There is a price for everything in life. A friend of mine once shared with me, “You can have anything you want in the world. Just pay the price and take it.” In other words, we are beholden to the consequences of our decisions, and we are going to pay a price for the moral integrity we demonstrate or refuse to demonstrate.
Journalism, aka “The Fourth Estate,” in democracy is a public trust that serves the greater good for our world. Websters notes that “this term has been around for centuries and refers to the three estates that were represented in Parliament; namely the nobility, the clergy and common people.” The “fourth estate refers to the “mob or the public press” that had an unofficial but great influence on public affairs.”
The world of journalism has official and unofficial rules that it has adopted over the years. There are four that are imperative. 1. Seek truth and report it. 2. Minimize harm. 3. Act Independently. 4. Be accountable and transparent.
In the old days, there was what we call “the Fairness Doctrine.” This doctrine had its origins in 1927 with the arrival of radio and was codified by the FCC in 1949. This doctrine stated that an issue must be examined from all points of view and in the realm of public debate and it is incumbent on news agencies to give equal time to differing views. The Fairness Doctrine was eliminated during the Reagan administration, which believed that the free market of ideas should be allowed to flourish, and believed the doctrine compromised First Amendment rights. This paved the way for media empires like Fox to give the people what they want rather than giving an accurate account of facts.
Journalism, which has been demonized and undermined in recent years, is imperative to the public good. Business relies on facts for the sake of making reasonable decisions that will guide the institution to help it thrive. Our entire monetary system depends on factual information. Society relies on facts so we can have a moral foundation that can help in creating a structure that holds for us. Law, which is formed based on moral integrity, helps in the formation of a structure so we can determine what is good and bad for society, and our branches of government can determine what is fair and reasonable in running the ship.
Recently, Fox News went to court with Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion accused Fox of pandering to lies of former President Donald Trump that the “election was stolen” and the “voting systems were rigged.” The commentators for Fox perpetuated the lie on air even though in private they recognized that the allegations were false.
This is not over. There are still lawsuits pending that will continue to be a thorn in the side of the entertainment agency. Dominion still has lawsuits against Newsmax and OAN as well.
Abby Grossberg, a former producer, is now suing Fox for coercing her into giving misleading testimony against the voting machines company. Grossberg has texts and voicemails to prove it.
Tucker Carlson, the darling of Fox News, was recently fired by the conglomerate.
There are also pending lawsuits from Smartmatic.
A few years ago, a lawsuit came against Fox and Tucker Carlson from Karen McDougal. The claim Tucker Carlson made against her was that she was exhorting money from Trump even though she never approached him or was trying to receive a penny from him. Fox won the suit claiming it cannot be held to the same standard of a regular news organization as it was an “entertainment” entity, not a news gathering entity. In the Court’s opinion, written by US District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil it stated:
“The Court concludes that the statements are rhetorical hyperbole and opinion commentary intended to frame a political debate, and, as such, are not actionable as defamation.” She also stated that “Fox persuasively argues, that given Mr. Carlson’s reputation, any reasonable viewer ‘arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism’ about the statement he makes.”
In fairness, conservative media news organization OAN brought a defamation case against Rachel Maddow. Maddow joked that OAN, “is the most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda.”
But Maddow was able to prove the points she made were made in a spirit of opinion and held a consistent tone of jest, and the case was dismissed by the court. The judge Milan D. Smith, an appellate court judge upheld the ruling stating, “No reasonable viewer could conclude that Maddow implied an assertion of objective fact…”
In this day and age, it begs the question, what is “a reasonable viewer”? The settlement of Fox against Dominion cost Fox News millions of dollars. Are viewers really concerned with facts or are they just concerned with hearing what they need to hear to satisfy their own agenda? This stands true for any organization whether it be MSNBC, CNN, BBC, Bloomberg etc…
I once worked at a newspaper and the first rule I was taught by journalist William Miller was “If you want to know the truth, follow the money.” In the case against Dominion, Fox settled out of court for $787.5 million. Fox is not going to change its winning formulae due to a lawsuit that costs hundreds of millions because it is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. MSNBC will make its claim in the market with viewers as well.
Scripture is clear on the issue. Lies are some of the greatest sins you can commit. Satan is known as the “Prince of Lies” for a reason. Our unwillingness to abide by our commitment to calling out lies is problematic. I wish people would stop using Fox as an excuse for a reasonable representation for news and call it what it is, “Entertainment.” More importantly, I wish people would stop using the lies it spreads to make arguments.
“Let the buyer beware” is an old business motto that seems to have been forgotten. It means do your homework. We do pay a price for the choices we make. Fox paid big money, and we will see what happens with future cases. Democracy suffers from an uneducated electorate that allows facts to siphon into them and meet the soothing heroine of lies to meet the psychology of the day. Most importantly, we pay the price for lack of discernment and an unwillingness to separate truth from lies and the folly of humanity rolls on.
“And so it goes.”