30 Sep 2009 8:10 am   //   Filed under: Media, TV

Fox & Frenemies

Item! A gym patron in Columbia, Maryland, named Ann Geddes (not the photographer!) is trying to get her gym to remove Fox News from the TV lineup in the exercise room. The Baltimore Sun.

Geddes and I disagree on this point. As I wrote back in November, I enjoy watching Fox News at the gym because it makes me angry, and anger helps me exercise harder!

Since November, however, I have changed my mind about something I wrote.

Back then, I said “Fox & Friends” has “shockingly sloppy production.” In fact, it has gotten better. The entire show looks and sounds sharper and more professional. On Monday they switched from 4:3 to widescreen. Somebody is putting money into this show.

My theory is that they’re saving money by cutting down on reporters. There are almost no remotes on “Fox & Friends” any more. Some mornings you can watch for a full half hour and never leave 48th Street. “Fox & Friends” has always been an opinion show disguised as a news program, but now it’s essentially not even bothering with the journalistic window dressing.

“Fox & Friends” feels like it’s scripted by an evil genius who is a master of rhetoric and human psychology. In a typical segment, the anchors spout fast bursts of facts, all of which are irrefutable, but which add up to nothing. Then they shrug their shoulders and basically say, “The people in charge don’t get this, because they’re fools.” That means: Apply this raw data to whatever nutty conspiracy theory you’ve got. Or be a fool.

The facts are gibberish, and the conclusions are never even spoken. They’re supposed to be our little secret. Out-of-touch people don’t know them, but you, the Fox News viewer, do. Here’s what you know:

  • You aren’t a racist. The black people in your neighborhood are good people. But the blacks in the city are bad and scary. Nobody knows what kind of black person Barack Obama is. That’s why he’s so dangerous!
  • Community organizers ruined the economy. Now they’re going to take away your medicine.
  • Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and Iran are setting a trap for Obama, and he’s going to fall for it. This could lead to global nuclear war—or worse, socialism!
  • White Christians are oppressed by secularists.

Then they spend 10 seconds on a wacky YouTube video. Then graphics. Then cut to a commercial for a diet plan or male enhancement product. Or my favorite, the commercial for the home security system in which a man in a dark hoodie forces his way into a McMansion on a sunny afternoon, while a terrified white mom and daughter cower in fear inside.

These days, “Fox & Friends” seldom dwells on Al Qaeda, 9/11-style terrorism, Iraq or Afghanistan. That’s old news. We don’t talk about the war anymore. Is this because Fox News ended up on the wrong side of popular opinion, and it’s un-American to dwell on your mistakes? I don’t think so. I think it’s just a ratings decision.

And FNC knows ratings. The top 13 programs in cable news are all Fox News shows!

“Fox & Friends” is so fascinating to me that I could easily write another 1,000 words about it. There’s a real threat to democracy here, but I’m not quite ready to articulate it yet. For now, this channel is just helping me stay in shape.