was reached on Friday night, Republican Senator John Cornyn was Tweeting this: "Amazing what [White House] will do to distract from [Obama]care. " And as the Washington Post 's Greg Sargent noted, Republicans - just like before the 2012 election and during the government shutdown last month - are again cocooning themselves inside a parallel universe where the Obama-is-doomed storylines on Fox are pre-destined to occur and unprecedented obstruction of the government is a winning strategy. In the long run, they 'll be sorely disappointed once again, but thanks to Fox News, our nation will have to suffer through Republicans making the same momentous mistakes once more.

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