Friday Movie Night - Outfoxed

hot buttered popcorn It's Friday Night! Party Time!   Time to relax, put your feet up on the couch, lay back, and watch some detailed videos on economic policy!

 

This weeks film is Outfoxed: Rubert Murdoch's War on Journalism.

Now this is a film focused on one multimedia conglomerate but the story could be applied to any network, including MSNBC. Bill Moyers is an exceptional witness of corporate power on journalism.

 

From Journalism Under Fire, Moyers describes just what happens when one tries to investigate something meaningful which corporate power doesn't like:

Kaking on political scandal is nothing compared to what can happen if you raise questions about corporate power in Washington. When my colleagues and I started looking into the subject of pesticides and food for a Frontline documentary, my producer Marty Koughan learned that industry was attempting behind closed doors to dilute the findings of a National Academy of Sciences study on the effects of pesticide residues on children. Before we finished the documentary, the industry somehow purloined a copy of our draft script—we still aren’t certain how—and mounted a sophisticated and expensive campaign to discredit our broadcast before it aired. Television reviewers and editorial page editors were flooded in advance with pro-industry propaganda. There was a whispering campaign. A Washington Post columnist took a dig at the broadcast on the morning of the day it aired—without even having seen it—and later confessed to me that the dirt had been supplied by a top lobbyist for the chemical industry. Some public television managers across the country were so unnerved by the blitz of dis-information they received from the industry that before the documentary had even aired, they protested to PBS with letters prepared by the industry.

Here’s what most perplexed us: Eight days before the broadcast, the American Cancer Society—an organization that in no way figured in our story—sent to its three thousand local chapters a “critique” of the unfinished documentary claiming, wrongly, that it exaggerated the dangers of pesticides in food. We were puzzled. Why was the American Cancer Society taking the unusual step of criticizing a documentary that it had not seen, that had not aired, and that did not claim what the society alleged? An enterprising reporter in town named Sheila Kaplan looked into these questions for Legal Times and discovered that a public relations firm, which had worked for several chemical companies, also did pro bono work for the American Cancer Society. The firm was able to cash in some of the goodwill from that “charitable” work to persuade the compliant communications staff at the Society to distribute some harsh talking points about the documentary— talking points that had been supplied by, but not attributed to, the public relations firm.

Others also used the American Cancer Society’s good name in efforts to tarnish the journalism before it aired; including right-wing front groups who railed against what they called “junk science on PBS” and demanded Congress pull the plug on public television. PBS stood firm. The documentary aired, the journalism held up, and the National Academy of Sciences felt liberated to release the study that the industry had tried to demean.

They never give up. Sherry and I spent more than a year working on another documentary called Trade Secrets , based on revelations—found in the industry’s archives—that big chemical companies had deliberately withheld from workers and consumers damaging information about toxic chemicals in their products. These internal industry documents are a fact. They exist. They are not a matter of opinion or point of view. And they portrayed deep and pervasive corruption in a major American industry, revealing that we live under a regulatory system designed by the industry itself. If the public and government regulators had known over the years what the industry was keeping secret about the health risks of its products, America’s laws and regulations governing chemical manufacturing would have been far more protective of human health than they were.

Outfoxed

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