There are some remarkable things about the USA (for example, where would you find billionaires - in any currency - coming together to commit themselves to giving half of their wealth away? Amazing)...
... but Fox TV is not one of them.
I was disappointed, but not surprised, to read that their ratings are soaring. But don't count me among their fans. Here are ten reasons:
I find it staggering that a media outlet can claim to be legitimate and yet occupy, so transparently, only one place on the political spectrum. In reacting to what they perceive to be a left-wing bias in the mainstream media, Fox News makes little attempt to be balanced at all. They seem to swing to the opposite extreme and stay there. When does such a stance become mere propaganda?
[And I am writing as someone who has never voted 'left' in a political election - ever.]
It is not just the bias, it is the volume with which the bias is projected. Everything is so loud. Everything seems to attack the viewer in headlines, playing on our fears and anxieties to the point of becoming overheated and even irrational at times.
The volume is made worse by the brashness of the celebrity hosts in their stable. Messrs O'Reilly, Hannity and Beck are some of the most smug and arrogant people I encounter on TV - and I do find it distressing that each one, as far as I know, claims to have a Christian faith.
I remain unpersuaded by some of the assumptions lying behind the unimpeachable vocabulary that is used on Fox News. What is this 'freedom' that is talked about? Sometimes it sounds like the 'freedom' being protected is nothing more than the 'American way of life', marked as it often is by things like over-indulgent consumption. What is 'patriotism'? I'd love someone to give me a biblical basis for patriotism. I cannot find it - or construct it. I have yet to be convinced that God looks down from his heaven and sees national boundaries. There is one church and it is global.
Why must every woman doing a news spot on Fox News look like she has been recruited from the latest Miss Universe pageant? What are the subtle messages being absorbed by the women (and men!) who are watching? And this in a culture which struggles to find a beauty beyond the skin-deep and the youthful.
The USA is a large country at the center of the world. To some degree we all revolve around it. The USA does not need to define themselves by going outside themselves in quite the same way as we do. This means that Americans, quite understandably, can live in a bit of a bubble. And in its approach, Fox News builds and strengthens that bubble - while I would suggest that the first principle in being an American Christian is to burst the bubble and make extra efforts to see the world from other perspectives.
Those little segments of news stories which fill the time between the main shows ("...and here is something you might find interesting...", or however they say it) are a little annoying, aren't they? Over the months, I have watched how they have this capacity to make small stories seem big, while ignoring many a big story - thereby making them small. As a Christian living in this world I find this unacceptable.
To identify a Christian perspective with one side of the political spectrum is always unwise. Fox News frequently leaves me thinking that God votes Republican. As for me I find voting in elections so difficult. My sense is that (in)justice trumps the economy as the primary issue about which to be concerned. Then when (in)justice is the focus for any length of time, attention will turn to ethics. Here is where it gets tricky. Will it be personal ethics, the great concern of the "right" (and Fox News) OR will it be social ethics, the great concern of the "left". Voting becomes tricky because I want to be equally concerned about both the personal and the social. In the past I have leaned towards the personal/right - but it is no more than a 'lean'...and I am not so sure about the future.
I know they would deny it, but there sure is more than a whiff of islamophobia hanging around Fox News from time to time. And yet in a society with such a good track record on 'freedom of religion', my understanding of the Islamic community is that they just want policies in place that treat islamophobia in much the same way as anti-semitism. Is that so wrong?
There are some truly remarkable things about the USA. But as I travel through Asia sometimes I shudder when I sense people building their understanding of what America is like largely from Fox News. That is sad, very sad. And it is ever so far from the truth. There are far, far better bits to America.
Yes, yes, yes - I know. I could just turn the TV off.
And sometimes I do.
[PS: to any American friends offended by this post, being offensive is not my purpose - although I do realise it may be a consequence. Sorry!]