Sarah Palin's home from home

Palin is joining Fox News. Here we give five top examples of "fair and balanced" reporting on the US

Today is a great day for broadcast journalism. Sarah Palin, ex-governor of Alaska and arguably the star of the 2008 presidential election, has signed up to work as a pundit for Fox News. You might have thought that her, I don't know, INSANITY might get in the way of her media career, but obviously it hasn't held her back so far.

In fact, a comment made by Palin on accepting the role sheds light on the calibre of the news outfit she is joining. She said:

I am thrilled to be joining the great talent and management team at Fox News. It's wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news.

Since her comments have often shown themselves to be incredibly accurate and insightful, I thought I'd round up the top five examples of "fair and balanced news" at Fox.

1. Mr Chairman . . .

Back in July, as the News of the World phone hacking scandal was breaking, Rupert Murdoch -- proprietor of both NotW and Fox News -- went on the channel. Jon Bernstein blogged about it at the time. Did they uphold the values of fair, balanced, independent news reporting and grill their chairman with a daring disregard for their own interests? Judge for yourself:

Anchor: "Mr Chairman, sir, thanks very much for joining us. We appreciate it."
Rupert Murdoch: "Fine, good afternoon."
Anchor: "The story that's really buzzing all around the country and certainly here in New York is that the News of the World, a News Corporation newspaper in Britain, used . . ."
Rupert Murdoch: "I'm not talking about that issue at all today. Sorry."
Anchor: "OK. No worries, Mr Chairman, that's fine with me."

2. What terror attacks?

Last week, Sophie Elmhirst blogged here about Rudy Giuliani denying on ABC that any domestic terrorist attacks took place under George W Bush. But far be it from Fox to get left behind! Last week, Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi said on Fox:

One of the things the American people appreciate about the Bush administration [is], after September 11, not one time did the terrorists who tried to kill us and end our way of life, not one time were they able to attack the mainland United States again.

You guessed it -- the interviewer, Neil Cavuto, stayed shtum and did not correct this factual error (the Shoe Bomber, the LA airport attack . . . )

3. Glenn Beck

Ah, Glenn Beck. This major broadcaster at Fox News recently had the dubious honour of being named "Misinformer of the Year 2009" by the Media Matters for America website. He came to international attention in July when he said on air that Barack Obama had exposed himself "over and over again" as a person with "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture". To give Fox some credit, Brian Kilmeade tried to argue with him, saying that most of the Obama administration was white, so "you can't say he doesn't like white people". (I'm sure there are better arguments to be made, but it's the thought that counts. Sort of.) But Beck pushed ahead, arguing:

I'm not saying he doesn't like white people, I'm saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.

Apart from the fact that his statement doesn't make sense, it's also based on precious little evidence. But the big boss didn't mind -- Rupert Murdoch said in November: "If you actually assess what he was talking about, he was right." Great!

4. Bill O'Reilly

Another big hitter at Fox News deserves a special shout-out, too. Bill O'Reilly's chat show The O'Reilly Factor is reportedly the most watched cable "news" programme in America. He calls his show a "no-spin zone" but others beg to differ. In 2007, researchers from the Indiana University School of Journalism published a report analysing O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo" segment with techniques developed by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis. It concluded that he consistently used propaganda and name-calling, and cast non-Americans as threats.

5. A stranger among us

There are some good 'uns in there. Last week, a Fox reporter, Douglas Kennedy, went mad on air on the Fox News Watch discussion show, telling the host, Jon Scott: "This intro sounds like it's written by Dick Cheney in his bunker." He then said that the panel had a right-wing slant. Kennedy's co-panellist Judith Miller objected, saying: "Wait a minute, I am very, very liberal on a lot of issues." But Kennedy was not to be silenced: "You went to jail to protect Dick Cheney, Come on!" Yeah, you tell 'em.


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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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In defence of the metropolitan elite

Railing against low-paid academics will not solve Britain's inequality problem. 

It’s a measure of how topsy-turvy our political culture has become that Theresa May, a Conservative, Oxford-educated prime minister, can claim to be on the side of "ordinary working-class people" against a sneering "elite". But while Brexit has made this division central to our political culture, we’ve been heading in this direction for a while. 

Earlier this year, I was watching a heated exchange between centrist Labour MP Alan Johnson and Left Unity’s Simon Hardy on the Daily Politics show. At one point, Johnson bellowed across the table: "You’re a middle-class intellectual!" So this is now a stand-alone insult, I thought to myself, and took to Twitter to share my indignation. A friend immediately replied: "He means you." And she’s right. I am indeed a middle-class intellectual, a member of the metropolitan elite. Given the prevalence of post-Brexit elite-bashing, I’m loath to stick my head above the parapet. But as my liberal intellectual English lecturers used to say, these terms need unpacking. 

The right-wing anti-elitism that we are seeing all around us co-opts the left’s opposition to financial and corporate dominance and converts it into opposition to those who are educated. To listen to Tory speeches now it’s as if the top 1 per cent didn’t own half the world’s wealth, as if the sales of individual global corporations hadn’t overtaken many national economies, as if CEOs didn’t earn 300 times the salary of the average worker. No, it’s the liberal, metropolitan elite that’s the real menace – those mighty "experts" and "commentators". As Michael Gove, another Oxford-educated Tory, declared during the EU referendum: "People in this country have had enough of experts." 
Anti-elitism conflates political office and cultural and educational distinction on the one hand, with social privilege on the other. But there’s no intrinsic reason why there should be a homogenous "political class", or that those with expertise or artistic judgement should necessarily be rich. In 1979, 16 per cent of MPs had a background in manual work; in 2010 the proportion had dropped to 4 per cent. The history of the Worker’s Educational Association and the Open University reveals a lively tradition of working-class intellectualism. It’s true that, right now, political and cultural capital are appallingly centralised, and there is a revolving door between ministerial office and business. The range of people entering the arts and higher education has been narrowed by the removal of social security and block grants.

Today's anti-elitism, far from empowering the disenfranchised, covertly promotes neoliberal economics. High standards are equated with having the upper hand. Attacks on "cosmopolitan elites" - i.e. those who benefited from affordable education - entrench inequality, put the left on the back foot and protect the real elites – all this while producing a culture that’s bland, dumbed-down and apologetic.
This manoeuvre is everywhere. Brexit is a surreal pageant of inverted protest - May’s use of the royal prerogative supposedly represents the will of the people. The beneficiaries of the PM's grammar school "revolution", she claims, will be "the hidden disadvantaged children". Those who question the evidence base for this are simply metropolitan snobs. ‘This is post-referendum politics’, the BBC’s education editor reminded us tellingly on Today, ‘where the symbolic status of grammar schools as a chance to better yourself has trumped the expert consensus’.
The higher education bill currently going through Parliament brandishes the downtrodden student consumer as a stick with which to beat academics. According to the business-friendly University Alliance, academia’s reluctance to emphasise "employability" carries "more than a whiff of snobbery". Top-down curation is out; impact, feedback and engagement the new mantra. With their worth constantly weighed against the most pressing social priorities, cultural organisations no longer seem convinced by their own right to exist.
The "democratisation" of education, media and culture must be recognised for what it is -  a proxy for real democracy and any attempt to tackle social and economic inequality. Just as the redistributive work of politics is shunted onto embattled and underfunded sectors, the same anti-elitist pressure weakens politics itself. Democracy is thoroughly distorted by economic forces. But the solution is not, as right-wing populists do, to attack the system itself - it’s the only means we have of creating a fairer world. 
This anti-political sentiment is aimed disproportionately at the left, at do-gooding idealists and defenders of the "patronising" welfare state. Stricken with anxiety about being out of touch with its former heartlands, Labour is unable to strategise, put up a credible leader, or confidently articulate its principles. Unless it can tell a positive story about informed debate, political institutions and – yes – political authority, the left will remain vulnerable to whatever Ukip contorts into next.

It’s time to stand up proudly for good elitism – for professional judgement, cultural excellence and enlightenment values. Once, conservatives championed political authority and high art. But now that they’ve become scorched-earth modernisers, it’s time for progressives to carry the torch. Otherwise, disparities of wealth will become ever sharper, while the things that give our lives meaning dissolve into mediocrity.



Eliane Glaser is a senior lecturer at Bath Spa University and author of Get Real: How to See Through the Hype, Spin and Lies of Modern Life.