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The Column

This Just In
1/11/04

While staying in Los Angeles this winter, I sublet a place from a screenwriter I had the fortune of meeting. It's an awesome apartment for dirt cheap: great neighborhood, balcony with a view of the Hollywood sign, and it even has a Jacuzzi. But it comes with a significant drawback – 24/7 coverage from Fox News.

Do not think that Fox News is actually in the apartment. It's just always ON in the apartment. And do not think this is because my roommate enjoys the views espoused by Fox News. He's a screenwriter and he needs material.

If you genuinely enjoy the programming of Fox News, stop reading this. Instead, get a pad out of your desk, and write me an angry letter telling me how I should not criticize something so obviously Fair and Balanced. Then get a gun out of your desk, and shoot off your big toe for being such a jackass. Conveniently, if you genuinely enjoy the programming of Fox News, you also keep a gun in your desk.

If you do keep a gun in your desk, that's up to you. Have all the views you want to have – that is part of what we do here in America. I am for many things, like spending on education, and against many things, like spending on secret Thanksgiving dinners. But if you disagree with these or any of my beliefs, that's fine with me.

I do not have a problem with anyone having the views they do. As Voltaire said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Actually, someone on Fox News said Voltaire said that. But the quote really comes from the book "Friends of Voltaire," written over 100 years after Voltaire died. How could I possibly know that? I took ten seconds to look it up. Crazy, I know.

Fox News says they are Fair and Balanced. But let's imagine that before every commercial break, someone said, "And remember, the anchors at Fox News have huge genitals. That's right. Huge!" Wouldn't you think that they were constantly reminding us because they were afraid we didn't believe them? If they really were Fair and Balanced, we'd know it without them having to tell us every four and a half minutes. And my use of four and a half as a measurement is purely coincidental.

My main problem is that Fox News lies - outright lies. Not "misleads" or "gets things wrong by reporting them too early" (although they are excellent at both of those). They outright lie. A lot.

The obviously Bush-supporting Fox News likes to report about the level of clod exuded by democratic frontrunner Howard Dean. Like when they reported that Dean said he was going to go all the way to the left. But on that report, they showed a clip of Dean saying that he was planning on running from the center. Did they actually watch the clip before they played it? They should try that sometime. That way they won't report that Abraham Lincoln is surrendering, and then playing a clip of the Gettysburg Address.

Just before Christmas, when the government raised the threat level to, oh, Burnt Sienna, Fox News reported that the announcement caused panic in the streets New York. Because normally, the streets of New York are so serene just before Christmas.

The interviews went something like this:

Reporter: "What do you think of the heightened alert level?"

Tourist Trying to Shop: "What?"

Reporter: "The government raised the alert level to Mulberry."

Tourist: "So?"

Reporter: "As you can see, New Yorkers are terrified."

And my absolute favorite moment came this weekend, during reports about the passenger who slipped a note to a flight attendant saying there was a bomb on their plane. Terrifying? Of course. But I'd like to paraphrase one of the anchors:

"Have we really come to the point where just anyone can get on a plane and hand a note to a stewardess threatening to blow everything up?"

First, they prefer to be called flight attendants. Second, YES!!!! Yes, we now live in an ultra-liberal, leftist state where a bunch of commie pinkos allow passengers to (gasp!) write on airplanes without a license.

I have another political belief I didn't share with you. I think there should be a new federal commission established to watch the news. Fox, CNN, Bloomberg – all news channels would be watched, audited, and scored. Every time one of them lied, intentionally misled, or reported a fact WAY too early for it to be a fact, they'd lose a few points. And after a certain score, two very Fair and Balanced things would happen.

1) The ticker at the bottom of the screen would be replaced by a marquee that reads, "This channel is for novelty purposes only."

2) Anchors would have to explain all of their political beliefs. Alone. Unarmed. At night. In Harlem.

Then we'll see which New Yorkers are in a panic.

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