Lying is a real conundrum. We don’t just lie; we like to be lied to as well. We can relate to those who lie. We are in fact attracted to liars. The “juiciest” are the lies, the more we want to know about them, the more we are interested in the lies and of course the more attention we pay to the details. If you google “anchors caught lying” for instance, you’ll discover pages after pages after pages of stories, details, assumptions, speculations, comments, commentaries about Brian Williams; Brian was NBC News Anchor before his temporary suspension (for six months); Brian’s relationship with NBC will eventually be severed in the very near future. (Update: NBC rehired Brian following his suspension but he lost the anchor position)
What is the story about Brian Williams? Needless to rehash a story that’s been counted so many times and in so many different languages; a story that’s been dissected, analyzed, satirized and still talked about almost like a fairy tale! Shortly after the Brian William’s “outing”, another anchor, Bill O’Reilly, the famous talk show host of the “No Spin Zone” at Fox Opinion (referred to by most as Fox News) was accused of lying in many occasions. Ironically, the same google search mentioned earlier (anchors caught lying) turned up just a couple of links which mentioned Bill O’Reilly. What’s going on? Why aren’t we all pouring into the “juicy” story of famous Bill O’Reilly lying? You probably already guess the answer; Bill O’Reilly (or any host at Fox Opinion) lying is not news; it’s not juicy; therefore, it deserves very little attention. The world at large already knows that Fox Opinion is the “Lying King” but, Brian William caught lying? No way! The Brian William? NBC News Anchor? Tell me more. Has it not been revealed by Brian himself, we would have had a difficult time believing it’s true.
Well, if Brian William says it, it must be true. Oops! Or is it? Could Brian be joking about having lied? Well, let’s see. No psychoanalysis is needed here. But what’s interesting to watch following the fall (from grace and fame) of Brian William is a line-up of two camps (the left and the right) shouting at one another over which side lies the most to the public. What’s perplexing is to see the “Lying King” front and center in the debate.
Fox Opinion is very good at lying. It has no qualm about that; in fact, if seems so natural. One would say it’s a culture to lie at Fox Opinion. It may even be a cult. To lie is second nature to everyone working at Fox. But don’t blame anyone; even when confronted with irrefutable proofs (as Jon Stewart had done numerous times on his show), Fox Opinion argues against being wrong. It is quite possible that the deep rooted culture (of lies) may make it impossible for anyone at Fox to be able to differentiate between truth and lies. It did not happen by accident; it was cultivated, researched, practiced and adopted.
The executive management at Fox has been justified over and over and over in its approach to broadcasting; Fox has been consistently rated number one in viewership; translation, advertisers pour money into Fox Networks which provide Fox management the capital to extend its reach, expand the culture and crush the competition. Fox’s management understands that to lie is just business; professionalism in journalism, ethics, etc. are principles that carry no monetary values. A semblance of professionalism is what matters for the “foxites”.
It’s irrelevant how many networks would put resources together to compete against Fox, the approach would not work unless they move into Fox’s territory, start the culture of lying to the audience. Even such approach would require time to catch up with Fox’s. In that sense, Fox is kind of the Tesla of lying; others will eventually catch up but it will take some time. So, should the competition change its approach and start lying?
It is a dilemma, isn’t it? To lie is profitable; everyone working at Fox knows it but would not admit such under any circumstance. After all, Fox’s slogan is “Fair and Balanced”. It is a real conundrum, don’t you think? Money rules and Fox has plenty of it. How does one fight the (Lying) King? The attempt to compete against Fox has failed time and again, simply because the competition imagines the audience would see through Fox’s lies. Wrong bet! After over a decade of exposing Fox, nothing has changed, why? Well, because lying is big business in broadcasting and Fox management has mastered the art. If you watch Fox Opinion for just one day, it should be easy to spot how each host is trying to outlie the others; it’s as if there is a prize at the end of the day for the best liar. Maybe, there is; it could be the best kept secret at Fox Opinion. Fox’s management surely understands that its employees have various degrees of financial needs that must be met; by all analysis, the employees’ financial needs are being met. So, it is a no-brainer to embrace the culture (however uncomfortable it may be in the beginning) of an organization which takes care of your financial needs, right?
While to lie has huge financial rewards, it can also bring negative, at times, dangerous or even fatal consequences, not just to a few, to a country, to a region even. When the shameless former New York Times journalist Judith Miller published bogus stories about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction, the country paid (and still is) dearly:
4500 soldiers lost their lives in that senseless war; 31,000 others were injured, some so severely they would never recover the use of their limbs, ever again. $820 billion (still counting) of taxpayers’ money were used to finance the war. On the Iraqi side, well over 405,000 civilians lost their lives; some experts believe that number is much higher; there are entire families that could never be accounted for, thus impossible to come up with an actual number. There were 1.5 million Iraqi who were displaced because of the war.
Any individual with a conscious would regret having to be the source of so many tragedies; Judith Miller has no guilt about having published a false story that cost so much to so many.
It is without doubt that the “Lying King” (Fox Opinion) would have not been able to pull a stunt like Judith Miller; no one would have believed its story. Well, everyone on earth already knows that the “Lying King” does one thing well, lying. Its audience is okay with that. Sometimes, one could swear to be able to hear the chorus of Fox’s audience chanting “Lie to Me, Lie to Me, Lie to Me always!” Fox must oblige.
In the next column (Lie to Me – Part 3), we will look at how lies have enriched some and destroyed most.