Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has flourished across the globe partly due to its reliance on two tabloid industry maxims: manufacturing outrage and exploitation.
Yet, only media watchdogs tend to fret about the inherent conflict: that conservative ideology propounded by Murdoch’s myriad media outlets is frequently exposed as hypocritical.
Earlier this week, during a daytime talk show, President Obama vowed to “kick some ass” over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. While “ass” is allowed to be said on television, Fox News Channel has been selectively bleeping the word — which media watchdogs believe is intended to help “manufacture outrage.”
Simon Maloy noted at the liberal nonprofit Media Matters‘s Web site on Wednesday:
Earlier this morning, the crew of Fox & Friends replayed the clip of President Obama telling NBC’s Matt Lauer that he wants to “know whose ass to kick” regarding the Gulf oil spill. No great shock there — Fox News has been playing the clip regularly for the past couple of days and using it as yet another cudgel to attack Obama. This time around, however, Fox & Friends bleeped out the word “ass,” apparently because this mild profanity from the president was just too shocking for their viewers’ delicate sensibilities.
Fox & Friends is, of course, free to bleep and not bleep whatever they want, but I find it interesting that their concern for maintaining a PG atmosphere has arisen only now that the mild profanity in question is coming from Obama’s lips.
Just this past February, the Fox & Friends crew interviewed Andrew Young, former aide to John Edwards, who said during that interview that his former boss is an “arrogant ass.” Fox & Friends didn’t bleep out that mild profanity, nor did they bleep it out later in the show when they re-aired the clip.
Fox News anchors also have no problems talking about the recent hit film Kick Ass without bleeping its title. But at the same time, they still found a way to push the outrage factor while helping promote it.
Media Matters also notes that Fox News hosts — including Glenn Beck — have said “ass” on air without being bleeped.
The News Corporation’s flagship US paper, The New York Post, often plays both angles, too.
Columnist Phil Mushnick, a sports reporter who dabbles in morality rants, often complains about coarse media culture. However, he almost never points a finger at his employers.
“Instead of a TV exec explaining that the networkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s new show relies on any combination of lewd, vulgar, extremely violent, sex-soaked, crude, desensitizing and highly inappropriate content for the young audiences it targets, that exec simply calls it ‘edgy,’” Mushnick recently wrote after The Comedy Channel canceled The Sarah Silverman Program, even though the Fox television network has risen to ratings success on the backs of edgy, controversial shows such as “Married With Children” and “In Living Color.”
During “Monicagate,” the Post published articles with sex terms on a daily basis to attack then President Bill Clinton. A purported transcript of basketball player Kobe Bryant’s interrogation regarding a rape charge also ran unedited in the paper.
On Friday, the Post published a front page photo of pop star Lady Gaga as she “flips the double bird” at a New York Mets game. The cover calls her profane public gestures a “disgrace.”
On page three of the tabloid, a shot of Gaga from behind commands half a page, and is reminiscent of the more racy covers that Murdoch publishes in the UK.
The Post article accompanying the photos notes that after Gaga “repeatedly salute[d] the crowd with her middle finger…[s]he watched the rest of the game in just her undergarments without incident.”
It’s doubtful that the next time Mushnick or Fox News Channel moralist Bill O’Reilly attack media outlets for running allegedly profane, obscene or pornographic images and words that may be seen by children, they’ll note the last line of the Post’s “news article” on Gaga, with slightly-edited words that wouldn’t fool the worst Wheel of Fortune player ever:
“She went up to the box and said, ‘F- – - you! F- – - you!’ to the photographers who were messing up the game for everyone else,” the pal said.
Friday morning, however, what was good for the Fox tabloid apparently was too strong for television, as the Fox and Friends report on Lady Gaga blurred the birds.
America’s Newsroom host Bill Hemmer didn’t seem to mind the middle fingers, but objected to the bare flesh on display (which Fox News didn’t edit in any way): “That happens all the time. People flip the bird. But this whole strip down dealio…”