Wednesday, August 15, 2007

'Foxopedia' and the comedy of errors

Fans of the old DC Comics books may be familiar with a character named Bizarro. He's a strange cat, who's persona is that of being the exact reverse of the world around him, most notably arch-nemesis Superman.

Bizarro comes from a planet called Htrae (spell it backward), which is worth mentioning in that it is cube-shaped. It is often referred to as Bizarro World. Everything there is opposite of Earth. Ugly is beautiful, beautiful is ugly. Black is white, white is black. You get the idea. Basically, everything in Bizarro World is the opposite of reality.

The same could almost be said for FOX News Channel. One suspects that they seem to live in their own little Bizarro World, where just a little crafty spin can create a sort of artificial reality for their jaded viewers, who seem to feel out of place in the real world. A Republican does something bad? That's okay, he's branded a Democrat. Things going bad in Conservoworld? No problem, they just turn that frown upside down. Nothing a little creative spin doctoring can't clean up. The people of Bizarro World spoke in simple, nonsensical grunts. Hey, so do the people of FOX News!

I've often given FOX News a little more slack than most. I recognize them for what they are, namely a feel-good fantasy channel for crabby conservatives who feel paranoid that the alleged 'librul' media is out to brainwash them and steal their children. Right-wing fantasy porn. But let's face it, FOX Noise is only as offensive as one makes it. Besides, while they do well in the cable news subculture, they're really only watched by a small percentage of the overall viewing public. Kinda like AM talk radio. Most people could care less about cable news. And many of the people who watch it either take everything with a grain of salt or are already guzzling the proverbial powdered drink mix. This basically makes them further irrelevant. If conservatives want to live in their own little virtual reality, hey, let 'em. It's easier to poke fun at them.

In effect, FOX Noise has tried to carve out its own niche as the last resort for right-wing political wonks. And they usually have a pretty good idea of what they want. And I'll be the first to admit that they are very good at what they do, when one considers what they are in fact really doing.

Lately, they have tried to expand the FOX News brand. Take for instance their recent attempt at comedy. No, I'm not talking about Hannity and Colmes. I'm talking about their own bizarro version of Comedy Central's highly popular news parody The Daily Show, a rather weak effort that was unleashed on the public earlier this year. The Half Hour News Hour was envisioned as a more 'fair and balanced' version of Jon Stewart's show, which I imagine they felt was vulgar, subversive 'librul' fare. Well, they likely thought, what about a cheap knockoff crammed with a bunch of stale Hillary jokes?

So off to the drawing board they went. The producer is the guy who brought us "24," a rather mundane, overrated spy yarn that mostly featured civil servants standing around arguing in control rooms. To spice it up, they shot it with hand-held cameras and had the actors yell and emote a lot. News flash - Alias was better. Much better. So, the producer, Joel Surnow (also well-known as Rush Limbaugh's Dominican Republic wingman) helped craft a direct ripoff of The Daily Show and the 'Weekend Update' feature on Saturday Night Live. Unfortunately, in FOX's version of bizarro world, what's intentionally serious is often funny, and what's intended to be funny is usually far from it. The FAUX News 'comedy' show looked more like a really bad version of SNL in one of their bad years than the hilarious Jon Stewart show. It got horrible reviews. The first sketch was something about Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter being president and vice president, no doubt giving the children of America disturbing nightmares. The hosts of THHNH were bland, amateurish, dorky, plastic-looking and rather unfunny. Then again, so was the rest of the show. Hey, at least SNL's Charles Rocket dropped the F-bomb on live network TV.

The initial ratings were adequate, probably better than any of the leftover fare often found in the Sunday Night News Channel Deathslot (let's face it, the lame-ass hosts with the fake names are definitely not ready for prime time). But the show fizzled over time, and now, it's being dropped. Yesterday, FNC's programming chief Bill Shine announced that no further episodes will be produced following its current 15 episode run. They are, however, considering a revamp of the show for future use.

As I mentioned months ago, THHNH had a serious uphill climb ahead of it. First of all, conservatives are often not that funny. As stated previously here, the best topical comedy often pokes fun at the 'establishment' or 'authority.' And let's face it, you most certainly can't get anymore 'establishment' than the Republican Party, and they were basically off-limits as far as targets go. There are rare exceptions, such as P.J. O'Rourke, who also possesses a rapid-fire wit. But Dennis Miller? Come on! Oh, and did I mention Miller was a commentator on the failed FOX News comedy show? 'Nuff said.

So, the FOX Noise Comedy Half-Hour Hour or whatever it's called has been fed to the worms, though the door has been left open for reanimation sometime in the future, with a great deal of tweaking. How will it change? Probably for the worse (if it can indeed get worse). Might I make a suggestion? Perhaps instead of trying to carbon copy The Daily Show, why not start watching the even more brilliant The Colbert Report? If FAUX Noise is to resurrect their not-so-divine comedy, they need to do something radical. Namely, self-parody. Now, this is a pretty bold suggestion for a news channel as self-righteous and pompous as FNC. They'll lie, scream and cry before they let anyone diss their meal ticket, let alone do it themselves. But if there's a subject ripe for parody, it would be FOX News Channel itself. Besides, they may even gain a little respect for having the ability to poke fun at themselves, particularly from the many, many people that think they're full of shit. Why not self-mockery? Sadly, I highly doubt FNC has the humility required to pull off something so radical. But if they do, drop me an email to discuss intellectual property royalties.

So, the intended attempt at humor was discovered to be rather unfunny, and yesterday, the gang at the FOX Nuisance Channel were caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar due to an unintended humorous series of events that turned out to be downright hilarious.

Yesterday morning, the tubes of the internet were all aglow with an article at Wired.com about a new little search tool designed by CalTech grad student Virgil Griffith. This little do-hickey, called the Wikiscanner, was designed for amateur sleuths and Wikipedia addicts to find out just who these so-called 'anonymous' users are that contribute those strange edits and selective deletions.

So far, people at the headquarters of defective voting machine manufacturer Diebold have been outed for providing their own little spin on articles about them and their suspicious practices. Scientology whitewashes their articles, but we already suspected that. We also found out what the CIA is doing on there. Some evil Republican tried to spoil the ending of the new Harry Potter book. And no doubt people are scouring Wikipedia to see what people inside the U.S. Congress are editing, such as the user who added this little difference between Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. On computers owned by the Government. Yes, the skeletons were released from the closet.

Perhaps the funniest thing uncovered so far, besides the CBS staffer who changed Clinton's birthplace to 'Hot Dog, Arkansas' comes from our friends at "The most powerful name in noise." Allegedly, when they're not creating revisionist news fiction, and when their pundits aren't screaming at each other, they're being pretty ferocious online, trying to make the rest of the world look like the false reality so vividly displayed on their television property. Artur Bergman made a fascinating discovery when he uncovered what colors the gang at FOX were using to paint their own candy-coated world. Witness this little short-lived change on Al Franken's article, as the original text up to that point looked like this:

The lawsuit focused a great deal of media attention upon Franken's book and greatly enhanced its sales. Reflecting later on the lawsuit during an interview on the [[National Public Radio]] program ''[[Fresh Air]]'' on [[September 3]], [[2003]], Franken said that Fox's case against him was "literally laughed out of court" and that "wholly (holy) without merit" is a good characterization of Fox News itself.


The FOX Noise 'anonymous' user made a few changes:

The lawsuit focused a great deal of media attention upon Franken's book and greatly enhanced its sales. Reflecting later on the lawsuit during an interview on the [[National Public Radio]] program ''[[Fresh Air]]'' on [[September 3]], [[2003]], Franken said that Fox's case against him was liberal [[National Public Radio]] program ''[[Fresh Air]]'' on [[September 3]], [[2003]], Franken said that Fox's case against him was the best thing to happen to his book sales.

Unfortunately for them, this little masterpiece lasted all of eight minutes before being reverted.

And notice the slapping-on of the term 'liberal' in describing Fresh Air? Hey, at least they spelled it correctly there, as opposed to this edit. Oops!

So, who exactly is this person? Well, there is at least a little anonymity left on the net, as this person (or persons, since anyone in the building could have been making edits) is only known as 12.167.224.228. So it may be a big gun like, say Bill O'Reilly. Or it may just be some underling in a cubicle. Nonetheless, the IP number is indeed assigned to the FOX News HQ.

So, how else has .228 (since there's no first or last name, let's refer to this moniker) been attempting to 'Foxify' Wikipedia? Well, one look at the edit history assigned to the number shows some rather interesting revelations. Editing is very heavy on the articles of their high profile personalities. Witness the article on Shepard Smith, which shows an edit by .228 removing a couple bits - one about an arrest in Florida (even removing the Smoking Gun link with his mugshot) and the other about a hilarious on-air gaffe regarding the phrase 'blow job' in a story about Jennifer Lopez. Unfortunately for .228, video doesn't lie. The edits were reverted by the next day. In addition, references to Greta Van Susteren's facelift were deleted.

In addition, .228 was also trying to scrub articles on 'talents' such as Carl Cameron and Brit Hume (though, to be fair, some of the edits involve his son's alleged suicide, so best not go there). They also removed a paragraph from Chris Wallace's article that used a reference from long-time FAUX nemesis Media Matters for America.

Lots of fluff was added for the various FOX Noise comedy all-stars, but a bit of vitrol was reserved for their 'enemies list'. Keith Olbermann got slammed a bit by .228, ironic in that the network seems to disavow Olbermann's very existence. First, .228 removed a couple sentences about a well-received book Olbermann wrote about baseball coaches, one that was even recognized by the Baseball Hall of Fame. Next, .228 removed a cited source praising Olbermann. And then, .228 added a vague statement chastised a time when Olbermann, in reporting the death of Peter Jennings, told his own personal story about his battle with smoking. They also cleaned up a sentence reading, " Some conservatives feel that Olbermann's reporting carries a liberal bias" to remove the word 'some.' References to O'Reilly's infamous sexual harassment lawsuit were removed from the article. Within an hour, all these additions were reverted.

Remember that on-air gaffe by CNN that resulted in Dick Cheney's face being 'X'ed' out for a split second? That was expanded on by the fine folks at FAUX (they claim it was for 1/7 of a second rather than 1/15, if you're dying to know). Oh, the little things.

So, what is FAUX's deal anyway? Do they really think we're that stupid? Have they spent so long snookering the American public with their own brand of infotainment they really think they are living in Bizarro World, where they can fool all the people all the time on all the internet? Who knows. Will the newly revamped Half Hour News Hour bring this up? Doubtful.

2 comments:

ltr said...

MediaChannel.org has linked this article, and there is some rather interesting conversation going on about it. A few right-wingers who seem to be intimidated by my blog have left some comments on it, mostly whining about the so-called 'librul media'. See it here.

Lu Cifer said...

Just goes to show how DESPERATE the turds are at Fox Nazi "News"! Along with that clown from American Enterprise Institute who screwed with the SICKO entry like 900 times in a 2 day period! Gee, if the Cons philosophy and whatever is just so great, why do they keep having to try (and usually fail miserably!) to shut down anything left of Hitler?!?!?!?!?!?


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