In the comfortable wooden confines of The Village Well bar in Bigfork on Thursday, Sept. 16, about 25 people—a decent turnout for Bigfork—gathered to drink and smoke, but mostly to watch a large television screen playing a DVD of producer and director Robert Greenwald’s Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. Murdoch, the owner of the Fox broadcasting corporation, is among the wealthiest men in the world. Greenwald’s documentary, relying heavily on quotes from former Fox News producers and contributors, argues that Murdoch directs his news division not to be “fair and balanced,” but to promote his own Republican agenda.
A lively pub seems a more appropriate venue than a quiet theater for the screening of a film designed to ignite passions; when former CBS Evening News anchorman Walter Cronkite calls Fox a “right-wing network,” one Well patron, beer in hand, freely yells out, “Damn right!”
Outfoxed exposes internal memos in which Fox management orders staff not to turn the 9/11 Commission into “Watergate”—before it was clear what the commission’s findings might be. A memo on coverage of the death toll in Iraq stated, “Do not fall into the easy trap of mourning the loss of U.S. lives.” In another segment, alarmed media analysts discuss a survey in which 33 percent of frequent Fox News viewers affirmed the incorrect statement that the United States has found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The film, which is not playing in theaters or on television, has been distributed mainly to house parties or similar gatherings and is partially financed by internet activist site MoveOn.org. Outfoxed found a home at the Village Well in part due to the efforts of Bigfork resident and professional screenwriter Diane Silver and Polson-based book publisher Seth Allman Bloom, who describes Fox News as “a meat-headed lie machine.”
At the Well, patrons seethe as they watch a former Fox News contributor state outright, “We were ordered to carry Republican propaganda.”
Showing the film at the bar, Bloom says, is an attempt to remind American news viewers that “there was a time when ‘fair and balanced’ meant something.”