This week, Rupert Murdoch-controlled Fox News went out of its way to promote antitax "tea parties" in the United States. Straight.com has posted the report below from the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America. This is to alert Metro Vancouver residents to what we might expect here if the Harper government relaxes restrictions on foreign ownership of broadcast outlets--which could clear the way for Murdoch to buy some assets of troubled Canwest Global Communications Corp.:
While millions of people were scrambling to make it to the post office by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, far, far fewer showed up at Fox News' Tax Day Tea Parties.
Media Matters for America extensively documented the incessant promotion of the tea parties by Fox News and its anchors and contributors. In fact, in the 10 days leading up to the protests, Fox News aired 107 ads promoting them.
And in addition to encouraging its viewers to attend the protests, Fox News announced that viewers who couldn't attend could attend "a virtual tax day tea party" at TheFoxNation.com.
Well, tax day arrived, and Fox News didn't disappoint. Reporting from a protest in Boston, Fox Business Network anchor Cody Willard stated, "I'm on your side. I'm trying to take down the Fed."
He also asked, "Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?"
At a protest in front of the Alamo, Glenn Beck hosted unofficial NRA head Ted Nugent, who played guitar while Beck interviewed Joe Horn, who was identified by a Fox News graphic as having "shot two illegals burglarizing home."
Of course, Beck wasn't covering the protest so much as leading it.
Meanwhile, John Gibson expressed his "hope" that "millions of people" would participate in the protests, while Neil Cavuto appeared to inflate the numbers at the rally he was attending in Sacramento.
Cavuto stated of the Sacramento tea party: "They were expecting 5,000 here, it's got to be easily double, if not triple that."
However, moments earlier, before Cavuto went on the air, a microphone caught Cavuto stating to a producer "There's gotta be 5,000" -- not "double, if not triple" that number.
Geraldo Rivera was not impressed, asserting, "The grand total of all of the tea party demonstrators" was less than the number "at that immigration rally in 2006 in the city of Chicago alone".
Rivera added that the immigration rally was a "truly spontaneous demonstration," while the tea parties "may have had aspects of spontaneity".
While Bill O'Reilly was defending Fox News's coverage of the tea parties, calling it "vastly superior to anything else around", other networks were calling out Fox News for its support of the protests.
On CNN, reporter Susan Roesgen grilled a Chicago protester who referred to President Barack Obama as a "fascist" and said the protests were "highly promoted by the right-wing conservative network Fox".
On the CBS Evening News, reporter Dean Reynolds cited Beck and Cavuto as among the "rightward-leaning commentators" who "embraced the cause".
On ABC's World News, reporter Dan Harris said the protests were "cheered on by Fox News and talk radio".
And CNN's Howard Kurtz asserted: "I don't think I've ever seen a news network throw its weight behind a protest like we are seeing in the past few weeks with Fox and these tea parties."
But Stephen Colbert summed it up best: "I would like to throw my support behind this grassroots effort by Fox News Corporation."
Conservatives freak out about a report on extremist hate groups
Overshadowing the tea-party protests was the leaking of an April 7 Department of Homeland Security intelligence assessment of right-wing extremism.
Several conservative media figures chose to align themselves with the violent and racist hate groups mentioned in the report rather than the DHS.
The report sought to identify factors -- such as the economic downturn and an African-American president -- that these extremist groups would use to target new recruits.
Rush Limbaugh claimed: "[Y]ou have a report from Janet Napolitano and Barack Obama Department of Homeland Security portraying standard, ordinary, everyday conservatives as posing a bigger threat to this country than al-Qaeda terrorists or genuine enemies of this country like Kim Jong-Il."
And Sean Hannity stated that the DHS "is warning law enforcement officials about the rise in right-wing extremist activity" and asserted that the department "would define it as people that maybe think we're not controlling our borders, people that have pro-life bumper stickers".
And Lou Dobbs asked his viewers: "Do you think a person concerned about borders and ports that are unsecured, illegal immigration, Second Amendment rights, or a returning veteran from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is likely or even possibly probable, as the Department of Homeland Security suggests, to be a right-wing extremist?"
Of course, the report doesn't actually say that, but Dobbs's point was echoed ad nauseam in the conservative media. Rather than explaining that the report focused on how certain views are used as tools by hate groups to recruit, the DHS report was portrayed as an indictment of anyone who holds those views.
Conservative media also seized upon an aspect of the report--that returning military veterans are likely to be targeted by extremist groups--to claim that the report considered war veterans a threat.
Cavuto claimed that the report "more or less states the government considers you a terrorist threat if you oppose abortion, speak out against illegal immigration, or you are a returning war veteran".
In fact, the report concludes that "right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat."
More significantly, in reporting on this aspect of the report, Cavuto and others in the conservative media did not note that in reaching its conclusion about returning veterans, the DHS cited a 2008 FBI report -- authored during the Bush administration -- that stated, in the words of the DHS, that "some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups".
But it should come as no surprise that conservative media figures would overlook the Bush administration's role in their efforts to portray the Obama administration as antimilitary.
While decrying the partisan nature of the report, most media outlets also failed to note that the DHS issued an assessment on January 26 of left-wing extremism, which concluded that "a number of emerging trends point to left-wing extremists maturing and expanding their cyber attack capabilities over the next decade with the aim of attacking targets in the United States."
The paranoia persisted on Fox News, even after Shepard Smith and Catherine Herridge debunked the claims on which much of it was based. Herridge noted the January DHS report and said: "[E]ven at the end of last year, prior to the inauguration, the Homeland Security Department under the Bush administration was sounding the alarm about the potential for right-wing groups to act, specifically because of the economy, and also because America was going to have its first African-American president."
Herridge also asserted: "I would point out that both of these assessments ... were commissioned under the Bush administration. It takes some time to do them. They only came out after he had left office."
Since the DHS report came to light on the eve of the tea parties, several media figures drew a link between those events and the DHS report, suggesting that the DHS would be watching the protesters.
Limbaugh claimed: "When Obama's policies are the centerpiece then the people that showed up at the tea parties have to be monitored by Homeland Security."
And TheFoxNation.com ran the headline: "Is Homeland Security Targeting Tea Parties?"