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Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (2004)

  Directed by: Robert Greenwald
Links: Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on DVD
Genre: Documentary

This movie gets: 7.00 (2 ratings)
nofreelist.com Ranking: Ranked equal 104th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

"A good argument, poorly made" - a review by mino

Outfoxed is a documentary which attempts to build a case proving that Fox News, Rupert Murdoch's cable-news counterpart to CNN and MSNBC, is a biased outlet which ‘reports’ nothing but the political views and opinions of the Fox media empire itself, in as vitriolic a fashion as possible, in order to influence the beliefs and ideas of those who watch it.

Yep, I know: well, duh.

Of course, the influence of corporate owners on media is well-documented, and is well understood by most people with anything more than about a third of a clue. Fox News, though, is in a class of its own, if this documentary is to be believed. Director Robert Greenwald uses a series of excerpts, montages, and interviews to build the case that more or less every facet of Fox's news direction, reporting, and editorialising is all driven from the corporate bosses, each of whom are beholden directly to Rupert himself. Inconvenient facts are pushed under the carpet, interviewees are chosen to be either believable shills for the network's preferred viewpoints or raving loonies for the opposition, sound bites are trimmed out of context, and all sorts of other stuff like that. And, it has to be said, a strong case is there to be made. It's hard not to feel the bile rising up as you watch this — the techniques and tactics the on- and off-air talent on Fox use to manipulate, distort, goad, insult, and scare are truly frightening in themselves. That said though, as a documentary I think it's rather flawed.

Firstly, it really doesn't do a good enough job of singling out Fox. If it were intended as a broadside at the news media generally, that would be fine, but it's clearly not: it's an attack piece specifically at Fox News, but the case that Fox News is that much worse than the alternatives just isn't made that well. Many of the techniques they show (and sound outraged about) elicit nothing more than a ‘nuh!’ because, well, you see them every day on all news channels. This is disturbing in itself (these should be Fox-only techniques; it's sad that we're so used to them that they seem obvious!), and clearly Fox is an order of magnitude worse than some of its competitors in some areas, but Greenwald just doesn't convince me that Fox are that evil. The fact they present ‘the other side’ of the media — right-wing bias, rather than the traditional so-called ‘liberal media’ stereotype we're conditioned to accept — doesn't necessarily make them evil as such, you know. My personal political opinions are somewhat to the left of Karl Marx, yet I still like to think I'm intelligent enough to realise that.

Secondly, and perhaps most unfavourably to the cause, much of the movie makes its point by doing exactly the same thing that it accuses Fox News of doing. I lost count of the number of clumsy edits which made it clear something was being left out, the number of times ‘people say’ was used as a substitute for providing actual sources, the number of times montages of clips were used to avoid giving any context, and the number of times opinion is presented by the narrator as if it were unassailable fact. At first, I assumed these were ‘ironic’ moments, a way of proving the point, but as there are far too many of them and the central arguments of the movie are made by them, it's hard to see them as doing anything other than very heavily undermining the point the movie tries to make.

Finally, it's not a particularly well-made documentary. It rambles, covers the same ground multiple times, interviews people who are painfully dull for no reason but skips over people who have interesting points to make, is poorly paced, and towards the end goes into what is, quite frankly, a very strange diversion about the negative impact on media diversity caused by major radio networks like ClearChannel, which has absolutely nothing to do with Rupert Murdoch and totally derails the thread of the movie. It's an important point to make, but either make it in a ClearChannel documentary, or in a documentary about media ownership generally — don't hijack a movie that had been, up to that point, completely about Fox News.

That said, the fact that Fox News is a deeply disturbing and disproportionately influential entity with little regard for journalistic ethics is made, and hits home. The extended piece on Bill O'Reilly's abusive interview with Jeremy Glick (whose father died in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks) probably does more to fill you with disgust for Fox News than anything else, and is covered well. It's hard not to come out of Outfoxed thinking that Fox News executives should be strung up by their vital components in a public square somewhere for the way they practically defraud the public; however, any reasonably intelligent soul can deduce that from watching ten minutes of Fox News anyway, and I'm not sure that this documentary does a particularly strong job explaining it to anyone else. It's a nice effort, but it just doesn't throw enough shit; too much of what it does throw doesn't stick.

mino gives this movie 6 out of 10.
Review created on Thu 14 Apr 2005

"Boils the blood" - a review by pearly

Robert Greenwald has been nicely slotted into the Michael Moore gang: documentary filmmakers presenting opposition to George W. Bush and the policies of Republicans, amongst other things. The emphasis with Greenwald's latest film, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, is the presentation of information, rather than the quality of its look or the production values behind it.

To that end, it is fairly successful, however, I found some of the attempts at making the footage seem more well-shot than it actually was quite distracting. As an example, footage shot with poor sound often had background music over it, but I found that some of the music chosen was too distracting, both because it was too high in the sound mix, and also because of the piece of music itself. Also, some footage taken of interviewees in front of windows led to me watching the cars going past rather than being able to focus on what was being said.

The film does, however, get its point across - in fact, it almost begins ramming it down your throat. I can see how the continual barrage of people talking would become a little much for someone who didn't basically already agree with the premise, however, as I did/do agree with what was being said, I could appreciate it.

So what is the point of the film? Basically, it's a documentary about the FOX news channel of the USA. Run by Rupert Murdoch ("the billionaire tyrant"), who is quite clearly the pride of my home town, this channel, along with the newspapers he owns (which have now reached three digits), present themselves as quality news vendors. They have a number of slogans, including "Fair & Balanced", and "We report. You decide.", however, as demonstrated in this documentary, they are hardly any of the above.

The film is presented through interviews with former employees of the company, as well as experts in journalism and other related fields. At least three of the people interviewed, fearing repercussions such as losing their current employment, chose not to be identified, which is in itself quite interesting. Along with these interviews, stock footage of segments shown on FOX news are shown, with commentary to explain their relevance.

jud and I have cable at home, so we get to watch FOX news whenever we want, therefore I know from experience how truly awful it can be. My least favourite is the rude and stubborn Bill O'Reilly, a terrible person if ever there was one. Extremely right-wing, O'Reilly interviews people, but if he doesn't agree with what they're saying, he won't let them get a word in, and when this happens, he doesn't play fair. He sees no issue with turning off their microphone so that he can have the last word. A highlight of the documentary is an examination of O'Reilly's interview with Jeremy Glick, a guy whose father died the day of the World Trade Center attacks. Glick (Jr) had signed a petition stating that the US should not go to war; a petition which was published in a newspaper. O'Reilly, getting wind of this, invited (i.e. wouldn't stop hassling Glick until he agreed) Glick onto his show for an interview. He then proceeded to barrage Glick with insults, as well as telling him that his mother and father would not be proud of him for his position, among other totally unfair things. Glick is interviewed by Greenwald for this film, giving his opinion on the whole thing, and it's an enlightening interview.

As well as this, there are some other all-time super O'Reilly moments, such as him telling people to shut up. He is quite the charmer. Unfortunately though, the film didn't have nearly enough bagging out of the other person from FOX news that I can't stand: Greta Van Susteren. She sucks. As an aside, this morning I saw that O'Reilly has released a book, entitled The O'Reilly Factor for kids. What a scary prospect.

Someone quoted in the film states that at least in Communist Russia, the people knew that what they were reading was propaganda, but in the USA, the news is presented with such slogans as "Fair & Balanced", and many people don't even realise what is going on. This, say the filmmakers, is what's really criminal. As further proof, there's this article about a Murdoch paper which refused to run an advertisement for this very film. It reminds me of the reaction to Super Size Me (2004) - and it's the icing and cherry on top of the cake, really.

pearly gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 11 Oct 2004

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 7.00
Lowest rating: 6 (by mino)
Highest rating: 8 (by pearly)
 
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