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USA 2004
Directed by
Robert Greenwald
77 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Cynthia Karena
3.5 stars

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism

Synopsis: The charge is that Fox News is nothing but a propaganda arm for the Republican Party, a claim advanced primarily by screening clips of presenters, analysing Fox TV content and interviewing past Fox employees who talk about how they were forced to play up a right-wing approach if they wanted to keep their jobs.

In the past, political documentaries preached their message to the converted, but the trend is now to try to persuade the general public, as in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, Mark Archbar's The Corporation, and now Outfoxed, an excellent, well-researched documentary.

Yes, it is relentless in pushing its point, but it is convincing. It is breath-taking to see how one TV station in America is manipulating the news to such extremes, embarrassing that it's an Australian who's done it, and frightening to think that journalism in Australia could go down that same slippery path. Reporters don't give sources for their comments, instead using expressions such as "some people say" as their authority. There are also leaked memos from senior management that dictate the views of presenters, telling them how and what to report. Basically, right wing bias replaces news.

Assertions by Fox presenters, like the countdown of days "until President Bush is re-elected", are regularly screened as fact, whilst everyday, Fox apparatchiks are supposed to find some event, newsworthy or not, to make Bush appear Presidential, and make John Kerry look inept. In one interview, a Fox host turns abusive and aggressive when the interviewee, whose father died in the World Trade Centre attack, has the nerve to oppose the war on Iraq, shouting at him to "shut up" and that his father would be ashamed of him. An amazing 'interview' that is mind-blowingly bereft of any journalistic integrity.

As was demonstrated in Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick's 1992 documentary, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, current affairs programs are skewed by having mainly conservatives being interviewed, and to maintain some semblance of balance (laughable though that concept is at Fox), choosing mostly scruffy and ineloquent liberal (left) interviewees as their opponents.

For the most part, Outfoxed is a talking heads documentary, with none of the Moore flourishes of comedy. However, the content is disturbing, and that's what makes it well worth watching.




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