David Frum Bashes Fox News Viewers: End Up 'Knowing A Lot Less About Important World Events'

Faux-Republican David Frum took a shot at Fox News viewers on Sunday when he told CNN's Howard Kurtz that "people who watch a lot of Fox come away knowing a lot less about important world events." Frum's interview aired during the bottom half of the 11 a.m. hour of Reliable Sources.

Even Kurtz, who has worked for the liberal media for three decades, challenged Frum's hard-line criticism of the right-wing media. "You're tarring with an awfully broad brush there" he told Frum, who in a recent New York Magazine column accused the conservative media of running an "alternative knowledge system" of "pseudo-facts and pretend information."

"But the thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion," Frum wrote. "Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics."

However, Frum stood fast behind his assertions on CNN. "[T]hese media institutions, they started as political projects. They started as ways to offer an alternative point of view on current events," he insisted. And his continued bashing of the conservative media prompted this exchange:

FRUM: You need to create conflict and you need to create a sense of embattlement. And you need to create a sense that we, this network, are your only reliable friends.

KURTZ: And liberal outlets don't do that?

FRUM: Liberal outlets have historically not done that, because liberal outlets until recently didn't know that they were liberal outlets.

KURTZ: They were operating under a false – false self-portrait. But look –

FRUM: But this will come. This is a general poison that is happening to American culture and American media. Yes, the liberals are now catching up with results as bad.

So Frum thinks that the conservative media are presently worse off in this regard than the liberal media, who are nevertheless catching up to them. Apparently, Frum has not seen MSNBC's "Lean Forward" promos which incessantly tout the network's liberal values of its prime-time lineup – including new host Al Sharpton laughably blaming Republicans for the down economy.

A transcript of relevant portions of the interview, which aired on December 11 at 11:33 a.m. EST, is as follows:

[11:33]

HOWARD KURTZ: You say Fox, talk radio have built – and let me quote here – "a whole alternative knowledge system with its own facts, its own history, its own economics." You're tarring with an awfully broad brush there.

(...)

KURTZ: But when you say that outlets like Fox immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information – was Bret Baier doing that when he interviewed Mitt Romney on Fox and pressed him in a very testy interview? In other words, you seem to be indicting almost everybody at these outlets.

DAVID FRUM, CNN contributor: The question is, what is the -- you can always find good people doing good work in bad situations and you can find people doing bad work in good situations. The question is, what is the impact on the viewer? And we know, for example, that people who watch a lot of Fox come away knowing a lot less about important world events. And –

KURTZ: You're assuming a cause and effect there.

FRUM: I'm not assum – that's just a correlation that we know.

(...)

KURTZ: But let's get to the why. Why do you think, since you were very specific, conservative talk radio, Fox News – why do you think they are pushing – in your view, and I'm not buying into this – in your view, they are pushing propaganda, false facts, pseudo-facts, pretend information, toward what end?

FRUM: Because these media institutions, they started as political projects. They started as ways to offer an alternative point of view on current events.

They have become an important industry, and so they see the conservative world not as a set of ideas, but as a demographic. And the way you appeal to a demographic is working by conflict. This is the oldest rule in how TV works. And I've been writing – I wrote a history of the 1970s that made this point.

TV enhances its own credibility by destroying the credibility of all other institutions, and you can see this in polls. When other institutions' credibility declined, TV's credibility goes up. The old advertising motto for local news stations, we're on your side against all those other people who are not.

KURTZ: Right, but this isn't about  demonization. This is --

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM: You need to create conflict and you need to create a sense of embattlement. And you need to create a sense that we, this network, are your only reliable friends.

KURTZ: And liberal outlets don't do that?

FRUM: Liberal outlets have historically not done that, because liberal outlets until recently didn't know that they were liberal outlets.

KURTZ: They were operating under a false – false self-portrait. But look –

FRUM: But this will come. This is a general poison that is happening to American culture and American media. Yes, the liberals are now catching up with results as bad. And if I were a liberal, I would be writing about their problems and worrying about them. But I worry about my team.

(...)
 


KURTZ: Just to connect the dots in our remaining seconds here. You criticize the direction and the tactics of the Republican Party, but I -- I'm not clear on how the media, the Fox News and "Wall Street Journal" editorial page have somehow forced the party into this direction?

FRUM: Because there have been people who were more creative. Somebody like Rick Santorum, for example, is willing to say, hey, upward mobility in America is not only not the best in the world, it's one of the worst in the world.

KURTZ: And what happens to those people?

FRUM: They are utterly marginalized.

KURTZ: Deliberately?

FRUM: Deliberately -- it's -- it's --

KURTZ: The matter of fact is --

FRUM: It's an ecosystem that has its own rules. If you go on TV and say there's no other country in the world where you can be born poor and become rich, you get a huge megaphone. If you tell the truth, which is that most of the studies show actually the United States is worse than anybody except Britain in upward mobility, there is no audience for you. And yet, that's an important fact from a conservative point of view.

KURTZ: A provocative conversation that we'll continue in many forms. David Frum, thank you very much for joining us.

FRUM: Thank you.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center