I watched two days of Fox News coverage of OWS

What is the fair and balanced channel saying about the Occupy movement? Mostly that it's gross

Topics: Fox News, Occupy Wall Street, Media, Media Criticism, NYPD,

I watched two days of Fox News coverage of OWS (Credit: AP/Fox)

I watched Fox News during the daylight hours for two days this week, to see what the conservative cable shouting channel’s “straight news” programs had to say about the Occupy movement. And … they really don’t have much to say about it.

Fox is not normally my background noise of choice. When I’m at home, I have local news channel NY1. At the office, it’s usually MSNBC. So watching Fox from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for two days was sort of edifying. I learned some things!

For instance, I learned that basically everyone in Congress is demanding that Eric Holder retire because of something to do with Solyndra. Someone on a panel said that the people in Congress demanding Holder’s retirement were not very important members of Congress but that person was shouted down because every member of Congress is important, especially when they are providing grist for the Fox faux-scandal mill.

I also learned that there is a baby missing, named Baby Lisa, and that Baby Lisa’s mother almost certainly is responsible, because Baby Lisa’s mother had an online dating profile. I had literally never heard of Baby Lisa before Monday, but Fox covered Baby Lisa more than any other story save the Penn State situation. The Murdoch tabloid ethos still drives Fox as much as the Ailes political agenda.

And I learned that Megyn Kelly and her child take the subway, which I found slightly hard to believe.

But here’s what I learned about Occupy Wall Street and its related movements across the nation: They are gross.

On Monday, most Occupy movement coverage was handled by field correspondent Casey Stegall, a bland, sufficiently handsome local news veteran working out of Fox’s Los Angeles bureau. His noon report referenced “the squalor of the camps,” used quotes from city and police sources exclusively, and only featured anti-Occupy “man on the street” clips. (One lady was disgusted at the presence of a futon at Occupy Oakland.)

An hour later, Stegall returned for another report hitting the same notes: A “squalid mess,” “defecating, urinating, and vomiting all over the plaza,” and more clips of citizens grossed out by the dinginess of those squalid hippies in their squalor. Plus: Reports of violence! “Clearly the violence detracts from the message they’re trying to send,” Stegall said, though “the message they’re trying to send” was never once addressed.

Occupy wasn’t mentioned again until 3:45, when Shepard Smith had a brief but mostly objective report on Occupy Wall Street from Jonathan Hunt. Shep mentioned that the demonstrations are against “what they call corporate greed.” Hunt brought up reports of TB, because “crime and squalor” were clearly Fox’s talking points, but Smith’s segment was largely fair, if not particularly sympathetic.

Bret Baier’s “Special Report” led with a brief attack on Michael Moore for being fat attempting to “profit” off the movement, but then it was back to Baby Lisa.

So in a workday’s worth of news, there was not one actual interview with an occupier, or even someone remotely sympathetic to the Occupy movement. There was only one mention of what the Occupy movement is supposed to be about, in fact. The rest was filth and crime.

Much more time was spent dissecting President Obama’s ill-considered but essentially harmless statement about how America has become “lazy” about attracting foreign investment. “Obama calls Americans lazy” was the official attack line, and every show devoted at least one full segment to a lengthy discussion of Obama’s contempt for America.

On early Tuesday morning, Occupy Wall Street was forcibly evicted by the NYPD in a violent paramilitary raid. Hundreds of protesters and multiple members of the press were arrested. The police used tear gas and, reportedly, an anti-terror “acoustic” weapon. On Tuesday, though, Fox was still much more concerned with former Penn State coach and accused child abuser Jerry Sandusky than with the raid and eviction.

“Fox & Friends” did cheer the raid, putting a very Fox “GOOD RIDDANCE” chyron on footage of police in Zuccotti Park. But I didn’t hear more about the raid until 10:10 a.m., when Martha MacCallum teased an upcoming segment: After the break, Steve Forbes would be on to discuss the Occupy Wall Street eviction!

Yes, Steve Forbes, the millionaire media scion and flat-tax advocate. The Forbes segment was only half devoted to OWS, with Forbes offering pearls of wisdom like “I wish they’d go to Washington and start protesting at the Federal Reserve.” MacCallum and Forbes agreed that the Federal Housing Administration would also be a worthy target of an occupation, and then they began talking about Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich.

At 11, Julie Banderas did a routine cable news report on the eviction, though at no point was it mentioned that the city and the NYPD were in violation of a court order requiring them to allow protesters and their belongings back into the park until the judge had ruled on the legality of anti-occupation rules. They played video of Michael Bloomberg’s statement, and, obviously, did not counter it with any sort of statement from occupiers or their legal representatives.

The same, more or less, an hour later. “This is now a legal issue, and as we get more information we’ll pass it on to you.”

At 1:00, the vicious Megyn Kelly takes over, and all the news is delivered with an extra dose of sneering. “The party’s over,” she said of the OWS raid, bringing up “sanitary problems” again, and not mentioning reports of police brutality or the arrests of reporters.

OWS was ignored until, once again, Shepard Smith came on at 3 to actually treat the story with a bit of nuance and objectivity. He led by mentioning the court order the city was ignoring, then went back to Jonathan Hunt, who noted “a marked rise in tensions as we await the judge’s ruling.” Smith: “Protesters and some journalists, for that matter, are saying cops were heavy-handed here.” Hunt, trying very hard not to accuse the NYPD of what they did: “We cannot independently confirm any of that.” Though he did note that the police moved all cameras well away from the park.

Smith then hosted an annoying discussion of the legal issues with two Fox lawyers: Arthur Aidala and Randy Zelin. For two New York criminal defense attorneys, they’re both markedly pro-NYPD. Zelin in particular was excitedly scaremongering. OWS will “shut down the New York City Criminal Courts system” — and the city as a whole — if the judge rules against them, Zelin predicted, repeatedly calling the prospect of civil disobedience “scary.” Smith pointed out that widespread civil disobedience “is not a new concept in America.” “No, but it’s scary nonetheless,” Zelin responded. Smith brought up anti-Vietnam protests, and the segment ended with one of the lawyers “joking” that we should send all the protesters to Guantanamo Bay.

The “scary” prospect of widespread action was clearly the late-developing talking point du jour, as 4 p.m. host Neil Cavuto repeatedly seemed almost annoyed that occupiers weren’t violently rioting. He kept hyping the prospect of eventual riots, even as nothing of the sort materialized. “This might not go down well,” he said. “This might get dicey,” he prayed. (He also brought on South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem, who said she thinks Occupiers should instead be Occupying the White House.)

At 4:18, Cavuto brought on libertarian commentator Andrew Napolitano, a man who is definitely a kook but who is at least a kook with principles beyond naked Republican partisanship. Napolitano declined to criticize OWS at all, instead attacking the city of New York for requiring private corporations to provide public (or semi-public) spaces. He correctly noted that the NYPD and the city were in violation of a court order ordering them to allow protesters in the park, and when Cavuto brought up his much-hoped-for riots (“this could get messy, legal argument notwithstanding”), Napolitano simply said that if the judge ruled against OWS, protesters attempting to Occupy Zuccotti could be charged with contempt of court.

After the judge ruled against allowing OWS to have tents and structures in the park, Cavuto bemoaned the “subdued response so far,” as everyone simply refused to riot. “Whether that remains the case, we’ll see.” Then legal anaylist Mercedes Colwin — another defense attorney — said “bravo for the judge,” because “it was really all about public safety.” (If OWS isn’t violent, it is at least still gross.) Cavuto prayed once more for mass arrests, and then it was on to Fox News’ “The Five,” a panel discussion show so deeply stupid and awful that I cannot bring myself to summarize a single thing anyone said on it.

So after two days of the supposedly “news”-based Fox News programming, I now know that the entire Occupy movement is mostly about their right to vomit and defecate wherever they like. And it threatens to become violent — deadly violent! — at literally any moment.

I imagine coverage of this sort — the “grossness” of the entire thing, with any discussion of the movement’s aims or goals entirely absent — is a large part of what made public opinion of the Occupy movement grow slightly sour.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>