They Report. You Deride

The last time we saw Robert Greenwald, the film director was debuting Uncovered: The Truth About the Iraq War, a blistering exposé of the Bush administration's mendacious rationale to invade Iraq that unfortunately exhibited all the cinematic expertise of a baptism video. But viewers apparently didn't care about technique: originally released on DVD, Uncovered proved so popular that it's now screening in movie theaters nationwide, including select Southern California theaters.

Now Greenwald is back with another direct-to-DVD effort, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, which is now showing at select SoCal theaters. All the tropes of Greenwald's prior prefix-adorned effort present themselves again: a conservative behemoth that threatens democracy (in this case, the Fox News Channel), courageous whistleblowers who reveal the conspiracies of the Right, incriminating evidence against the Vulcans that occupy the White House, and horribly shoddy production values that solidify Greenwald's status as the Left's answer to Roger Corman. And, like its predecessor, Outfoxed does a fabulous job of juxtaposing clips with commentators, muddling the film so much that despite its welcome progressive principles, it ultimately seems hypocritical at its core.

Outfoxed begins where it all started: WTTG-TV Channel 5, a Washington, D.C., television station purchased in 1985 in one of Murdoch's first boob-tube acquisitions for his fledgling Fox network. Former station employees tell Greenwald that Murdoch initially didn't tinker with WTTG's esteemed news department. That status quo lasted as long as the Chevy Chase Show, though: three years later, Murdoch ordered an incredulous news team to simulcast a tribute to Ronald Reagan from the 1988 Republican National Convention and pass it off as news. “It was kind of like being in an office and seeing people come down with the flu around you,” one former WTTG staffer recalls. “We knew the flu eventually might reach us, but we were hoping if we took enough vitamins, we'd never catch the flu.”

From here, Outfoxed proceeds to draw upon confidential memos that reveal how Fox News producers generate rabidly partisan themes. One memo notes without proof that presidential candidate John Kerry is “starting to feel the heat for his flip-flop voting record.” Greenwald then runs 16 Fox commentators in a row uttering “flip-flop” while attacking Kerry, the most priceless being one guy noting, “A new brand of summer footwear: John Kerry flip-flops.”

It's in primary-source revelations like these where Outfoxed draws its true muckraking power. Larry Johnson, a former deputy director to the State Department's Office of Counter Terrorism-turned-Fox News expert from 2001 to 2003, calmly tells Greenwald how he never appeared on the network again after openly questioning square-jawed jag-off Sean Hannity about the prudence of waging war in Iraq while simultaneously combating terrorism. Greenwald then cuts to the actual exchange, and it's a perverted delight to see Hannity try to suppress his rage while blurting out, “We do have the ability and the resources, we're able to walk and chew gum, we can handle the situation in Iraq” with all the charm of a recess taunt.

As entertaining as these clips are, however, Greenwald nevertheless bases Outfoxed on a rather ridiculous premise: that Fox News isn't objective. Really, how many people nowadays consider Fox News an unbiased news source? Conservatives watch Fox to hear round-the-clock praise of Dubya and demonizing of Kerry. That's their right; after all, lefties flock to NPR, Pacifica and Air America for the opposite points of view. But for Outfoxed to offer leftist alternatives as the only solution to the Fox News tsunami—witness the inclusion of Air America founder David Goodfriend near the film's conclusion—is to commit the same sin for which they malign Murdoch and Co.

The more interesting approach would've been to analyze why Fox News is so popular. And Outfoxed does briefly touch on the subject in a segment decrying the “Fox-ination” of the media, in which such once-esteemed stations as MSNBC and CNN hire blowhards like Keith Olbermann, Joe Scarborough and Tucker Carlson in a desperate attempt to steal some of Fox News' Right-leaning thunder. But it's too little, and without such context, Outfoxed ultimately plays as little more than a clip show spliced together over a vegetarian dinner—an entertaining clip show, to be sure, but just a clip show.

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War On Terrorism was directed and produced by Robert Greenwald. 75 minutes. Available at better DVD sellers or online at

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