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The EditorsNovember 29, 2010

Gigabytes of cyberspace have been squandered on Internet musings over the Democrats’ 2010 rout. Multiple explanations are offered: The devastated economy and high unemployment did them in; those devilishly capricious independents deserted them (again); progressive Christians who felt ignored and Medicare-anxious seniors stayed home or tilted right. But the post-election tea party would not be complete without an overloaded platter of campaign cash.

Some will point to the stupendous failure of a few big-spender candidates to flat-out buy elections—$140 million spent by Meg Whitman alone—to suggest that the voting public can still see around piles of campaign cash. But the threat posed by money to the legitimacy of our democratic process is real, despite such isolated failures as Whitman’s in the California governor’s race and Linda McMahon’s $40-million Senate run in Connecticut. More than $4 billion was spent this year and the amount of “secret money” apparently doubled. Crafting new legislation to define practical limits on cash in contemporary politics has become crucial in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Unfortunately, the major beneficiaries of the cash torrent from corporations and anonymous plutocrats will be the ones charged with reassessing the role of money and power in our democracy.

Also worth a hard look is the evolving role of media in our democracy. The activist role taken by Fox News deserves hard scrutiny. Print media are on the ropes. That is injurious to the state of American democracy, because historically it has been through print journalism that voters could find reasonably thorough analyses of political positions, agendas and the social ills confronting the nation. Now too many Americans get their daily news exclusively from Fox, which has been known to devote an entire 24-hour news cycle to nonevents or completely fictitious “news,” like reports of the purported $200 million-a-day cost of President Obama’s trip to India.

Fox News’s size, its ubiquity, partisanship and cavalier disregard for facts make it the country’s problem. What does it mean for a democracy when just about every potential candidate for the presidency from a major national party is on the payroll of one media baron? From Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin to Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, Rupert Murdoch has Republican candidates locked up in his stable of commentators. The prospect of a Silvio Berlusconi-type news mogul running the show from Washington for his own amusement and aggrandizement is unlikely, but that may be only because Mr. Murdoch was not born in the United States. Nonetheless, this powerful man is capable of pulling strings quietly from the sidelines of the nation’s political contests.

Fox News employees have raised and donated millions to Republican Party candidates and interests, dwarfing Keith Olbermann’s paltry contribution to the Democrats. News Corporation itself contributed $1 million to the Republican Governor’s Association and $1 million more to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Defending these political contributions, Mr. Murdoch said, “We believe it certainly is in the interest of the country, and the shareholders and the prosperity that there be a fair amount of change in Washington.” He later explained the donation to the R.G.A. as a direct result of his friendship with John Kasich, a one-time Fox News anchor, then a candidate to become governor of Ohio. Kasich’s gubernatorial campaign was successful.

The damaged integrity of our body politic aside, elected officials remain stuck with the task of government. Lawmakers will have to confront over the next two years an economy still teetering on the brink of failure, a vast foreclosure crisis, the federal deficit, Afghanistan on the brink, Iraq on the brink, state budgets on the brink. There are a lot of brinks out there. Unfortunately the politicians coming into Washington with electoral momentum on their side have their eyes fixed on 2012, not with the determination to pull the nation out of its quagmire, but merely to keep President Obama from re-signing his lease on the White House.

When does the politicking end and the actual work of governing begin? We cannot afford political campaigns that are perpetual-motion machines, with journalists tracking only who is in and who is out of power and not how many problems we have resolved. At some point those in power need to make mature, reasonable and executable decisions. Beginning a levelheaded review of the difficult spending and revenue options outlined recently by President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform would be a signal that the nation’s elected officials are ready to take their responsibilities seriously.

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James Collins
11 years 7 months ago
You mention large contributions from corporations. The last time I checked the largest contributor was a union. The activist role of Fox News? Have you never listened to The View, MSNBC or any of George Soros" puppets. Soros makes Murdoch look like a miser.

I am against limits on free speech. I do however believe we should have 24 hour disclosure of money spent on any ad or candidate. You also give the print media a pass. If we eliminate cable and radio then the liberal print media has a monopoly. As for full time electioneering, Pres. Obama has been campaigning since the day he took office. Has America been all that pure and unbiased? Have you always let both sides have their say? The reason Fox News has so much clout is that people like it and they see through CNN!
Ann Cussen
11 years 7 months ago

“. The activist role taken by Fox News deserves hard scrutiny.”  
What utter biased drivel.  Polls reveal that just over 40% of the public is conservative and just a bit under 20% liberal/progressive, a 2 to 1 conservative advantage. For TV news outlets, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, MSNBC, and CNN are all left of center, with Fox the lone voice right of center, a 6 to 1 liberal advantage.  PBS has 19 liberal commentators and not one conervative. Research on the national media finds anywhere from a 3 to 1 to a 7 to 1 liberal to conservative advantage. I think the editors would be happy in Venezuela where dissenting voices are controlled. In daily print media, there is no conservative outlet.  So your contentions and complaints about Fox is inane.

Now, how about writing "The activists roles taken by NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and PBS deserves hard scutiny, as well as anyone else who voices other than a liberal progressive voice."

Mike Evans
11 years 7 months ago
How about some fact checking and criticism of the drivel that comes forth daily from Rush and Glenn? This vitriolic poison is meant to turn the entire country against our sitting president, and anyone who disagrees wiith the party of 'hell,no" is branded a communist or worse. People, we need to have some sort of civil, sane and productive discussions about how to govern and lead our country back from the abyss of destruction. So many opportunities to work constructively together, so many people opposed to even talking to each other. We should embark upon 6 months of using the Eucharistic Prayers for reconciliation, praying for a 'cure' to our pig-headedness and inability to show each other respect.
Edward Visel
11 years 7 months ago
While I agree with your point, it is not exactly news that Fox News is not "fair and balanced". What is more alarming is MSNBC's appropriation of the Fox News model for a left-leaning cable news channel, albeit not to the same degree—yet. With this in mind, it is hardly surprising that Jon Stewart was voted "America's Most Trusted Pundit".

The larger concern, I believe, is in Citizens United, which directly decreases the influence of citizens on elections. Campaign finance reform is not a popular issue, but its annihilation by Citizens United underlies both the money and vitriol brought to a midterm election which would ordinarily be a minor news item.

Combined with the money and political maneuverings behind the Tea Party movement, you've got a viable historical explanation of the election.
Frederick Conron
11 years 7 months ago
If Fox News is so accurate in its reporting, why did it  jump on such outrageous and ridiculous ideas as "death panels for seniors" and so many other distortions that they propagate as truth?

Any normal person watching the antics of the likes of a Limbaugh bobbing up and down and ranting his hate-filled diatribes must conclude that the man is either far off the scale, (still) drugged up and/or drenched in racisim!  We do NOT need further divisive cant. The nation needs to pull together.

Must we again have to weed out the wierdo fringe types (a once-a-time witch, a gut-the-whole-thing Angle, and a quitter air-head whose good stage presence belies her empty hear?

James Collins
11 years 7 months ago
All these calls for working together. They mostly come from those who backed the losers in the election. When Obama was elected he didn't give a hoot about working with Republicans except for some posturing. He wouldn't even consider their ideas on health care. What about tort reform or selling insurance across state lines. With just those two ideas he could have garnered some Republican suuport.

Those who make fun of "death panels" probably aren't seniors. Obamacare cuts 450billion out of Medicare. How do you think that is going to happen? It will mean big cuts especially in major illness' to seniors. Obama himself was quoted saying that we have to cut off expensive treatments to those seriously ill. His comment was, "give them a pain pill."
Christopher Kuczynski
11 years 7 months ago
While FOX News is certainly not the only media outlet with an ideological ax to grind, it is far and a way the most well-financed source of extremist views in this country.  Conservatives even now continue to bemoan the "mainstream media" as "overwhelmingly liberal" - and perhaps even conspiratorial.  No matter how well-financed NBC, ABC, CBS, and even PBS may be, though, any thinking person would have to admit that their liberalism is tame by comparison to FOX's right-wing views.  A better comparison to FOX News when it comes to political extremism might be Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now, which hasn't anything close to FOX's resources.  Additionally, progressive media, because it often criticizes both so-called liberals and conservatives alike, doesn't serve as a crucible for the careers of would-be members of Congress or inhabitants of the White House. 

Therefore, although this article may seem to have been one-sided, there are obviously good reasons for that - the probloem being identified lies largely on one side of the political spectrum.  That reality may sound harsh.  It may sound unbiased.  It may be at odds with our thinking that, if news can't be entertaining and reinforce our point of view, it ought at least to give both sides of an issue equal time (usually this means having a strident Democrat and an equally strident Republican screaming at each other).  But the job of the press - even though it constantly abandons this function in favor of whatever the market wants - is to inform the public and to expose the truth.  The value of FOX News or any other media source, then, is not determined by whether, as one commenter has observed, "people like it," but by whether it speaks the truth whether people like it or not.
James Collins
11 years 7 months ago
The article didn't seem to be one sided, it was. When a newspaper or a magazine that wants to think it is even handed, sides almost exclusively with the opinions and policies of one side of the political spectrum or party then people do not see it as fair but merely as a an organ for partisan causes. For example when I listen to or watch NPR, MSNBC or CNN I don't see  independent  journalism, I see a liberal Democratic opinion journal. Liberals like to attack Rush Limbaugh as being very partisan. Of course he is and when you listen to him he tells you right up front what his bias is. What upsets me is someone like NPR that tries to tell you they are impartial. No Way and they have exposed that very dramatically of late. The public, which are not as dumb as you liberals like to think, have voted overwhelming with their dollars on who they think is the better source for news and opinion.
Joan Fry
11 years 7 months ago

"America" magazine has always been ranked as one of the best in Catholic literature.  This article attests to that.  I am appalled that so many comments seem to support a Network that distorts the truth and smears the reputations of good people.  Surely these cannot be Catholic readers!!!

Tom Maher
11 years 7 months ago
True to form America magazine editors have once again failed to recognizing the fundemental role and importance of free speech in America.  And of course free speech is a First Amendment Constitutionsl right that everyone has trumps all other legal considerations.    So don't blame Fox News that Americans believe in and expect Free Speech.  Freedom of Speech and Press and Religion is the highest law of the land since the ratification of the U.S. Constitution hundreds of years agoi.

The Constitution is not kidding when it says that Congress (or anyone else) shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, press or religion.  The Constitution says hands off free speech.  For the better speech, press or religion is not reguolated by government in America.  So when no-too-smart politicians or editorial writers say political speech must be regulated for the "greater good"  of one thing or another they run afoul of the First Amencment rights that everyone has without qualification as to who you are.

No matter who you are you have free speech rights.  So it is no surprise the court ruled in Cititens United in favor of free speech rights as they always do thank goodness.    The point is everyone gets to say or advertise what they think.  This is a hugh advantage to the American system of government.  People can defend themselves and what they beleive  in by expressing themselves in the public  forums.  

The Citizens United decision affirms again that everyone including business and  non-union political action groups has a right to free speech and thereby be a part of the poltiical process.  If your free to express yourself as an individual you do not lose that freedom by being a part of a business group or non-union poliotical action group.  Not allowing everyone to be part of the Amrerican political process is censorship tha arbitarily excludes people from full participation in the political process.    So when Obama says very ugly things to enhance his standing with his radical base at the expense of certain groups, these groups such as businesses can now fully and publically express their view that Obama is wrong and explain why Obama is wrong.  (The Obama admisistration has earned a reputatiation for very aggressively and repeatedly attacking businesses.)   Now business can speak up and defend themselves from the anti-buiness propaganda and fully express their point of view like any other memeber of society .  Would anything less make sense in a land that so highly values free speech?   Free speech is a fundemental blessing that makes information available for the public's consideration.  
Linda Pfeifer
11 years 7 months ago
Thank you for stating the truth about Fox "News" - Fox "Views" would be a more accurate label. It is scary to think that so many people are getting their information from a network that can't be bothered with facts or accuracy, especially when it gets in the way of their political agenda. It used to be that we expected our news to be unbiased. Anyone who is interested in trying to stem the tide of Fox's misinformation can go to http://turnofffoxnews.com/ to find out why you should care about this and what you can do.
11 years 7 months ago
Jim Collins posts that Obama said about cutting off the elderly ill to save money " give them a pain pill' ....citation please or stop posting [and three times too!]
The Catholic righties have learned well by blitzing the Vatican offices for 30 years.. complaints work.. the fed up Catholics  walk away and the righties cheer that too. The righty complainers are successful in many parishes too. One well known  pastor, now passed on, said he was flooded with anonymous complaints from supposed parishioners. His name was Peter Sammon.. he laughed at the many letters from supposed parishioners  that spelled his name  Salmon..   
C Walter Mattingly
11 years 7 months ago
There are a few salient facts in this unbalanced essay that point to larger, more relevant truths. As the editorial suggests, Fox commentators generate more listenership than Keith Olbermann or Paul Krupmann or Maureen Dowd, all of whom provide counterbalancing liberal diatribe, because most Americans find that the Fox commentators more closely reflect their viewpoints: government too large and powerful, spending far out of control, and so forth. And for some time, a liberal press, from the New York Times to MSNBC, has had no powerful countervaling voice of any consequence to deal with.  Now that underrepresented majority has a voice in Fox and, as Jim Collins points out above, that majority of liberal media voices now has a powerful competitor. The liberal press no longer enjoys an unchallenged preeminence, even though it has the immense financial backing of the George Soroses of the world, who when he is not raking in hundreds of millions on currency speculations against some poor collapsing currency and its suffering people, is donating millions to liberal causes.
What America in this editorial is really bemoaning is that there has arisen a powerful conservative voice, which did not create but gave voice to, a large and growing portion of Americans, a voice which is effectively counteracting what has for generations been a liberal, mostly eastern, Ivy League establishment press which no longer has the field to itself.
The times, they are achangin'.
John Hess
11 years 6 months ago
The appeal of FOX that I see is that it provides easy solutions to difficult questions, no heavy mental lifting required.  All the nation's problems are their fault.  All the struggle that we all sometimes endure is their fault.  All the uncertainty we all sometimes feel is their fault. 

If you feel resentment against them, it is somehow virtuous.  If you feel anger against them, it is somehow righteous.  If you speak calumny against them, it is somehow not a sin. 

No need for book learning, no need for questioning, no need for self reflection.  That's just their way to make you a sucker.  That's just a part of their grand liberal conspiracy that so many take a strange pleasure believing in.

But in actuality, as well as in our faith, it is not all about them, it is all about us.    
James Caruso
11 years 6 months ago
It always tickles me when someone attacks Fox News, as if they had some kind of monoply on the news media.  It's as if it never occurs to anyone to watch NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, CNN, NPR, PBS, C-Span, or read the New York Times or Washington Post, among many, many others.  Or somehow we are expected to believe that these other organizations have no money behind their humble efforts - ignoring the fact that NBC is owned by General Electric, ranked by Forbes as the world's second largest company, and wealthy individuals like billionaire George Soros pour millions into liberal news media including attempts to destroy Fox News.  The sad fact is, without Fox News and consevative talk radio, there actually would be a monopoly on the news by those mentioned, who seem to share the views of the author.  This ongoing attempt to stifle opposing points of view, especially when they are done well, will never succeed in the long run of things, although they do have successes in countries that go to socialist or autocratic forms of government, which I am confident this country will not.  When I went to school in the fifties, we applauded the diversity of news media.  Now, many Americans bemoan the fact that their are other points of view besides their own.  How un-American is that?  The truth goes marching on.

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