Sunday, May 25, 2008

outfoxed - a movie review by pamplemousse

I have just finished watching a documentary called Outfoxed, which is a film concerning the media giant, Fox News.

I should explain that I, like the filmmakers, have a real problem with Fox. I hate everything about this media empire. I actually hate Bill O’Reilly. That is a powerful statement, because it is rare for me to actually hate anyone. In fact, true hatred for another human has only rarely popped up in my life. It has been primarily reserved for my ex-boss, also a person attempting to build a media empire with the same complete lack of journalistic ethics.

So I hate Fox News. So do the producers of this movie. Great. I should be onside. I’m not, however, fully sold on this production.

Here is what is good about the film Outfoxed: It generally speaks the truth. I am reminded about the rage I felt when I had to watch Fox everyday for work. The aforementioned boss was thrilled to be working with Fox and wanted all O’Reilly clips to lead the news, despite the fact that no actually news was present in the piece.

It was very good to hear former Fox employees speak about what it was like working for the evil media outlet. I like that, because to some degree, I can relate. Dealing with an unethical liar as a boss is very difficult to live with for a thinking human being.

I was moved emotionally and shocked, again, by the ridiculousness of propaganda and how people get away with lying to the multitudes of non-questioning sport fans in our world. (YEAH SPORTS! – I have nothing against sports for the most part. I just needed a non-specific way to identify the masses of which we are all in some way apart of).

All in all, the film is a good review of what is wrong with the US media system, specifically FOX NEWS.

Now for what doesn’t work.

The filmmakers are preaching to the choir. We must have Fox explain themselves. At least attempt to get O’Reilly to speak on camera, or Rupert Murdoch. I would like to hear another perspective, if only to knock it down. I would like to witness one of these big wigs squirm their way out of an honest interview. If Fox claims to be Fair and Balanced, which it is not, then you should strive to make your point that much more fair and balanced.

If you are going toe to toe with a media monster, you have to be able to differentiate your production from theirs, and do it well. That requires that to some extent, you play their game. Graphics have to be clean. The interviews have to be shot properly and have the subjects properly framed and lit. I am not a perfect camera person either, but giving a hippy a camera and letting them loose does not guarantee a good interview. This is my technical snobbery, but it does make a huge difference in how a film is watched.

It is as if some neo-hippies decided to take a swipe at Fox, which is exactly what is going on. I’m a little bored with the David and Goliath story. Time to at least act a little more professional instead of like the little engine that could. Most folks on the right expect that sort of image from the left. Surprise them with perceived competence.

What becomes more disturbing is to see the making of documentary about the documentary – such a strange concept. I do hope I am able to resist the need to include such a thing for any project I attach myself to. Should your work not stand on its own feet? Do you really need to explain your movie outside of an interview at a film festival?

The revelation of how the movie was produced really disappointed me. It was what I imagined. The producer did not seek out any honest Fox News fans, only people that hated Fox News. I would have gladly volunteered my services, having watched several stomach churning hours myself, but I would only echo everything the other viewers had said. Clips of the conference calls with their screeners revealed production staff giggling with glee at responses they had already predicted. They, like Fox, had already decided on the answer before posing the question. How embarrassing.

I feel sort of awkward bringing this up, but do all activists have to look like what the majority of right wing thinkers expect? Can you not be piano teachers from Berkeley? Can you perhaps own a suit? Be fit? Have a producer that insists on a good camera appearance? (This is no simple matter. Even the prettiest amoungst us needs makeup when the harsh video lights pop on.) Maybe at least one of the screeners could be of military serving age? I’m sure this seems very trivial, but there is a reason that lawyers put on a suit to go to court; people tend to take suits seriously, Birkenstocks and man purses less so.

I want to recommend this movie, as there is some great content, but as a whole it feels more like a activist poster. You know the kind. The ones that have sort of witty one liners about ‘I’d rather have my bush in charge’ with a crude drawing of a ladies upper thighs and pubic hair, or ‘no more blood for oil’, made in great haste with giant jiffy markers on poster board or floppy paper stolen from the office depot that some kid works at and held up with hockey sticks.

And I don’t need the feel good, go get ‘em message at the end with the inspiring music playing under the final 5 minutes. That is exactly the sort of thing Fox does, but they actually do it better. Don’t do it. End it honestly and bluntly. No music. I don’t want to see the manipulation from the left wing. I don’t want to be provoked into joining a group of angry protesters that snap fingers instead of clapping. I already did that in university. Didn’t change a damn thing except make me feel like a sheep marching behind some egocentric jerk, giddy with power and feeling overly righteous about it.

If people need to know what to do, then it is already too late for them, because if you want to avoid Fox News, you just need to switch your news source. See, you don’t even have to write a letter, or have a blog, or wish death upon the financial elite… just stop watching FOX. There is one thing that old Rupert does understand, and that is money. Take it away from him, and he will disappear.

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