In the Soviet Union, there were two daily papers known also here in the West: Pravda (Truth) and Isvestia (News). A popular Russian saying in Communist times translates as “In the truth there is no news, and in the news there is no truth”. Both publications showed one obvious rule: if you have to stress the apparent values of a media outlet, this may be because those values are questionable.
In the post Soviet era, we still have media outlets proudly trumpeting their values. But they are not in Russia, but the good old US of A. And they come to you courtesy of our old friend Rupert Murdoch: he has brought us Fox News, which proclaims to the world that it is “Fair and Balanced”. As the saying goes, methinks it doth protest too much.
Bringing up the Fox News website, you might notice adverts for figures on the political right: last time I looked, there was one for Newt Gingrich’s newsletter, and on a previous visit, one for Ann Coulter. Gingrich may be familiar to some: he was briefly famous when opposing Bill Clinton as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Coulter is not well known outside the USA, where her views include the idea that school shootings would be stopped if only the children attending them carried guns. After the 9/11 attacks, Coulter said of the terrorists that the USA “should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity”.
The presence of anything right wing oriented on the Fox News site should not surprise anyone. It has been revealed that the Bush White House gave Fox News talking points, in order to influence discussion and present a more favourable view of the Republican administration. And anyone believing that it might dare to hold the Murdoch empire to account would do well to consider yesterday’s appearance of the great man before news anchor Stuart Varney:
Varney: The story that's really buzzing all around the country and certainly here in New York, is that the News of the World, a News Corporation newspaper in Britain used –
Murdoch: I'm not talking about that issue at all today. I'm sorry.
Varney: No worries, Mr. Chairman. That's fine with me.
Murdoch: I'm sorry.
Varney: OK. That's all right, sir.
The idea that Mark Thompson would get similarly grovelling treatment from The Inquisition of Pax Jeremiah does not stand serious analysis.
Anyone still fancy a world without the BBC? Or a bet on Stuart Varney’s future?