Drawn by free tickets and political interest, a huge crowd packed every seat in the Straight’s cinema yesterday afternoon to see Robert Greenwald’s documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. The low-budget documentary, which portrays the Fox News Channel as a right wing propaganda machine, has become a sleeper hit, and yesterday the overflowing crowd at the Straight gave it an enthusiastic response.
“It’s persuasive, it’s good, it’s well made, and a lot of people really don’t like Fox,” said Mitch Fagen ’05. the vice-president of Cornell College Democrats, explaining the appeal of the film.
“This is an election year, so a lot of people are more interested in political films than usual,” he added.
Outfoxed wasn’t originally intended to be distributed in theaters, but after more than 50,000 copies of the DVD were sold on Amazon.com and other internet sites within the first ten days of its release, the producers decided to release the movie in selected theaters around the country. The movie opened in New York, Los Angeles, Washington and San Francisco on August 6th and has been shown in many other cities since then. Still, Greenwald, the director, told Wired News, “theatrical release is the least important part to this film.”
The film, which was substantially financed by two liberal groups, MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress, cost only $300,000 to make, but according to Greenwald was never intended to make money. The movie makes heavy use of clips taken from Fox News broadcasts as well as interviews with reporters who worked for the network.
Mike Lepage ’05, Chairman of the Cornell College Republicans, heavily criticized the film, calling it “misguided” and “hypocritical.”
“FOX, in its choice of prime time hosts, may lean a bit to the right,” he wrote in an email, “But CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS all lean a bit to the left.”
“Outfoxed” was shown at Cornell as part of an ongoing series called “Manufacturing Consent: The Press, Politics and the Powers that Be” sponsored by Cornell Cinema and The Sun. The series, which began September 1st with the sci-fi classic Fahrenheit 451 will continue throughout the rest of the month and into October. Upcoming films in the series include Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror, which will be introduced by A.D. White Professor at Large John Pilger, and the summer blockbuster The Manchurian Candidate.
Mary Fessenden, the director of Cornell Cinema, explained that Outfoxed was included in the series because, “this series is meant to address the links between media coverage, politicians, and the corporate world — Outfoxed seemed very appropriate to this theme.” Outfoxed, she said, was “providing a particular viewpoint and I’m sure that people will have different views, but it’s our job to get alternative viewpoints out there to be discussed and debated.”
Fessenden acknowledged that the film series was heavy on films with a more liberal view, but said that, “I would say that in many cases the mainstream media coverage is more expressing conservative views and it’s the more liberal end of things that doesn’t get so much say through mainstream media outlets.”
Fagen took a position similar to Fessenden’s.
“Especially in the last few years, the media has been very conservative,” he said.
The other networks may take one side of an issue on any given day, Fagen said. But unlike FOX, he added, “I don’t think they intend to be partisan for either side over a long period of time.”
Lepage disputed the idea that the mainstream media was conservative.
“With the existence of FOX News, talk radio, and online magazines and weblogs, the current media environment is much more diverse and [more] fair and balanced than twenty years ago,” he added.
However, the arguments surrounding the movie did not dampen the enthusiasm of students who saw it yesterday.
“It’s great that Cornell Cinema is doing all of this and showing movies like this,” said Isadora Yofie ’06, as she exited the theater. “This movie should be seen by as large an audience as possible,” she added.
Archived article by Elijah Reichlin-Melnick
Sun Staff Writer