`Outfoxed' makes point best when Fox does talking

August 13, 2004|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Outfoxed hammers home the message that Fox News Channel's "Fair and Balanced" motto is a bunch of hooey, at best an example of wishful thinking, at worst - and this documentary definitely assumes the worst - a deliberate attempt to obfuscate its decidedly pro-right, pro-Republican leanings.

The idea that "fair and balanced" hardly describes billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch's Fox News shouldn't be news to anyone. Outfoxed highlights its roster of firebrand conservatives, including Bill O'Reilly, Brit Hume and Sean Hannity, and makes it clear how delightedly the network pushes the GOP agenda in general, the Bush administration's in particular.

What the film, subtitled Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, doesn't do is offer much that will convert anyone. By relying so extensively on talking heads to point out what its makers see as the network's lack of balance and the flaws in its collective news judgment, it forces viewers to accept other people's opinions rather than formulate their own.

Noted, for instance, is how the network has harped on Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's supposed tendency to flip-flop on issues - a refrain Fox News picked up shortly after Bush supporters started using it as a talking point. Outfoxed uses clips of various Fox personalities using the term "flip-flop," without putting them in context; were the sound bites all taken from the same day, or were they spread out over a month-long period? Saying they all had occurred in the same day (if that was the case) would have made for a far more persuasive argument. Similarly, a little more context is in order for a long list of memos from Fox News management, in which events of the day are portrayed in a certain light, usually flattering to the president and belittling the opposition. These are more heinous than they at first appear. The memos' suggested conclusions to news reports seem reasonable enough, until one realizes they're being suggested in advance of actual reporting.

Outfoxed, directed by Robert Greenwald and partially financed by the liberal Move On.org, speaks most eloquently when it lets Fox News do the talking. A segment involving Jeremy Glick, an anti-war protester and son of a victim of the 9/11 attacks, shows O'Reilly for the abrasive, narrow-minded bully he is (liberal lightning rod Al Franken offers context, but doesn't really add much). Here, viewers are able to draw their own conclusions, something the film should let them do more often.

Outfoxed

Documentary by Robert Greenwald

Rated Unrated

Released by Cinema Libre Studio

Time 77 minutes

Sun Score **1/2

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