I do have two problems with it. First off, they sell it to America as news – their version of the truth. And secondly, half of America isn’t in on the joke… they believe every big fat sloppy lie served up.
I realize that the likes of Al Franken, Bill Maher, and Jon Stewart have already trod this path and mapped it out quite well. Stewart, in particular, manages to wring out the most from the stupefying rhetoric that falls from the lips of the Fox News pundits. And thanks to his efforts – at least half of America is ‘in’ on the joke that is Fox News.
That said, I’m very curious what our social/political world will look like 20 years from now (providing that global warming – which is a bunch of hoo-haw according to Fox News – doesn’t finish us off before then). It should prove very entertaining in a distorted, funhouse mirror sort of way. Research by Jody Baumgartner and Jonathan S. Morris of East Carolina University found that nearly half - 48 percent - of college-aged people watch The Daily Show, while only 23 percent of show viewers followed "hard news" programs closely.
I wonder if Fox News is included in that ‘hard news’ bunch. I hope so. Given the history of T.V., it should make for a very Fellini-esque 2028 election year.
If the history of our media has taught us anything it is that once a concept is established and successful it will more than likely continue to proliferate until its original attributes are completely exploited and stretched to ridiculous lengths.
Look at America's love for reality T.V. It began innocently enough back in 1950’s with shows like What’s My Line?, and Kid’s Say the Darndest Things. This evolved into programs like Real People and That’s Incredible – vignettes featuring tiny slices of odd lives.
The invention of the home video camera led to America’s Funniest Home Videos (not in my book) and shows of that ilk. It was about this time that the practice of truth manipulation came into play. America was no longer content with just watching incidental accidents or life as it happened – they began to create it.
Enter the MTV Generation, (No, really? Is there such a thing?), which took it to the next level by cramming a group of mismatched socially maladjusted individuals into a really ‘cool’ apartment and then ‘standing back’ to watch the resulting emotional fireworks. This is the same network that then allowed Johnny Knoxville and his cohorts to bash each other in the athletic cup until they keeled over in ‘laughter’.
Seeing gold in them there hills, Network T.V. jumped onto the bandwagon, spinning off in all sorts of directions with a myriad of celebrity-minded (talk show circuit, product spokesperson, Playboy layout) contestants willing to do anything (eat bugs, live underground with potential psychopaths, play tasteless practical jokes on their unsuspecting parents, have their face and body carved up by plastic surgeons, etc.) all in the hopes of ‘winning’.
I haven’t kept track of who won. (Except for the Survivor contestant who was recently arrested for shooting a puppy ON PURPOSE with a bow and arrow) (All the major networks are planning spin-offs of this reality concept for next season - Kitten in a Blender, Gerbils Eat Their Young, America's Funniest Slaughterhouses, etc.).
But I do know who the big losers are: the viewing public.
These shows exist because they offer unscripted moments of the human condition in all its tawdry rawness (manipulated by crafty editing and producer ‘suggestions’ of course).
These shows exist because people watch them. Yes, we love it when contestants lie, lie, lie.
Lie like dogs. Lie like Kenneth L. Lay. Lie like Tom DeLay. Lie like O.J.
In Reality: These shows exist because they are cheap to make.
The same can be said of Fox News. Fox’s News shows exist because it is much more entertaining and less-expensive to just make up the news (lie) rather than report facts and do research to support those facts. Every Fox News story is the same news story. They serve up the same turd – which they call ‘truth’ - wrapped up in an American flag over and over again. And should some bit of actual truth leak in via a guest politico, that same turd – still wrapped in the flag – is wielded like a club by members of the Fox ‘News’ team to reprimand the offending guest and keep America safe.
The Daily Show does the same thing, but their turds are usually provided by Fox News. The Daily Show merely removes the flag, exposing them for what they are – big logs of bodily waste. And while the talking heads at Fox masquerade as news reporters dishing nothing but the truth – the real truth (is that an oxymoron?), The Daily Show clearly defines itself as a show of political satire.
Both are joking. Right? Right. Ohhhh…. Riiiiiight!
I wish that Fox News would let the other half of America in on the joke. But that would require Fox News to get the joke. Fox News does not get the joke. Fox News has no sense of humor (unless you think of Hannity and Colmes as a sort of modern day Punch and Judy show). They can’t afford one. They have Anne Coulter on the payroll (those identical little-black dresses don't come cheap). They have Bill O’Reilly (vibrators, loofah sponges, sex shows in Thailand, phone sex - I could go on and on, but, tastefully, I won't). They have the aforementioned Sean Hannity (hair gel, puppeteers, ghost writers, enough said). With all those egos vying for airtime… oxygen must be in short supply.
As for those of us in on the joke? We can all breathe easy. At least until 2028, by which time reality and the truth will have been skewed broader than Mary Worth’s face on a wad of silly putty.
It won’t be a pretty sight either.