<\body> Stories in America: The WAR on Christmas

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The WAR on Christmas

Bill and O'Reilly and Fox News are practically foaming at the mouth over this so-called "War on Christmas." It's been rather humorous to watch.

In a letter sent to Romenesko, former Fox producer Charlie Reina writes that it's no surprise that this phony call to arms, this "Christmas (ergo, Christians) Under Attack" hysteria, emanates from the bowels of Fox News Channel.
The network is, after all, ground zero in the culture wars that polarize so much of America these days. Make no mistake about it: Fox is on a mission. Its slogans say, "Fair and Balanced" and "We Report, You Decide." But in the six years that I worked there, what I heard most from Fox management were mission statements -- about turning things around, taking news back from the liberals, and giving "middle America" a voice long denied it by the "east coast media elite." In other words, using its news report to bring about change -- in the media and, ultimately, in the direction of American culture.

As FNC's man at the top, Roger Ailes, knows well from his years as a political operative, there is no more effective wartime strategy than to divide and conquer. That's why so much of his network's programming is confrontational. The "us against them" gambit animates not only FNC's night-time entertainment shows, like "The O'Reilly Factor" and "Hannity & Colmes," but the network's daytime "news" report, where anchors regularly browbeat guests who are on the wrong (Democrat or liberal) side of issues.

But what really separates Fox from the competition is its unabashed use of religion as a divisive weapon. Common sense -- and common courtesy -- have long dictated that personal religious beliefs be kept out of news reporting unless the story at hand involves religion. But on Fox, it's not uncommon for an anchor to raise the issue of a guest's religion, or lack thereof,
a' propos of nothing. The most glaring example I can recall is a 2002 interview with a guest who had been cited for his charitable acts. At the end of the discussion the anchor said (paraphrasing here), "So I understand you're an atheist." The guest acknowledged that this was so. "Well," said he anchor, "we're out of time now, but I'd be glad to debate you anytime on the existence of God," and, with that, ended the segment.


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