Michael Moore, if nothing else, has contributed greatly to the
transformation of the documentary into an accessible, marketable
and politically influential genre of film. Director Robert
Greenwald’s (“Uncovered: The War on Iraq”)
“Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism” is
another raw and dissenting piece of filmmaking that seeks to
refute, through interviews and footage, FOX News Channel’s
“Fair & Balanced” tagline. Though not necessarily
objective, “Outfoxed” works well as a refreshingly
academic argument against the cable news media stranglehold.

Film Reviews

Flanked by footage of vitriolic outbursts from FOX commentators
like Bill O’Reilly and interviews with former employees and
media experts, “Outfoxed” utilizes spartan techniques,
opting out of elaborate montages and the sort of gonzo journalism
preferred by documentarians like Moore. Greenwald lets the primary
sources — interviews, clips, graphs and copies of internal
FOX memos — do the talking while he endeavors to make a
profound argument against a network that has thrived for several
years as the purported “victim” of a witch hunt by the
“liberal media.”

Partisan though Greenwald’s project may seem,
“Outfoxed” works more as media criticism than political
ploy. The vast majority of those interviewed by Greenwald are media
critics (Jeff Cohen, Eric Alterman, etc.) and more derision is
reserved for FOX’s unprofessional tactics than its
conservative message. Examples of memos from FOX producers
demanding that their reporters not pay too much attention to the
Abu Ghraib scandal and speeches on Iraq by John Kerry are followed
by interviews of former FOX employees who claim to have been
victims of “Stalinist” management practices. At one
point, a former consultant for FOX is essentially fired for not
referring to suicide bombers as “homicide bombers.”
Greenwald excels by focusing on FOX’s ethical dereliction
rather than Rupert Murdoch’s personal politics.

For all the damning evidence, though, “Outfoxed”
stumbles into unnecessary partisanship that damages its impact by
devoting a disproportionate amount of time to FOX’s handling
of the war in Iraq. Although effective in his criticism of
FOX’s foolhardy dedication to presenting a rosy image of life
in Baghdad, Greenwald nevertheless damages his argument by using
interviews that do little else but criticize the Bush
administration’s handling of the conflict.

Despite its few failures, “Outfoxed” still manages
to effectively criticize FOX’s biggest draw. No segment is
more profound than a clip of Bill O’Reilly lashing out at the
peace activist son of a Sept. 11 victim. O’Reilly flails
around, whines and interrupts the man at every opportunity, before
ending the interview and seeing off the man with an expletive-laced
tirade.

Through “Outfoxed’s” analysis of
O’Reilly and FOX’s other “news analysis”
programs, Greenwald introduces the hypothesis that FOX’s
failures, and cable news’s failures, as well, are the result
of over-reliance on similar shows that reward mindless arguing and
target short attention spans. FOX is worse than its competitors,
according to Greenwald, because it has assimilated analysis into
every news broadcast.

“Outfoxed” thrives in adequately reproaching FOX by
utilizing a plethora of interviews and disheartening FOX News
footage not simply to prove that FOX News is a conservative
organization, but rather to show the extent of its partisanship.
Though cable news, in general, is in dire need of rebuke, Greenwald
passionately claims that no media outlet has done more to damage TV
journalism than FOX, and, based the film’s myriad examples,
he may be correct.

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