False in Part, False in All

The moveon complaint against Fox News has hit the web, and it's chock full of twisted logic and out-and-out howlers.

Our friend CableNewser has gotten his hands on a copy of the complaint to be filed with the FTC by MoveOn.org (you know, the outfit who opposed going into Afghanistan and taking out the Taliban after 9/11). We've only had time to give it a quick scan, but in doing so, we immediately spotted a few choice bits of disinformation.

Oh they trot out the same four memos that the Outfoxed cabal relied on so heavily...the rest of the memos are conveniently not part of the complaint. They mention Tony Snow and Sean Hannity as partisans...but they conveniently omit Alan Colmes's endorsement of John Kerry (or for that matter Geraldo Rivera's blatant favoritism for Bill Clinton; has everyone forgotten his plaintive cry "I love you, Mr President"? And even after that, Fox hired him!).

Then they take a shot at The Beltway Boys, claiming that Mort Kondracke is a conservative! Of course Mr Kondracke, who calls Ronald Reagan a "second tier" President, is no conservative. But if you think this is ill-informed, wait till you see the howlers that follow.

The complaint alleges that "33% of FNC viewers believe (falsely)" that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, compared to 11% for NPR. Um, sorry guys. Biological agents have been found. Sarin gas has been found. Mustard gas has been found. The question didn't say "stockpiles".

But wait, there's more! "64% believe (falsely) that the US has found links between Iraq and Al Qaeda" compared with 16% of NPR listeners. Well, let's see. There's Al Zarqawi, Al Qaeda operative working in Iraq and given safe harbor there. Then there's the 9/11 commission that reported all kinds of links--both of its co-chairman chided the press for "getting it wrong" when headlines that said "no Iraq-Al Qaeda ties" appeared. I guess Lee Hamilton must have been misinformed by Fox News. Note that the question didn't ask if they had formed a corporation together, only if there were links. There were. (When two groups think the US is the Great Satan, is it surprising that they might car pool once in a while?)

This complaint should be nominated for a Hugo Award. Applying the legal principle of "false in part, false in all" to the factual basis of this document will make for a devastating reply from FNC.

Aside from the falsehoods and misrepresentations, the legal basis of the action is itself a very thin bowl of soup. They are reduced to arguing that a 30-second advertisement using the phrase "fair and balanced" represents a "material reason" for a viewer to watch Fox News. Now remember, anyone who watches Fox News gets it 24 hours a day, either via cable or satellite. Isn't it just possible that those 24 hours of programming, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, are what attract viewers, rather than a 30-second ad? Or perhaps they believe Rupert Murdoch is simulcasting mind-control waves underneath the signal, so that the minute someone hears the phrase "fair and balanced", they are hooked and can't turn away, regardless of the content on the screen.

The FTC itself states that they are concerned not just that a claim be "material" (here, dubious at best) but also the amount of injury to consumers' health, safety, or wallets. Yeah, FNC is bleeding people dry.

Prediction: this complaint will go nowhere...except onto the front pages of papers and into the hearts of conspiracy nuts and wacked-out websites everywhere. It's a blatant publicity stunt, intended to harass, with motives as transparent as a sheet of glass. Who is it now who refuses to "move on"?

posted: Sun - July 18, 2004 at 08:21 PM       j$p  send