Banned on Boston

The Outfoxed gals and their cronies cry censorship--but there's something they're not telling you. Warning: includes spoilers for tonight's Boston Legal.

Tonight's episode of the ABC series Boston Legal is the subject of an artificial online firestorm, fanned by the Usual Suspects, including the newshounds (another fine product of the Outfoxed syndicate). The anti-Fox terriers screech:
Where is this censorship road taking our country? We must get off it. Now. Before it's too late.

Another newspups proclamation alleges:
The folks at ABC are not allowing the words "Fox News" or the name "Bill O'Reilly" to appear in the episode, which centers around a school principal's use of the FOXBlocker on all the televisions in his school.

And Jim Gilliam, the lefty moneybags whose out-of-pocket infusions of much-needed cash keep the hound site afloat, joins the Amen chorus:
So ABC ordered Kelley to remove all references to Fox News from the script....So in an ABC show fundamentally about the first amendment, ABC muzzles the show's creator to protect a competitor...

This particular take on the manufactured controversy has, of course, spread through the "progressive" echo chamber; it can also be found at Rory O'Connor's blog:
The final script – the one that was actually shot for the show that will appear on Sunday – has been thoroughly scrubbed on orders from top ABC network executives, and all mention of Fox News and O’Reilly has been sent down the Memory Hole.

Though Mr O'Connor's analysis is no more reality-based than that of the rest of the droids, he does provide a service by posting both the original and the revised scripts. Inspection of these files reveals a few interesting details.

For one thing, the episode does not "center around" this story line. It's only the B plot. The A plot deals with a 75-year-old man who wants to be frozen.

Furthermore, the frame being constructed for this kerfuffle--that ABC is trying to suppress criticism of Fox--is proven fallacious when the scripts are inspected. Because it's not just mentions of Fox that have been excised. For example:

Original script:

SHORE Did you attach any little CBS blockers to the televisions or is a liberal bias okay?
HARPER CBS certainly has a point of view. But--

is revised to:

SHORE Did you attach any little blockers to networks that lie about Presidents and, say, the National Guard?
HARPER I don't dispute there's a liberal bias, too.

And this original language:

SHORE: Last February, a deadly toxic known as Ricin was found in the mailroom of the Senate Majority leader, potential terrorism. CNN Headline News led with Janet Jackson's exposed breast.

is changed to:

SHORE: Last February, a deadly toxin known as Ricin was found in the mailroom of the Senate Majority leader, potential terrorism, headline news led with Janet Jackson's exposed breast.

Other specific names, like that of Howard Stern, were also deleted. And the following language disappears entirely from the version that will air tonight:

SHORE: The reason Fox is such a big threat is because they're popular. So much so that they've been copied by both CNN and MSNBC. CNN actually toyed with getting Rush Limbaugh to help capture some of Fox's market share.

Now if you're starting to get the idea that the changes made to this script were less about protecting Fox and more about not giving ABC's competitors free publicity--then you're getting the idea. The tail-waggers, their deep-pockets angel, and their comrades-in-arms are deliberately coloring the issue, painting it as a move to shield FNC. But they conveniently neglect to mention that ABC scrubbed all these other names from the script as well.

Hilariously, the newspoodles don't even understand the issues raised in the teleplay. Here is a portion of the judge's final ruling on this case (warning, spoilers ahead!):

JUDGE GREENBLATT Networks pander, some to conservatives, others to liberals...and I agree with Mr. Shore, it's probably more about money than ideology...But attaching a device to a television to block out a certain network because of its content, that seems to go too far. It's censorship. And I cannot let it stand. Motion for the plaintiff, is granted.

The entire thrust is a defense of free speech, but the oblivions over at the dog kennel just don't get it. They reprint an email from someone who asked their cable company to remove Fox News, and then approvingly gush:
You may want to consider trying this at home.

Yes, the newspups rail that we're on the road to "censorship", then without batting an eye tell their readers that they should ask their cable companies to censor FNC.

This contrived dustup, concocted to reinvigorate Fox-haters dispirited by FNC's increasing dominance in the cable news universe, is a genuine molehill-to-mountain metamorphosis. Both versions of the script make their points against Fox, whether or not the actual name is used; and they both make points against other news channels and networks as well. Fox fans may not find it a "fair and balanced" presentation, but it's a lot more evenhanded than the hysterical ranting that the noise machine has ginned up about it.

In any event, you can see the best of Boston Legal up near the top of our right-hand column. Now that's must-see tv.

posted: Sun - March 13, 2005 at 01:28 PM       j$p  send 

Agreed - I posted about this a few days ago when word first got out about it, but wasn't citing any censorship or anything, just that it seemed like ABC wanted references to other networks taken out of the script, that's all. Now I do believe there are slippery slopes of censorship going on in this country right now, but this certainly isn't one of them. Thank for your posting and update.
March 13, 2005, 1:44:20 PM EST – Like – Reply

Johnny: I laud ABC for at least partially reigning in Executive Producer David E. Kelly.
Anybody who ever watched "The Practice" knows that Kelly used the show, especially during the closing arguments of a trial to get in his political digs. I also do not believe it is a coincidence that all of his stars on The Practice , beginning with the screechy Camryn Manheim, are also active leftists.
As for tonight, I'm planning to watch the CBS movie about Mort Kondracke's wife "Saving Milly." I'll ask my girlfriend for a report on Boston Legal tomorrow morning.
March 13, 2005, 1:50:22 PM EST – Like – Reply

The newshounds say that the entire episode of Boston Legal is centered on Robert Greenwald's documentary "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" in which Walter Cronkite said that Fox has always intended to be “beyond conservative, a far-right wing organization.”
But according to Cliff Kincaid, in "The Politics Behind Fox News" on the "Accuracy In Media" website, August 24, 2004:
- Rupert Murdoch served as vice finance chairman for a Gore fund-raiser in 2000, and contributed $50,000 to the Gore campaign. 
- Rupert Murdoch signed off on a deal allowing the Democrats to use the Staples Center for the 2000 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles at no charge. That was worth $10 million.
- Peter Chernin (president and CEO of the Fox's parent company News Corp.) is listed as having raised over $50,000 for the Kerry campaign.
- As of June 1, employees of News Corp. and their families had given almost $350,000 in campaign contributions, 60 percent of which went to
March 13, 2005, 4:21:11 PM EST – Like – Reply

the last word was clipped: "went to democrats."
March 13, 2005, 4:22:28 PM EST – Like – Reply

Today I got the report of the Boston Legal episode. Although FNC was never specifically mentioned, there was no doubt what network was in question.
And although the principal lost the case and has to show FNC in the school, the dialogue from winning lawyer Alan Shore (James Spader) never defended Fox News Channel.
Finally, Carl Reiner, son of super lefty Rob Reiner, was a guest star last night. Not a coincidence on a David E. Kelley show where Candice Bergen, Ed Asner and Sharon Stone have also played supporting roles.
March 14, 2005, 7:25:08 PM EST – Like – Reply

Of course, Carl Reiner is the father of Rob Reiner.
March 14, 2005, 8:15:30 PM EST – Like – Reply