FOX News has been sued before, but probably not at this level. In a recent interview Christiane Amanpour on CNN, Paris’ Mayor Anne Hidalgo said that the city wants to sue FOX News over its repeated reporting of Muslim “no-go zones,” which she called an insult to the city’s honor. Already the conservative channel has come out and said such a move would be “misplaced,” but experts have warned that this could go against FOX if it comes to a French court. While this is a generally amusing story, it is also a concerning story because it reveals much about America’s attitude to truth in reporting.
For some years the urban legend has gone around that FOX News won a court case giving them the right to lie. Snopes has debunked this, but its persistence reveals a lot about how people view the conservative 24-hour news channel. People find this story plausible, meaning that to a certain extent they already believe that FOX is lying to them, just like the billboard in the image above suggests. At the same time it also illustrates a belief that the legal system in America would let a cable news network get away with being deliberately misleading. Apparently, Americans trust the legal system to protect the truth about as much as they trust FOX to tell it.
While this story is a proven falsehood, the fact that the network would probably win against the city of Paris in an American court is true. CNN analyst Paul Callan discussed the issue and said there was probably “no chance” of Paris winning in America. In France, however, defamation is a criminal affair, not a civil court case. Callan discussed the 1881 French law that Paris could use as its basis for a case and just how costly such a case could be to the conservative network. The network does not seem worried however, judging from their reaction given down from on high in a place of seemingly inviolate safety. Basically, FOX said it felt bad for a grieving Paris, but the city would be an idiot to try and sue.
Callan observed that “the French, in fact, do not take such a liberal view of the First Amendment as we do.” While they do not have a First Amendment protecting free speech in the same way that the United States, France does protect many different kinds of free speech, as the example of Charlie Hebdo’s controversial covers show. What it does not protect is the reporting of something as a “fact” when it is so easy to get the truth right with a simple fact check.
And, honestly, a simple fact check could have changed this story dramatically. Google is a wonderful tool which FOX apparently does not use enough. A Google search leads to Snopes, which leads to the truth about the no-go zone myth, which could keep a news network from making themselves look like idiots to the world. While any case the city of Paris may bring against FOX would be about defamation or slander, everyone will know that it is about stupidity and not observing basic journalistic practice.
But what about Americans and how they view FOX News’ grasp of the truth? While American viewers may know that they are being misled (at best) by the network most of the time, they also know there is very little they can do about it. The French have not been as disillusioned as much as their American counterparts. Paris wants to sue FOX News and should they win such a case, it would be a big blow for truth in the network’s reporting. However, such a win looks unlikely at this time, a fact which FOX is arrogantly aware of.
Video by Raw Story
Opinion by Lydia Bradbury