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Remember When Fox News Wasn’t a Right-wing News Channel? Neither Do I

2:24 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

A dozen years ago, as the U.S. was pulled into war in Iraq by President George W. Bush, Fox News was not just any television network. It proudly blared the White House’s lies coming with singular warmongering fervor. Remember? The terrorists had ties to Iraq. Saddam wanted the bomb. Saddam had the bomb. He could hit us in 45 minutes.

Cover of Outfoxed documentary.

10 years later, Fox News still serves a damaging far-right agenda.

Fox even overshadowed the pro-war New York Times where with the help of Judith Miller, the paper spewed distortions, launched partisan attacks and slammed Bush’s critics as naïve, unpatriotic traitors. Other media, and even members of Congress, followed Fox’s lead. They all assumed that Fox was a legitimate news organization. It wasn’t. Yet that mistake about Fox’s power and impact was wreaking terrible consequences for our democracy and the media.

I felt that Fox had to be exposed with facts and broadcast clips for what it was: a partisan propaganda shop masquerading as news network. Other media and the public had to be educated that Fox was acting as the media arm of the America’s political right wing. It was anything but “fair and balanced.”

I knew what I wanted to do. I had made dozens of movies for TV, cable and feature films. We had to investigate Fox and expose it for what it was to real journalists. We could use new tools—crowd-sourced investigations, digital video recorders, and editing software. We could distribute it using the Internet, online DVD sales and social media. In March 2003, America invaded Iraq. The following year was a presidential election. We had to move quickly and couldn’t rely on traditional movie theaters or TV. We didn’t.

In July 2004, we released our documentary film, Outfoxed, which relies on Fox News’ own words and methods to let people see Fox for what it was. Today, a decade later, we are re-releasing the film with a new section adding context. It’s worth reflecting on what we did, the impact the film had, and what’s left to do—why it’s still very relevant today.

As Texas’s Tea Party Sen. Ted Cruz said in a June New Yorker magazine profile, “In both law and politics, I think the essential battle is the meta-battle of framing the narrative.” That perfectly describes Fox’s mission: recast news from a right wing perspective, only support Republican prescriptions, and attack the opposition. In Outfoxed, we showed how Fox does that so that Americans could understand how partisan propaganda works.

We began by assembling a team that started watching Fox seven days a week. Our team, mostly volunteers recruited by MoveOn.org, followed shows and commentators. We taped everything, such as when Bill O’Reilly said we were winning in Iraq or when he stammered out vicious attacks on anti-war activists. We noted their rhetoric, tone, presentation, techniques and noticed something above all else: Fox’s unattributed accusations. When Fox wanted to assert a right wing talking point or use a guest as a prop to launch an attack, their hosts would say, again and again, “Some people say…” It’s a clever ruse. The “some people” was Fox CEO Roger Ailes and his Republican friends. What they “say” was indistinguishable from political attack ads and smears.

I remember seeing that for the first time in the editing room and almost fell off my chair. I was surprised at how often they did it. We also had sources inside Fox’s newsroom who had grown weary of Fox’s journalistic pretensions. They gave us dozens of memos from senior Fox editors. For the first time, we had written proof of Fox telling its reporters what to say and how to say it. Never say sniper in a script, the memos said, always say sharpshooter. Never mourn a soldier’s death, its writers and analysts were told. They were the shock troops in a right wing propaganda war.

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Voters Beware: Koch Brothers are Billion-Dollar Hypocrites

2:07 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

The Koch brothers have surprised many of us with a newfound penchant for the public spotlight, yet one can’t help but wonder whether it’s all just a public relations effort to soften the perception of their political machinations. Perhaps in an ongoing effort to appear less…evil?…the Koch brothers have just given us two statements of staggering hypocrisy.

Caricature of David Koch

David Koch (Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr)

Charles Koch, a poster boy for crony capitalism, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Monday entitled “Corporate Cronyism Harms America.” The piece contains the following sentence, among many other doozies: “To end cronyism we must end government’s ability to dole out favors and rig the market.” Um, a Koch brother is saying government needs to stop rigging the rules of the game for powerful corporations? A billionaire industrialist whose network is spending $400 million in this election and who has used his influence to weaken environmental regulations, Social Security, and voting rights? If you don’t already get the absurdity, my film Koch Brothers Exposed has the goods.

David Koch, however, has a hypocrisy that needs some unpacking. For his part, he is the latest to pretend to be for gay marriage. I say “pretend” because even though he has told a reporter that he disagrees with Republicans on the issue, he is, in practice, doing what he’s always done: supporting politicians and groups that have worked to stymie gay rights at every turn.

Take, for instance, the donations that David and Charles have given to anti-gay politicians. In 2006 and 2012, they donated nearly $20,000 to Rick Santorum, the archetypal culture warrior of the Right. Recently they’ve given large amounts to Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, John Boehner, George Allen, Orrin Hatch, Jim DeMint, and even Michelle Bachmann — a who’s who in the pantheon of anti-gay officials. In bankrolling the Right, the Kochs are supporting politicians fighting to prevent gay equality from being reflected in the law.

Such support extends to anti-gay organizations. The Koch brothers gave $4.5 million to the anti-gay Heritage Foundation between 1997 and 2010. This is a group that once backed out of participating in the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in part because LGBT Republicans were co-sponsoring it. Heritage has also opposed minimal legal protections for LGBT individuals from discrimination or violence on the grounds that these are just slippery slopes toward marriage equality. One Distinguished Fellow at Heritage wrote that conservatives who would “appease” gays and lesbians by allowing them the freedom to enter into contracts such as civil unions and domestic partnerships are the “Neville Chamberlains of the cultural wars.”

Why would David Koch support such politicians and organizations if he’s for gay rights? Because what he and his brother really want out of political giving are personal enrichment and power in the long run. In a Politico interview, Koch responded to a question about money in politics by saying, “Well, it’s a free society. And people can invest what they want.”

Yes, to the Kochs, political donations are an investment. They can try to pinkwash their record by claiming to be for gay rights or (wow) all about eliminating crony capitalism. But the reality is that they’re perfectly fine with propping up those who are stepping on the LGBT community and bending politicians to their will. The Kochs just need to know they’ll get a good return on their investment down the road.

Help NAACP End Voter Suppression

7:02 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

In 2012, we will work with NAACP to ensure every American has the ability to vote. Across the country, community activists are joining us in this effort. Please take a moment to read the blog below from Benjamin Todd Jealous, President & CEO of NAACP and watch the video.

We’re Turning the Tide

Posted on December 14, 2011 by Benjamin Todd Jealous, President & CEO

Last week was a game changer. We issued our call for voting rights in the streets of New York, at the United Nations and across the nation through the media. The far right is now on the defensive about their attack on voting rights.

In collaboration with Brave New Foundation, the NAACP has put together a new video about the impact of the voting right attacks on communities of color. Please take a moment to watch and spread the message to everyone you know, then text STAND to 62227:

Our new video, We Will Stand, shows exactly how difficult obtaining ID can be for many people. In the rural South, many people of a certain age have no birth certificate because they were born to a midwife. For them, the barriers to getting a state issued ID without a birth certificate are tremendous. Others are dependent on the rides to the polls provided by church-organized Sunday voting drives, which have been shut down in some states.

In 2012, we will work tirelessly to ensure every American has the ability to vote. On Martin Luther King Day, we will launch an unprecedented voter registration drive and our first-ever voter identification drive. And throughout next year, we will wage voting rights battles in state houses and courts around the country.

Across the country, community activists are joining us in that effort. As our video shows, South Carolina doctor Brenda Williams has spent countless hours and thousands of dollars helping her patients clear the financial and legal hurdles associated with satisfying the state’s new strict voter ID law.

Dr. Williams is a hero in her community – but she cannot do it alone. It is going to take the efforts of people like you to help strengthen our front line and ensure our right to vote in 2012 and beyond.

I urge you to take this opportunity to make this movement your own and stand on the right side of history. Watch our video, share it with your friends, then text the word STAND to 62227 using your mobile phone. We will use this list in the year ahead to make sure that you have the information that you need to fight back against voting rights attacks in your community.

Remember that right to vote empowers us to defend our other rights. Enemies of justice will target your voting rights to take away the rest of your rights, knowing that when they come for your right to vote, the whole house of cards we call democracy starts to fall.

Text STAND to 62227 and help us build a strong foundation.

Follow @RobertGreenwald on Twitter.

Murdoch’s Web of Corruption Continues To Demand An Independent Investigation

12:29 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

The story of News Corps ever unraveling corruption is still far from over. This week’s revelations in the News Corp drama highlights the lies in the Murdochs’ prior testimony to parliament, and demands that more questions be answered regarding who knew what and did what. At this point the level of criminal activity and cover-up exceeds anything seen in recent history. And all signs continue to point to a need to replace Joel Klein with an independent entity that can conduct a thorough and unbiased internal investigation.

Let’s review the latest. There’s Clive Goodman letter from 2007, in which he made clear that high level News International executives were aware of the use of wire tapping. As Goodman wrote, “This practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the editor.”

And then there’s the fact that, directly after Goodman sent this letter to News Corp, following his release from prison, News International paid him nearly a quarter of a million pounds. This payout being strikingly larger than what was previously claimed by the company.

On top of all of this, one of the Murdochs’ hired law firms, Harbottle & Lewis, has come out and claimed that some of the evidence the Murdochs presented was “hard to credit”, “self-serving” and “inaccurate and misleading”. When your own lawyers come out against you, you know you have a serious problem.

While all this news was breaking, it was also learned that Rupert’s daughter, Elisabeth, has been given $214-million plus in payment for the sale of her company to her father’s company.

And then, as I write this, news comes in that another News of the World reporter has been arrested. James Desborough was arrested today on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications. What’s particularly significant is that after the hacking incident the British police suspect him of, he moved to the US to continue to work for the company out of Los Angeles. This raises the question of whether he continued hacking practices while in the US, and, if so, how widespread this practice was among other News of the World journalists’ in the US.

All of this new documentation was released this week by either British law enforcement or by the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, and it should have a devastating impact upon the Murdoch investigation.

The Murdochs, without question, should be forced to reappear in front of the committee to account for the lies they presented in their last appearance, and to address this new information.

But more than that, all this new information coming from outside investigations highlights how inadequate it is to have Joel Klein continue to lead the internal News Corp investigation. There is clearly a lot of details of corruption that remain to be exposed, and Klein as a hired inside guy is by no means the person able to do that. It is important that the outside investigations continue to shine a light on the facts of the scandal, but the internal investigation must also have at least some potential for true accountability. By which, I mean accountability to the truth, and not to providing further protection to Murdoch. Joel Klein must be replaced.

As Outfoxed exposed seven years ago, the Murdochs run a company based on conglomerate control, corruption and a full lack of ethics. Rigorous investigation into their history and present practices needs to continue. The Murdochs must be called forward to answer for their crimes. Father and son both need to resign. And Joel Klein needs to be replaced. The only way to move forward from such a web of corruption is to cut off the sources of it, and to create true accountability for our journalistic structures.

Seven Years After Outfoxed, Murdoch’s Empire Continues Corruption

5:16 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Seven years ago, Brave New Films and I exposed Rupert Murdoch’s top down journalism at FOX News and the dangers of ever-enlarging corporations taking control of the public’s right to know. As recent news makes clear, Murdoch only has continued to lead a legacy of corrupting journalism and harming the public interest. The latest information released reveals how widespread internal knowledge and support was around wiretapping practices. We’ve learned that the Murdochs lied before parliament, and this story is far from over.

In the wake of Murdoch’s NewsCorp scandal, it is more pertinent than ever to revisit Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism and work to restore integrity in journalism. As we’ve seen in the last seven years, Murdoch’s empire won’t stop their corruption without the eyes of the world demanding they be held accountable.

In order to celebrate the anniversary of Outfoxed, I thought it would be most fitting to host an anniversary event that features clips from Outfoxed, as well as timely commentary from notable media and public figures.

Gathering some of the brightest minds out there, the event included Cenk Uygur (The Young Turks; former MSNBC host), Janeane Garofalo (Actor/Comedian), Katrina vanden Heuvel (The Nation), Eli Pariser (MoveOn.org), James Rucker (ColorofChange.org), Ilyse Hogue (Media Matters) and Ellen Brodsky (News Hounds). I also answered live and previously submitted questions from the audience.

The current Murdoch investigation continues to unveil the criminality, corruption, distortion and overall unethical behavior woven through the NewsCorp fabric. Seeing that Brave New Films has thoroughly examined how NewsCorp has long blurred the line between corporate interests and journalistic integrity, the Outfoxed 7th anniversary event was a great opportunity to inform and inspire people across the spectrum.

Janeane Garofalo shared her memories of appearing on Fox News, and the form of bullying they would regular engage in with their progressive guests. Her thoughts follow a montage of the “shut up” O’Reilly clips — which are, as you might guess, where he tells his guests to “Shut Up.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel weighed in on her thoughts around the need for journalistic integrity. After watching a series of Fox clips where the anchors cite “some people say,” as a way to present unjournalistic perspectives, Katrina reminds us of the importance of having media by the people, for the people.

Cenk Uygur provides additional detailed analysis on how Fox News refuses to uphold any journalistic integrity. His thoughts are shared after watching one of the most important clips from Outfoxed, a segment where we expose internal Fox News memos which outline political messaging strategies the network is told to follow throughout a given news day.

In addition to the above great clips, James Rucker spoke on the history of Fox News attacking African Americans. Ilyse Hogue spoke about the role of Outfoxed in laying the groundwork for the present look into News Corp practices. Eli Pariser additionally speaks to how Outfoxed is influencing the present debate. And Ellen Brodsky weighs in on the need that remains for Fox News to continue to be monitored.

As more revelations start to come out about how widespread wiretapping practices have been at News Corp, we need to continue rigorous examination into where journalistic standards have not been upheld, and what can be done to stop News Corp’s spread of ethicless action.

If you’d like to get more information on Fox News, check out Outfoxed: Special Edition FOX Attacks DVD.

The work continues with all of us. We at Brave New Films look forward to watching as Fox News and News Corp continue to be exposed, and as integrity in journalism can be restored.

Sarah Palin for Best Actress

1:21 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Sarah Palin’s movie opens with shots of celebrities like Matt Damon and Bill Maher wryly observing the oft repeated missive that she’s basically unqualified for county dog catcher.

We didn’t want celebrities to be the only ones to have a chance to weigh in on Palin, nor did we want her machine to get away with a flattering and one-sided portrayal of her tenure as governor. That’s why we built a Palin avatar that interacts with you and reads your lines.

It’s almost like the real thing or an empty pair of eyeglasses!

There have been some hilarious entries already and I’m pleased that so many people have adopted satire as a way to take Sarah’s perceived strengths and use them against her.

If you haven’t had a chance to play around with our Palin avatar, you can participate here.

There’s a lot missing from her two-hour movie, and you need not read a review, let alone pay to see it to know the movie is detached from history and reality. It’s not even playing in her home state, which seems to me to be a glaring omission given the movie glorifies her tenure there.

Her movie isn’t about truth. It’s all about media attention, and its backers openly admit it.

It credits her as a whistle-blower who exposed corruption in her state party. It doesn’t use the word “socialist,” but it lavishes praise on her ability to put her on the neck of corporations, then turn around and shower voters with a bonus check.

The film’s backers hope these facts can drown out the more talked about contributions Palin’s known for like denigrating the president, making millions from a compliant Roger Ailes and tweeting. Of course, this list, like her movie, omits many things that you might want to tell Palin yourself or vote for the best thing missing from her movie.

The news cycle is driven by clicks, and I think that’s why Palin is talked about with so much regularity. We can’t stop the presses, but we can add our voices to the conversation and try and refocus it on the multiple inaccuracies and omissions in her film.

Sarah Palin is not funny, and her influence on our democracy is even less so. But we can use humor to undercut her faux populism and appeal, so add your voice and tell Sarah what’s missing from her movie.

PalinGate, too much Sarah Palin, Not Enough Substance

10:30 am in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

There’s nothing funny about Sarah Palin or her influence on our democracy, but together we can use satire to make an impact and undermine her aura of authenticity and altruism.

Brave New Films is out today with a People’s Cut of Palin’s upcoming movie, and you won’t believe what she’s saying right now about her film.

Satire is an effective tool to take the conservative opposition’s perceived strengths and use it against them, which is what we’re doing here with Palin’s movie. This is not a film, but our best chance to redirect the nonstop media attention she’s getting with her bus tour and upcoming film.

It feels like every time Sarah Palin blinks she’s written up in the news, and we don’t intend to give her more media attention. We can’t stop the presses from covering her every move, but we can help focus, undercut and change the Palin narrative.

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Senator Bernie Sanders Belongs on the Sunday Shows

7:01 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

“With a $1.6 trillion deficit,” Sen. Bernie Sanders told Jon Stewart recently, “it is insane to think that the only way you’re going to move toward a balanced budget is by slashing college Pell grants, by cutting Medicaid, by converting Medicare into a voucher program, by cutting programs that working class and middle class people desperately need.”

The Senator on social security: “Social Security has a $2.6 trillion surplus. It could pay out every benefit owed for the next 26 years. It is not going bankrupt. It’s not going broke.”

On income inequality: “You have so few who have so much and so many that have so little. Those are themes not usually discussed here in Washington, for kind of obvious reasons.”

Senator Sanders is a bold voice, and one that’s missing every Sunday. He’s a passionate advocate for the middle class and yet his last morning show appearance came late last year.

Compare that to Sen. John McCain, who leads everyone with 10 appearances this year alone. His friends and ideological allies, Sens. Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman, round out the top seven interviewees this year, with six and five appearances each.

The Sunday shows often set the tone for the upcoming political week. As the same voices drone on, the Senator’s absence means the political and media elites are overlooking the forces squeezing working and middle class Americans.

Will you call or write the network producers and tell them to Bring Senator Sanders On? (Their contact information is at bottom.)

2011-06-02-bilde.jpeg

Senator Sanders waves during a Memorial Day parade. (Photo by sanders.senate.gov)

You’ve probably heard the Senator’s zingers and social philosophy picked up despite the shows’ pattern of interviewing the same half-dozen politicos each week. It’s not rocket science. It’s because what the Senator says is popular and widespread that it shines through the media muzzle.

“Medicare for all” is something the Senator’s pushed for years. More fundamentally, Senator Sanders is one of the few leaders who understands that political debates exist in terms of individuals and lives.

“I would not support Medicaid cuts when you have 50 million Americans who have no health insurance today at all,” the Senator said.

As GOPers coalesce around the plan to end Medicare, the Senator speaks for millions of Americans when he reminds us about the 45 million Americans who will die this year because they don’t have health insurance.

“It is morally obscene to cut programs for the most vulnerable people in this country,” he says.

Why is Senator Sanders being kept off the Sunday shows? It must be ideological discrimination because nothing else explains how the same tired trope of alleged newsmakers is trotted out each week.

Like McCain, Graham and Lieberman, the Tea Party is overrepresented on the shows too. Rep. Michele Bachmann, Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee all have far more appearances on Sunday shows than Senator Sanders. It doesn’t take much when the Senator has never been interviewed in 2011.

These conventional wisdom weather vanes are, as you’d expect, all the same. They are for spending cuts of different sizes, for interventions of different scopes and favor radical changes like dismantling the Federal Reserve or Education Department for different reasons. Many Democrats aren’t so different either, but Senator Sanders is one of a kind.

The Senate’s only self-styled socialist, Senator Sanders is passionate, outspoken, and offers a unique worldview among the elected American political spectrum and news media elite.

He has a wide following across the country and around the world, which is partly due to his uniqueness in contemporary American politics. He has an incredibly engaged Facebook community of 66,300 individuals, a Twitter following of more than 38,000 and an email list that reaches thousands upon thousands more.

The Senator can make the mundane policy differences engaging and catch fire. In a committee hearing about access to health care, Sen. Rand Paul equated “a right to health care” to enslaving medical professionals. Senator Sanders was able to transform Paul’s talking point into inspiration for his supporters and common sense reasonableness to his critics.

“My profound question to the [doctor] is, do you, as an employee at a federally qualified health center, consider yourself a slave?”

Even Paul had to laugh off his absurd question.

With Bernie absent from the Sunday shows, and their trend toward booking the same politicians each week, there exists an echo chamber within an echo chamber. With a lack of diversity each week, the Sunday shows move further away from their historical origins in American broadcasting.

They were conceived as a way to justify using public airwaves. The Federal Communications Commission licenses networks the right to use public radio waves because it’s a public service. That’s been precedent since the very beginning of American broadcasting.

Ideological discrimination is bad for ratings and worse for our democracy. As the Sunday shows move away from their historical moorings, our democracy suffers from a dearth of journalistic public service.

All the while, the “crooks on Wall Street [who] caused the recession” and politicians “who go after the middle-class, working families, low-income people” – in Bernie’s words – will be wearing television makeup and living comfortably in the networks’ green rooms this Sunday.

Will you call or write producers for Face the Nation, This Week, Meet the Press and State of the Union and respectfully ask them to bring Bernie on?

Face the Nation: Carin Pratt, (202) 457-4481, ftn@cbsnews.com

Meet the Press: Iliana Drimmer, (202) 885-4598, ilana.drimmer@nbcuni.com

This Week: (212) 456-7777 (push 5 and address your message to Rick Kaplan, executive producer of This Week)

State of the Union: Michelle Jaconi, (404) 827-1500, michelle.jaconi@turner.com

The Koch Brothers Exposed

11:39 am in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Today Brave New Foundation announces our latest campaign. A campaign where we will take on one of the single greatest threats to our democracy: The Koch Brothers.

With Outfoxed, we exposed the unbalanced propaganda that is Fox News.

With Wal-Mart we uncovered the damage done to our country by the high cost of low prices.

We exposed the war profiteering in Iraq For Sale, and we were on the frontline of questioning what we are doing, and doing wrong, in Rethink Afghanistan.

We fought against insurance company greed in the battle for health care with Sick for Profit.

We halted the history channel from smearing President Kennedy.

And now we aim our focus at the Koch brothers.

With a net worth of 43 Billion the Kochs have already spent decades of their lives and over 324 Million of their wealth exerting their influence. The Kochs accomplish their goals by funding a massive array of right wing front groups, think tanks and tea party efforts. They largely operate outside of the public eye, and target their funding to infiltrate public opinion, the media, judicial decisions and legislation. Over three dozen organizations are funded by the brothers, and they spend additional money lobbying and backing conservative candidates. Everything the Kochs do is to fight for a country free from protections and any degree of a social safety net for working Americans.

You might recognize names of some of the organizations that the Koch brothers fund. Americans for Prosperity is their Tea Party effort. They fund the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Reason Foundation, the Institute for Justice, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and many many more. Through their massive funding efforts, they have fought against health care and are fighting against protecting social security, as well as fighting efforts to halt climate change, and fighting against LGBT rights, Immigration rights, unemployment insurance, environmental protections, the rights of unions to organize and educational opportunity, just to name a few areas they focus on.
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Making Your Progressive Wish List and Checking it Twice

8:04 am in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

The holiday season is a good time to take stock of where we are, what we’ve accomplished and where we hope to go. Our team at Brave New Foundation would like to share with you what we are wishing for this holiday season.

Take a minute to watch our holiday video and see what many of us are hoping for as we move into 2011.

And once you have seen our holiday wishes consist of more than just iPads and smartphones, we want to hear from you.

Click here to share your holiday wish with us.

Want to get all the latest progressive buzz in 2011? Follow @robertgreenwald on Twitter. Click here!