Well, it’s here. And surprise, surprise, there have been no surprises. Fox News’s new business channel is, well, Fox-y; in other words, another source of biased, unreliable, chatter cluttering up the media universe and further dragging down the level of the entire conversation.
In the past, whenever the Fox News network has ventured into business reporting, it’s still been Fox News. A recent segment on Karl Rove’s resignation featured a graphic asking: “Karl Rove Leaving: A loss for Wall Street?” A similar graphic during a December 2006 report on global warming said: “Global Warming: Great for Business & Economy?”
So when Fox announced that it would start a “business-friendly” network featuring journalists that “don’t feel guilty about getting rich or being capitalists”—an implicit rebuke to CNBC for its alleged Bolshevik leanings—the question many people asked was: How could any network be friendlier to the rich and powerful than CNBC? (Just look at Maria Bartiromo’s relationship to Citigroup…)
Here’s how: A person watching the Fox Business Network this week would leave largely unaware of the seriousness of certain financial crises facing the country. In discussing the mortgage crisis and the upcoming bailout of the industry, Fox Business Network commentators carefully avoided the words “bail” and “out.” They rather optimistically reported that the $100 billion superfund created by the country’s three largest banks would “put a calming tone on the market” and would have a “real upside,” as if these were already established facts.
Of course no one made any mention of any Bush administration policies that might have contributed to the crisis, nor of the potential peril that still lies ahead. When a commentator ventured that the bailout process was “complicated,” he was quickly warned that there is “no jargon” on the new network. You read that right: In the universe of Fox business reporting, “complexity = jargon.”
The “no jargon” rule seems to be another of Fox’s reasons for being, as if Jacque Derrrida and Jurgen Habermas have been regular commentators over at CNBC. “We believe we can deliver business news in a Foxy way,” Alexis Glick, one of network’s anchors, told Fortune. According to Neil Cavuto, who is now the managing editor of Fox Business Network, that means, “keeping things in English, avoiding market jargon, avoiding big words, never using stock analysts.”
As Bill O’Reilly explained during a cameo on the new network, “You want to basically have fun.” And what if reality, particularly economic reality, turns out to be neither simple nor “fun”—particularly from the standpoint of Bush-loving Fox anchors. My guess is, that will be reality’s problem….
Misleading and oversimplifying are, alas, not exactly unknown to the Fox brand. According to a study by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes, people become more misinformed about the world the more they watch the network.
There is a pervasive and deliberate bias with Fox. As the scrupulously fair-minded reporter Ron Brownstein notes, “Through its language, its news decisions and its hosts—[Fox] generally functions more like a cog in the Republican message machine than as a conventional news organization that attempts to abide, however imperfectly, by the traditional standards of (yes) fairness and balance.”
Sadly, but not surprisingly, it seems that many of the main purveyors of “Foxiness” are moving right over to Fox Business Network. Media Matters has cataloged the rich history of misleading statements by some of the new Fox Business Network anchors and reporters.
Neil Cavuto, who has day-to-day editorial control at the new channel, is known for such gems as reporting that the New York Times was “in mourning again” as a result of the hanging death of Saddam Hussein. He also once claimed that “it is not great to necessarily hear [the Bush administration] is collecting our phone records, but it’s a heck of a lot better than collecting our remains.”
Brenda Buttner, a Fox News contributor who will host “Bulls & Bears” on Fox Business Network, once offered the economic analysis that the stock market would go down in the event of a terrorist attack in the United States, and then said, “Thank God and thank President Bush it hasn’t happened here yet,” adding that “they’ve (terrorists) been trying and President Bush has been trying to stop them despite the opposition of some very misled people.”
Now we’ve got a business news network telling people that global warming is good for business. If the station is in the market for a new slogan, I’m giving this one away free:
“Fox Business Network: The more you watch, the less you know…”
Eric Alterman is a Senior Fellow of the Center for American Progress and a Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College, and a professor of journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. His blog, “Altercation,” appears at www.mediamatters.org/altercation, His seventh book, Why We’re Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America, will appear early next year.
George Zornick is a New York-based writer.