Commentary

Cancel 'Red, White & Blog,' Please!


That's right, cancel this column, please. I only ask -- in part -- because I'm growing weary of the harangue of Fox News "media relations" execs kvetching when I express my personal views that advertisers are culpable in all the damage the network does because they provide the financial support for Fox News to do it.

Take the statement the Fox News media relations exec provided in response to our news story covering a diverse coalition's open letter to Madison Avenue to boycott the network: "Fox News is about to close out its fourth consecutive year delivering new records in advertising revenue, so clearly Media Matters’ predictable ongoing partisan attacks have zero impact outside of their irrelevant echo chamber on social media."

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The statement reads, to me, almost like Fox News's sales organization is rubbing your faces in its marketplace dominance. Like they're saying, "Go ahead, we dare you."

Of course, I've been calling for advertisers to boycott Fox News long before this upfront, and probably from its inception, mainly because I believe that what it does is bad for America, and the world. And that the worst part is that while it may partially be a function of some corporate political ideology, it's fundamentally about profits.

The genius of late Fox News founder Roger Ailes, and of the management teams that continue to fulfill on his vision, is that he had a keen sense that there was a latent marketplace for alternative reality news programming catering to right-wing extremists.

Personally, I've always considered myself a "moderate," but if you had to squeeze me into one of the Pew Research Center's color codes above, I'd be in the light blue "moderate/liberal/leaning democratic one, even though I am not affiliated with any party.

I won't bore you with my personal politics, because I don't think they're especially relevant, even if some of you think you know what they are. My ongoing campaign against Fox News has less to do with any political point of view than it has to do with the role it plays in destabilizing American society by exploiting the differences among us. Especially now.

It was one thing to do it in the early Newt Gingrich-era of Fox News' exploitation of partisan divide, but more recently, after we've been attacked by both foreign and domestic forces using it to radicalize militant extremists, well, I don't think that is very brand-safe for any marketer to be associated with. Much less American.

Or as Ted Koppel said during his 2017 interview with Fox News prime-time star Sean Hannity, Fox/he are "bad for America," because they are "very good at what you do and because you have attracted a people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts."

Or substitute Fox News' current prime-time star, Tucker Carlson, if you want. It's the same point. Fox News and its highest-rated personalities are pandering to people who believe in an alternative reality because it supports and reinforces their idealogical beliefs. Sadly, I'm convinced after talking to, debating and tweeting many of them, I don't even think some of them buy into the ideological part. It's more of a culture war for them, or like some savage team sport.

It's the same motive Omnicom's Sparks & Honey unit believes has driven many Americans to become QAnon conspiracists -- not because they necessarily believe the wacko theories -- but because it reinforces some cultural need they have. Or they're simply bored and are looking to it as a form of diversionary entertainment.

Now it's one thing for that kind of wanton recklessness to propagate "organically" -- or with an assist from anonymous hostile actors -- on social media, but it's quite another thing for it to be pushed by America's "most watched" news network.

The impetus for this column was receiving an advance look at the Pew Research Center's analysis of Americans' views on "cancel culture" -- and not surprisingly, the report reveals there are some marked political aspects to that too (see chart above or read it in its entirety here).

Whatever term you want to use, I've been calling on Madison Avenue to cancel their ad buys on Fox News for years, not for political, ideological, or even cultural reasons. I've been doing it because I believe it is dangerous and that advertisers are providing the economic impetus to sustain it.

But let me end by reciting the fabled quote of a big New York retailer, who when he was being pitched by Fox Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch to buy ads in his New York Post newspaper in the 80s, famously quipped, "But Rupert, your readers are our shoplifters."

9 comments about "Cancel 'Red, White & Blog,' Please!".
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  1. Howard Shimmel from Janus Strategy and Insights, LLC, May 19, 2021 at 2 p.m.

    Well written Joe. The combination of continued advertiser support and the stupidity of the bundled cable market- where each one of us pays $24/year for Fox News whether we love it or detest it and never watch it- allow Fox News to continue their strategy without any fear of income loss. The cable distribution side is actually worse- Brian Roberts and others don't seem to care about what content is distributed through their pipes.

  2. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, May 19, 2021 at 2:30 p.m.

    @Howard Shimmel: Great point about the complicty of the cable industry re. sub fees. I'm on YouTube TV now, but can't wait until I can fully unbundle.

  3. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, May 20, 2021 at 2:02 a.m.

    From a business perspective, are you according Mr. Ailes too much credit? Yes, he was the captain steering the Fox ship, but Mr. Murdock was and still is, the admiral.  Ken Auletta's Frontline documentary on Mr. Murdock, circa 1995, provides some historical context.

  4. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment, May 20, 2021 at 11:05 a.m.

    "My ongoing campaign against Fox News has less to do with any political point of view than it has to do with the role it plays in destabilizing American society by exploiting the differences among us. Especially now."


    Pretty sure that's been my complaint all along with your posts, Joe.  It's a campaign against FOX News and not an objective look at the entirely of the space and what the "other side" is doing.


    I do not disagree with many of your observations; however, I believe them to be one-sided. I've provided plenty of examples in past comments about competing networks that have knowingly published or broadcast stories that were fabricated or that they knew to be false.  Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo, Joy Reid, Rachel Maddow....they're all rhetorical pundits just like Hannity and Carlson.  And just like Hannity and Carlson, they all put out inflammatory rhetoric and they all put out their own facts vs. reality.

    They're called "personalities" for a reason and to that end, it makes sense why you may or may not like them whether politics are involved or not.  But you can't call foul against one network when the other networks are just as guilty.  Just because FOX News has higher ratings doesn't negate the combined rhetoric from competing networks.  The "danger" as you put it is on both sides of the political spectrum.

  5. Michael Abramson from Dominant Trait replied, May 20, 2021 at 11:11 a.m.

    @howard shimmel: I completely agree and I call and email Spectrum regularly to ask them for better unbundled options so I don't pay for the FoxNews tax. However, I also wonder if we do get to the point of total customization, would that just make things even more of an exho chambe and divide us as a country even deeper. 

  6. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, May 20, 2021 at 11:55 a.m.

    @Dan Ciccone: You make anonymous or generalized references to other news outlets fabricating stories, but in most of the cases I'm aware of, it was individuals who were either reckless or made mistakes and were ultimately fired or reprimanded and the organizations published clear retractions, which is what responsible journalists do to set the record straight.

    You ignore my core argument, which is that the problems with Fox News aren't political, per se, its about the organization repeatedly broadcasting disinformation that undermines democratic institutions, and a wide variety of public health and safety issues, ranging from the Big Lie, racisim/social justice, COVID-19, climate change, etc.

    And that a time when big brands have a heightened concern about "brand safety," as well as taking visible stands on public health, social justice and democratic institutions, it doesn't make sense for them to spend their ad budgets with an organization that undermines that.

  7. Ben B from Retired, May 20, 2021 at 8:49 p.m.

    Chris Cuomo shouldn't have been interviewing his brother last year CNN should've kept the rule that he couldn't interview his bro which was nothing other butt kissing and softball questions and no mention of putting those COVID into nursing homes causing deaths which was a conflict of interest.

    Joe wrong about Fox News which isn't disinformation didn't lie about COVID or undermine the democratic institutions either you can't back up those claims either or give examples. CNN & MSNBC ran Russian conclusions nonstop for years when it was a nothing burger all I'll say on that is I don't like Trump and that is going down the rabbit hole. Joy Reid doesn't like LEBTQ when she blogged about her dislike for them used the excuse that she was hacked which was BS along with her apology as well.

    A lot don't want to hear anything and want the echo chamber and only want to hear only with what they agree with aren't going change them. I watch Fox News, News Nation a couple of times a week late at night, Newsy which is like Headline News used to be plays it down the middle.   

  8. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment replied, May 20, 2021 at 11:40 p.m.

    @Joe Mandese - I provided specific examples and you have not.

    Unfortunately, posts like this conflate pundit opinions with the "news."  Tucker Carlson or Hannity or Ingram offering their opinions about masks or treamtements for Covid are no different than Lemon or Maddow or Cuomo insisting that Trump colluded with Russia when there is no evidence at all that he did...and all of the retracted stories support that. Yes, people resigned or were fired from the news divisions, but that didn't stop those personalities from perpetuating the lies. Chris Wallace and Neil Cavuto, news guys, not pundits, specifically called out Trump when they thought Trump was presenting false information.  Again, the news guys on FOX News presented facts.  The pundits offered opinions.


    All I ask moving forward is for you to provide specific examples. If FOX News reports falsified information or fabricates stories, then cite those examples.  If you don't like a FOX News pundit's opinion - that is totally fair.  But I still asset that you're conflating the pundits with the anchors to support your campaign against FOX News (your words, not mine)>

  9. Kenneth Fadner from MediaPost, May 22, 2021 at 10:06 a.m.

    Dan, you should accord Joe the same license you give to Fox. Joe does fair and balanced news coverage (no-one in our industry is better) and he does commentary (clearly marked as such) in which he expresses his own personal point of view from his years of experience in the industry and in life. You are not asking the opinion side of Fox -- Hannity, Carlson et al -- to present the liberal side of issues. In insisting that Joe present the conservative side of issues he discusses you are applying a double-standard. Hope you see the inconsistency in that.

    Plus, you are free to stop reading commentaries that offend you.

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