In October, \Simpsons"" creator Matt Groening told National Public Radio that Fox News threatened to sue his cartoon over a parody of the news network. Fox owner Rupert Murdoch, not being crazy, put the kibosh down upon the attempt of one of his companies to sue one of his shows. Like ""The Simpsons,"" Fox network affiliate news programs have begun to distance themselves from their basic-cable big brother. And even now, even as Fox News is viewed as a paradigm for biased news agencies, its viewership far exceeds its competitors. So, with little surprise, a backlash has begun from both the left and the fans of actually fair and balanced media.
MoveOn.org, the same group who funded celebrity pro-Kerry TV ads, also funded Robert Greenwald's ""Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism."" The latest in a string of partisan documentaries including ""Fahrenheit 9/11,"" Greenwald attempts to create the definitive argument for a position most people already know: that Fox News' conservative slant often pulls their broadcasts far away from the truth. Outfoxed was available this summer as a DVD. This Friday it will be shown on the big screen at The Orpheum, 211 State St.
Greenwald's documentary takes a higher road than Michael Moore, he stays out of the film and lets his interviews speak for themselves. Armed with ample Fox News clips, internal memos, and many of Fox's ex-employees and commentators, Greenwald has the facts on his side. He just doesn't have any flair. ""Fahrenheit"" alternated between gut wrenching and hilarious. ""Outfoxed"" stays, more or less, on the same neutral emotional plateau throughout the movie.
But some of the improprieties he digs up are shocking, even to the devoutly anti-Fox. Internal memos during the 9/11 commission's interview of the president flatly say ""Do not turn this into Watergate."" A University study Greenwald incorporates on found dramatically more misconceptions about the news in Fox News' viewers than that of other networks. And clips of the network repeatedly show factual errors and inappropriate editorializing on the part of the news anchors.
Unfortunately, Greenwald lacks the journalistic sense to show how news is handled in other news stations to provide a point of reference. Without this context, ""Outfoxed"" feels slanted, and that's hardly an advantage when the thesis is that Fox is biased. The movie feels like it was made for the people who agree with it and not the Fox viewers who probably need it most.
Despite its flaws, there is still a lot of content here, enough to carry the movie through its follies. ""Outfoxed"" is the only analysis of Fox News that is set to real-life video clips. But make no mistake: It plays as a partisan film.