The Fox Effect

A new book, set for release on February 21, 2012, uses leaked emails and Fox Network employees’ own words to show Fox News for what it is—a political operation masquerading as a news network.

The authors of the book are top executives of Media Matters for America, a progressive research and information center that monitors, analyzes, and rebuts conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Launched in May 2004, Media Matters put in place the means to systematically monitor a cross section of print, broadcast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation — news or commentary that is not accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda — every day, in real time.

Their pre-publication announcement gives a sneak preview of how Fox operates when they attack political foes—a process they’ve dubbed “The Fox Effect.” Here’s the authors’ summary of how it works:

STEP 1: Conservative activists introduce a lie.
STEP 2: Fox News devotes massive coverage to the story.
STEP 3: Fox attacks other outlets for ignoring the controversy.
STEP 4: Mainstream outlets begin reporting on the story.
STEP 5: Media critics, pundits praise Fox News coverage.
STEP 6: The story falls apart once the damage has been done.

Most attacks from Fox follow these six steps, say the authors. Their book illustrates this phenomenon with specific details:

This is not your standard media criticism book — it’s the definitive answer to every cousin, brother-in-law or neighbor who ever told you that Fox was their go-to place for news. From tracing the career of Fox News founder Roger Ailes as he learned to manipulate racial politics while working on the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush, to visiting a cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean where a senior Fox News executive admitted to telling Fox News viewers that Barack Obama was a socialist even though he did not believe the charge to be true, The Fox Effect dismantles once and for all the notion that there’s any genuine meaning behind the network’s “fair & balanced” slogan.

If it delivers on the pre-publication hype, The Fox Effect could be a fascinating, anger-inducing, blood-pressure-raising, frustrating, discouraging and worst-fear-confirming read. And you have to wonder: If it bothers to acknowledge the book at all, will Fox News use its six-step program to try to discredit it? That could be fun to watch.