Friday, November 6, 2009

White House's Over-the-Top Message Control

At first, I dismissed the importance and relevance of Robert Gibbs's remark about Fox News Channel. I figured it was a one-time jab and that would be the end of it. Then, as members of the "real" media followed-up and Gibbs still didn't back down, I began to think they were approaching a very fine line to "chill" Fox's First Amendment protection, which is very dangerous ground to tread.

And now there's this:
At least one Democratic political strategist has gotten a blunt warning from the White House to never appear on Fox News Channel, an outlet that presidential aides have depicted as not so much a news-gathering operation as a political opponent bent on damaging the Obama administration.
This news is brought to you not by Fox News, National Review, or the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, but the Los Angeles Times.

So, let me get this right. Not only is Fox News just an arm of the Republican party to attack all things Obama, but now the administration has decided to tell it's own supporters that they shouldn't appear on Fox to give their views--in essence, enforcing the one-sidedness of their channel?

Look, nobody with a brain thinks Fox doesn't cater to the Right. But this doesn't automatically disqualify them from being a news organization any more than MSNBC's leftward tilt disqualifies it. Fox is the highest rated cable news network, which means that the White House's efforts are aimed at depriving the largest single cable news audience of certain points of view and information. Why on Earth would the White House do this?

As I've said before, I abhor most television news. It's shallow, vapid, and more style than substance. That said, this continued assault on Fox begins to look less like a petty vendetta than it does programmatic message control. I'm not going Godwin again, I'm just saying that nothing good can come out of stifling discussions and threatening your own partisans for appearing on a network that caters to a wide audience.

I have no particular affinity for FNC--indeed, I find some of their programming repugnant. But these efforts are moving beyond spin control and are moving ever-closer to illegal and immoral governmental disruption of activities explicitly protected by the First Amendment.

This needs to stop now.


Amy Y said...

I think you made a very good point ... about how the highest rated news station is not being given the opportunity to give voice to both sides. I think it's a little less dramatic than trying to stifle first amendment rights though... typically when a left of center representative is featured on FNC, they tend to be screamed at, mocked and/or degraded. So perhaps the thinking is that that kind of left of center representation doesn't actually portray the viewpoints and opinions and statements properly? Just a thought...

JPB said...

Fox's reporters were initially kept out of a press briefing until the other media outlets objected and they were let in.

That's barring access to a credentialed news organization, thus impinging on the free press.