Monday, October 19, 2009

What is the Point of Attacking Fox?

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Fox News, the Obama administration’s repeated assaults on the cable news network are unwise and bad for the country. Over the past few weeks, members of the Obama administration have gone on the record attacking Fox News. Amongst other statements, David Axelrod has said “It’s really not news. It’s pushing a point of view,” while Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has said that Obama does not want “the CNNs and the others in the world [to] basically be led in following Fox.”

These attacks are unwise for the Obama administration. They accomplish little except to galvanize support around (or against) Fox News and draw partisan lines in the sand. For an administration that apparently strives for bipartisanship, getting mired in the muck with Fox only speaks of desperation and partisanship. The battle has only been a boon for Fox, while making the administration look foolish.

The continuation of such desperate behavior emphasizes the perceived threat the administration feels from Fox. Fox News has revealed numerous scandals and stories, such as ACORN and Van Jones, which are damaging to Obama. The administration’s attacks read as a response to the political costs wrought by Fox News. This not only adds a level of legitimacy to Fox’s reporting, but makes the administration appear as if it is trying to portray a false image to America by demonizing its enemies rather than actually dealing with real issues. Neither is a perspective that the administration wants to foster.

More concerning is the fact that the executive branch is attempting to quash anti-administration (if they may be called that) perspectives. While certainly not yet violating freedom of the press, the administration is treading on dangerous ground. Freedom of the press is one of the most prized rights. Americans of all stripes bristle when it is attacked. Even if the administration’s indictments of Fox News are entirely correct, its behavior is not. No government should be meddling with the news sources that its citizens choose to use.

An open society has numerous voices and perspectives, some of which are correct and others which are not. No news source can be free from biases. Since every incident entails interpretation and perspective there is no such beast as completely objective news. It is up to the consumer of news – the voter – to distill and analyze the multitude of news. Accuracy and correctness will be awarded; while bogus news outlets will be marginalized. The government, and any other body or individual, can choose to play a role in the competition of ideas; however, it can not rightly use its power and position to attempt to silence a perspective that it does not like. Such abuses of power are characteristic of third world military dictatorships, not the United States of America.

Fox News may or may not be what the administration claims it is. Regardless, it is a voice in the mix. Obama’s administration would be wise to drop the attacks on the network; if not for the sake of fostering an open society, then at least to preserve its own image. Let Americans decide for themselves what they want to hear and from whom. America is educated and mature enough to judge Fox for what it is.

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