Earlier this year, filmmaker Spike Lee filed a ludicrous lawsuit against The National Network over its plans to rename itself “Spike TV.”
Lee thought he held the rights to the name “Spike,” something that probably came as a surprise to the heirs of bandleader Spike Jones (as well as others) and demanded the network come up with another name.
A lot of people said, rightfully so, that Lee was nuts and the loudest chorus of boos came from the pundits at Fox News Channel, where Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and a host of others suggested Lee needed to crawl back under a rock and shut up.
Conservatives, who don’t care much for Lee’s liberal films and opinions, applauded Fox, which gets a lot of praise from the right because the network takes the news, adds a conservative slant, and then calls it “fair and balanced.”
Fast forward a few months. Comic Al Franken, another target of concentrated conservative hate, writes a new book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Since Franken also wrote Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, the new book is sure to piss off conservatives big time.
It also pissed off FoxNews, which filed suit against Franken and his publisher, claiming his use of “fair and balanced” violated their registered trademark on the phrase.
The word around FoxNews is that O’Reilly, whose shows are the reason Fox leads competitors like CNN and MSNBC in cable news ratings, bullied network President Roger Ailes into filing the lawsuit because Franken, in the book, delivers a number of barbed comments about the opinionated, self-important talk show host.
There’s no reason to doubt the stories because O’Reilly’s ego is a running joke among the FoxNews professionals who actually try to cover the news and deliver it without the right-wing bias mandated from the top.
But the Fox lawsuit didn’t stop with claims of trademark infringement. Rupert Murdoch’s lawyers added their own running commentary of Franken, saying “Franken is neither a journalist nor a television news personality. He is not a well-respected voice in American politics; rather, he appears to be shrill and unstable. His views lack any serious depth or insight.”
Interesting claim from the network that hired Geraldo Rivera as a “war correspondent” and even tried to build a news talk show around “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak (a plan that, thankfully, failed when no sponsor was willing to take a chance on the project). Just what, I wonder, is Fox’s benchmark for a “journalist” or a “television news personality?”
Agreed, Franken is not a journalist. To my knowledge, he has never claimed to be. The closest he ever came to journalism was doing the satirical “news update” while part of the Not For Prime Time players for Saturday Night Live which, even in its lowest-rating years, has four times the viewing audience of The O’Reilly Factor.
I’ve never cared much for Franken’s brand of humor or his political philosophy but I don’t much care for Fox’s biased attempt at journalism or its skewed sense of news either. FoxNews Channel is 24-hour, nonstop, tabloid TV, what one would expect from Rupert Murdoch, the publisher of some of the trashiest tabloid newspapers in the world. Fox is as biased to the right as CBS is to the left.
Journalism is best served when information is presented without a point-of-view, something lacking in both newspaper and television news these days. Fox may own the trademark on the phrase “fair and balanced,” but their use of the term is, at best, false advertising. To actually have the gall to haul someone into court to claim trademark infringement might be funny if it were not such an absurd abuse of the civil court system.
In its lawsuit, Fox calls Franken “shrill and unstable,” but the network’s actions in filing this ridiculous legal action is, itself, the ultimate in shrill and unstable behavior.
Even worse, their actions will turn Franken’s otherwise forgettable book into a best seller.
Fair and balanced my ass. Just plain dumb and stupid is more like it.