The brilliant John Scalzi offers his opinion on why the White House is publicly feuding with Fox News, but I don’t think he’s got it quite right. Here’s what he says:
Which makes it a low-risk ideological foil for the White House. Follow: The White House says Fox News is not a real news organization and is the propaganda arm of the GOP, Fox News throws a very public shit fit about it, which gives it higher ratings and an impetus to skew even more to the right in its presentation, and go out of its way to criticize Obama even further. Meanwhile the noise is all covered by multiple other news outlets, which in aggregate reach a much larger audience, which show Fox News anchors and personalities in the middle of ideological conniptions, confirming to the general population the proposition that, indeed, Fox News is more interested in politics than news, and reinforcing the impression that Fox News and the GOP are reading off the same page. Which makes the GOP look unreasonable in an era in which its popularity isn’t, shall we say, spectacular to begin with. To what end? Well, you might have heard there’s a health care debate going on.
I do think this is why the White House picked a fight with Rush Limbaugh earlier in the year, but I think there’s something else going on. Fox News’ purpose is to produce propaganda that reinforces the views of its audience. Lately they have taken to not only selectively reporting news to suit their agenda, but also creating news. They have gone all in on the tea party spectacle, for example. They worked with “protesters” who disrupted the August town halls and gave them massive exposure. Then something started happening — a lot of other media outlets started asking whether they were out of touch with the “angry White American” movement and needed to give it more attention. All of the media outlets started giving a disproportionate amount of attention to the town hall idiocy, even though there were town halls going on all over the country that didn’t include hecklers.
So I think what the White House wants is to remind everyone, especially everyone else in the press, that the crap Fox News flings is not real news. They don’t need to cover stories just because Fox News is covering them, and certainly they don’t need to cover stories that Fox News is ginning up. That’s the reason behind the White House is calling Fox News out — they can afford for Fox News to be what it is, but they don’t want the New York Times or CNN to factor the priorities of Fox News into their own editorial judgement.