Monday, July 30, 2012

Sly Fox

It is alleged in certain quarters that there are people in this country who watch the Fox News network for reasons other than its sometimes uproarious entertainment value. These people, or so it is said, look upon this television channel as an actual source of news.  Strange as this may seem, it does raise the question of why the network is called “Fox.”

Some would say it is because of a certain crafty slyness in its treatment of the facts.  Others find resemblances to more predatory vulpine qualities.  Webster’s tells us a fox is a carnivore, and certainly many Fox commentators love to throw red meat at their viewers.  The dictionary also says the fox is related to the wolf, and one must admit that there is a lupine rapacity in some Fox coverage.  Yet others, perhaps swayed by the sexy good looks of Greta van Susteren or Bill O’Reilly, insist the network is named for the “foxes” among its anchors.

Truth is, however, that the Fox name came along as part of the baggage when Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation acquired 20th Century Fox Pictures.  (Note to Mr. Murdoch: Shouldn’t the name now be changed to 21st Century Fox—although 19th Century Fox might be more appropriate?) 

William Fox, born in Hungary in 1879, of German-Jewish parents named Fuchs, came to the United States when he was nine months old.  In 1913, he founded and named for himself the Fox Film Corporation, which produced Movietone News. From 1928 until 1963, Fox Movietone newsreels were a major source of information to American audiences. In 1935 Fox Film merged with Twentieth Century Pictures, a company founded by Darryl F. Zanuck. 

Fox amassed a chain of more than 300 theatres nationwide—all named for him and many of them still functioning, in such cities as Atlanta, Detroit, and Oakland. Known as the “Lone Eagle,” Fox carried nothing smaller than $100 bills, refused to wear a watch, and always kept his office blinds closed “to make time stand still.” By 1932 Fox had lost his financial interest in the movie company and declared bankruptcy.  He served six months in prison in 1936 for trying to bribe a tax judge, and died in 1952, the man himself all but forgotten—but his name engraved forever in media history.

Murdoch’s News Corporation acquired 20th Centuy Fox in 1984, and then established Fox Broadcasting Corporation in 1985.  The 24-hour news network, started as a challenge to Ted Turner’s CNN, began operation in 1996.

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou is not regarded as a fox or even as a wolf, although some have noted his resemblance to a hyena.  He laughs all the way to the bank, which is odd, since he doesn’t have an account there.  His currency, he claims, is his verse (but don’t try to spend it):

            It ain’t necessarily so,
            I just thought that you ought to know
            That the news on the box,
            As reported by Fox—
            It ain’t necessarily so.

            Now O’Reilly might use a big word,
            Perhaps one that you’ve never heard,
            He’s just bloviating,
            To keep up his rating,
            With viewers who don’t know he’s absurd.

            Ms. Van Susteren has got a sly grin,
            It can spread from her ear to her chin,
            And while she is smiling,
            Her guests keep reviling
            Obama and most of his kin.

            If Sean Hannity’s ready to fight,
            So what if it’s just out of spite?
            It increases the traffic
            By the Fox demographic
            He recruits from the radical right.

            See, it ain’t necessarily so,
            And somehow it just goes to show
            What you hear on that channel
            From a Fox network panel—
            Well, it ain’t necessarily so!

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