Fox News Engaged In Institutionalized Astroturfing Of The Internet

from the shocking dept

While we all know that the internet is a lawless place where you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, there is still an etiquette. You should always back-link to stories you're commenting upon, rule #34 is always assumed, pics or it didn't happen, and thou shalt not engage in astroturfing or your cause will be subjected to discredit and laughter. Astroturfing is the practice of faking a popular response by falsifying that response through anonymous internet comments, stories, etc. It is typically used by dastardly, horrible organizations with no thought for accuracy, civility, or common decency.

You know, like cable news organizations, which I remind you once again are awful organizations that you should never patronize. One of those cable news cartels, Fox News, was recently the subject of a new book by NPR's David Folkenflik who details Roger Ailes' institutionalized program of internet astroturfing.

On the blogs, the fight was particularly fierce. Fox PR staffers were expected to counter not just negative and even neutral blog postings but the anti-Fox comments beneath them. One former staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred. Several employees had to acquire a cell phone thumb drive to provide a wireless broadband connection that could not be traced back to a Fox News or News Corp account. Another used an AOL dial-up connection, even in the age of widespread broadband access, on the rationale it would be harder to pinpoint its origins. Old laptops were distributed for these cyber operations. Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked.
The book goes on to state that it is unclear if these practices are still currently in place, but perhaps our own comments section will give us a clue. But, see, that's the really stupid part of these kinds of astroturfing campaigns. Think about it logically. First, anyone engaging in this kind of uncouth behavior had better learn quickly that they're more likely to get caught than get away with it. And, thanks to the Streisand Effect, such as the fact that now blogs like Gawker are propelling this story into the headlines, it's going to make the astroturfing organization look bad. But the negative reaction doesn't end there.

As I mentioned, it's overwhelmingly likely that in the comments of this very piece, someone is going to come out and defend Fox News to some degree. The really damning effect of being caught astroturfing is that comments like what might appear below are no longer taken seriously by anyone. There may be very real and very earnest commentors that want to stick up for Fox, but they will find zero purchase because the wider public is going to assume that there's a real chance the comment could part of the astroturfing campaign. Bingo, Fox has now nullified their own real support. Way to go, guys!



Reader Comments (rss)

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 2:47pm

    Fox News gave me a puppy.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:34pm

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 21st, 2013 @ 2:47pm

      Fox news gave me two puppies AND personally introduced me to Jesus. I also heard they killed Hitler first.

       

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        Ninja (profile), Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 6:31am

        Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 21st, 2013 @ 2:47pm

        You know, I'm a truck driver from [insert impossibly named countriside town] and my life would be miserable if I couldn't get all those great undeniable truths from their stuff. Also, Jesus came by these days saying He was representing Fox News and gave me 3 cows (take that you puppy lovers) and cured my grandma from her elephantiasis. How could anybody say such horrible thing about then when the Messiah is their employee?

        Signed,

        Old MacDonnald

        On a side note, some jokes never get old it seems ;)

         

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      Alamandias, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 11:27am

      Re:

      They stole my puppy and gave it away.

       

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    Rikuo (profile), Oct 21st, 2013 @ 2:50pm

    Guys, do me a favour. Please don't send the big burly men in white coats with a strait-jacket to "give me a nice vacation", just because my outrageous laughter at this article sounds a bit insane.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 2:52pm

    Fox news made me chicken soup when I had the sniffles.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 2:54pm

    Fox News sniffed my own hole first! (ewww)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 2:59pm

    Fox News gave my puppy chicken soup after sniffing its butt.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:01pm

    Fox News is teh bestesteestest!!!1

     

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    Hibby the Hoovy (profile), Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:02pm

    Fox News is the godliest!!!!

    Seriously though, I have relatives who believe that.

     

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    S. T. Stone, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:07pm

    Fox News saved my life.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:08pm

    Fox News comes from Jesus himself.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:09pm

    On the contrary, I would expect them to lay low until this story blows over.

    Fox News is about pushing an agenda. They will do so by any means necessary and they will never stop for any reason.

     

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      Robert, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 11:31pm

      Re:

      Fox not-News is not alone in this. Every major advertising agency, every PR agency, most of the major manufacturers, specialist troll companies are all involved in this.
      The only saving grace is they are cheap and greedy and can afford only the worst commentators and the efforts stand out. Some are better than others at it especially Apple but they still ultimately fail when they come under a concerted negative response, of very imaginative and articulate comments.
      How about those people that work for Fox, how low can you sink, how worthless do you consider you honour and integrity, it's become the collection point of the shallowest most worthless liars on the planet.

       

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      The Real Michael, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 4:57am

      Re:

      "Fox News is about pushing an agenda. They will do so by any means necessary and they will never stop for any reason."

      As opposed to MSNBC and CNN? The MSM is one big agenda-driven machine.

       

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    bob, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:10pm

    is this npr fluff or is there proof?

    so.. are there back-links, pictures, or what?
    or do I have to buy the book and it's proven there by "I talked to someone who said" by a guy from NPR?
    I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if fox did that, I'd think using TOR would be more anonymous and cheaper, or payed proxy servers more so than AOL accounts and mobile data thumb drives of some sort.
    So, on the one hand, I'm willing to believe it, but I haven't seen the proof yet.
    at the same time, not sure I care that much.. if it's fox defending itself, I don't really care.
    if it's fox drumming up astro-turf pro or con a particular political point, then I care and would like more info on that, specifically.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 4:16pm

      Re: is this npr fluff or is there proof?

      Said in another way, you trust the news on FOX more than anonymous information you find on the internet...

      The political point in their editorializing and their hosts political stances has been covered to infinity. If you refuse to believe they are coloured politically by now you will never be convinced under any circumstances, making a discussion redundant.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 11:56pm

      Re: is this npr fluff or is there proof?

      Obvious astroturf is obvious, bob.

       

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      Fox Sock Puppet, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 5:00am

      Re: is this npr fluff or is there proof?

      Bob has some very good points there. Fox always has back links and reputable sources for their information, like their multitude of well informed experts. So until someone can prove these allegations I will continue to be very skeptical of these highly biased reports.

      At least Fox is Fair and Balanced, they report - you decide.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 7:07am

      Re: is this npr fluff or is there proof?

      Fox coined the phrase "people are saying" in the news. It's ironic you use the "I talked to someone who said" as a point of attack on their critics. Such obvious astroturfing.

       

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    Troll Thumper, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:14pm

    Ha Now the truth is known

    After seeing all the comments, I've concluded that Mike and his readers are all a bunch of Fox News Astroturfers!

    Fox News never gave me a puppy :(

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:15pm

    Fox is full of ridiculous liars looking to take some weird, obscure, unpopular story and sensationalize it so that they can get the scoop while rewriting history for some other supporter.

    then they get their "userbase" brainwashed and support their crazy ideas as if it is fact.

    just kidding. fox is cool - they have the Simpsons!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:15pm

    Fox is full of ridiculous liars looking to take some weird, obscure, unpopular story and sensationalize it so that they can get the scoop while rewriting history for some other supporter.

    then they get their "userbase" brainwashed and support their crazy ideas as if it is fact.

    just kidding. fox is cool - they have the Simpsons!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:15pm

    News channels aren't reporting news. They are about marketing "news" to their particular demographic for profit. I'd call this guerrilla advertising.

    Anyone remember when you could get all the news you needed from a TV in an hour without a cable subscription?

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:37pm

      Re:

      Anyone remember when you could get all the news you needed from a TV in an hour


      Nobody does, since that was never possible. But in the Good Old Days, what little you did get at least had a bit of credibility.

       

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        Colg, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 6:36pm

        Re: Re:

        "Nobody does, since that was never possible. But in the Good Old Days, what little you did get at least had a bit of credibility."

        Not true, The little I got in an hour was all I needed.

         

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          Keep Government out of my Medicare, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 5:10am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yes .... ahhhh - the good old days. When men were men and women were in the kitchen - amirite?


          Yup, all one needed was the one hour bullshit feed from the propaganda machine of your choice. How things have changed since then huh. Now-a-days ya got yer intarwebs full a commie pinko crappola. Who are these people anyways? the aren't American Patriots that's fer shure.

           

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    Beech, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:19pm

    I would like to believe this story, but I find that I cannot since it didn't come from a reputable news source, like Fox News. To rap with y'all f'real, Fox News wouldn't engage in such uncouth behaviors because they don't need to. Who could possibly disagree with Fox's Fair and Balanced (TM) reporting on the most important issues to YOU? The real test of accuracy for this story is to go watch Fox News right now and see if they report it. If not, it's probably not true since "We report you decide" (TM) because if they don't report on it, then you can't decide on it, then it didn't happen. Simple.

     

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    OldMugwump (profile), Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:27pm

    Pix or it didn't happen

    The one (only) thing I like about Fox News is that they don't pretend to be objective or balanced. Just like MSNBC, they have an opinion and are pleased to shove it down your throat.

    IMHO, that's way better than "objective" sources like CNN or the New York Times, that also have opinions they want to shove down your throat, but pretend they don't.

    Oh, and Fox News's cameras have sharp focus, too.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:27pm

    So this is why they needed those 55" touch screens.

     

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    Beta (profile), Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:49pm

    can't get any lower

    "There may be very real and very earnest commentors that want to stick up for Fox, but they will find zero purchase because the wider public is going to assume that [they may be] part of the astroturfing campaign."

    Umm... I wouldn't take Fox News defenders seriously even if I'd never heard of the astroturfing campaign.

     

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    roarshock44, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 3:50pm

    this stuff gives me a headache.

    i have kept tabs with a japanese english-language news site since the tsunami and nuclear accident.  some months ago there was an article about the energy company having ordered some of its employees to pretend to be casual citizens in favor of doing what the power company wanted to do and emailing that support to a public response forum.

    like you say, the worst of that is that now no one there is likely to be taken seriously if they write in to support the power company.

    stupid, short-sighted thing to do.  fox gives foxy a new name.

     

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    wto605 (profile), Oct 21st, 2013 @ 4:12pm

    Someone is missing...

    Either out_of_the_blue's AOL DialUp is down... or this article hits too close to home.

     

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    Mark Wing, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 4:21pm

    "Smithers, release the sock puppets."

     

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      Pragmatic, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 5:55am

      Re:

      *Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.*

      Smithers: "I think that's all of them, sir."

      Mr. Burns: "Continue the experiments."

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 5:19pm

    So how is this really news? I mean that most of the main stream media that claim to be news, is no longer putting out honest to goodness news. They are putting out their bias, government propaganda now that it's legal to do so, syndicated news feeds, and internet feeds from great news sources like Facebook and Twitter. What they are not doing is real honest investigative news.

    I could care less about human interest stories, even less about stuff like dumb crook news, starlett news, nor what is on the internet they don't have to get off their ass to go get.

    This is one of the reasons I've dropped most mainstream media feeds as news; simply the majority isn't. So whey they go to bitching about how much less advertisers want to pay them for the lack of eyeballs on their news, maybe one day after everyone leaves, they'll figure it out.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 5:16am

      Re:

      "They are putting out their bias, government propaganda now that it's legal to do so"


      lol ... now that it's legal to do so.
      how cute is that?

       

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    ShellMG, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 6:01pm

    Not Following the Money

    Last I checked my wallet, I haven't "donated" a dime to Fox News. Mercifully the same holds true for most self-labeled networks.

    Unfortunately, my money was taken from me and given to NPR. I had no say-so in the matter and know who writes their checks.

    Now, why is this "story" here?

     

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      Karl (profile), Oct 21st, 2013 @ 6:35pm

      Re: Not Following the Money

      Last I checked my wallet, I haven't "donated" a dime to Fox News.

      Yes you have, in so far as Fox News consistently uses loopholes and shell companies to avoid paying any income tax. (See e.g. these articles from The Economist or the New York Times. You can dig up more if you try.)

      In the meantime, NPR gets just 4.6% of its funding from state or local governments.

      So, yeah, you're "donating" more to Fox News.

       

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        Colg, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 7:49pm

        Re: Re: Not Following the Money

        By this reasoning you contribute to every religion in the US

        You should list these as chartable deductions on your tax return.

         

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          Karl (profile), Oct 21st, 2013 @ 11:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: Not Following the Money

          By this reasoning you contribute to every religion in the US

          Believe me, I don't want to. If I had a choice, all religions would be taxed to the fullest extent of the law.

          But, regardless, that's a distraction. The plain fact is that Fox News gets more of the taxpayers' money (in the form of tax breaks) than NPR does. So, criticizing NPR for taking money out of the taxpayers' pockets is misguided, to say the least.

           

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            Joe Dirt, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 5:52am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Not Following the Money

            "The plain fact is that Fox News gets more of the taxpayers' money (in the form of tax breaks) than NPR does."

            Correction, Fox News pays less taxes by doing these nefarious (if legal)things. They do not get more of my taxes.

            What you said equates to saving $250 by buying a $500 dress for $250.

            Maybe if there were a simpler tax code, we wouldn't have these issues. The plain truth is that the Government Establishment doesn't want a simpler tax code. They want it as complex as possible so they can continue to provide favors to those that donate. Or more likely, to shake down companies for donations.

             

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              Karl (profile), Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 8:57pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not Following the Money

              Correction, Fox News pays less taxes by doing these nefarious (if legal)things. They do not get more of my taxes.

              I get your point about the money not flowing from the government to Fox News. But the plain fact is that if Fox News paid the same taxes as you and I, it would pay for NPR's annual budget many times over, and NPR wouldn't be getting your tax money at all.

              So, criticizing NPR for this seems a little weak.

              What you said equates to saving $250 by buying a $500 dress for $250.

              More like, retailers jack up the price from $250 to $500, to pay for the dresses that they give away to their rich friends.

              Or more likely, to shake down companies for donations.

              I agree that the whole PAC money thing is ridiculous. But that has nothing to do with tax codes, nor with either NPR or Fox News.

               

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 7:16am

        Re: Re: Not Following the Money

        I'm forced to pay for Fox News if I want cable television. I can't remove it from the package deal.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 12:00am

      Re: Not Following the Money

      obvious astroturfer (or troll) is obvious, ShellMG

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 7:15am

      Re: Not Following the Money

      NPR is awesome.

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 10:18am

      Re: Not Following the Money

      If you have cable TV, you are giving Fox News money.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 7:09pm

    No one does this but Fox?

     

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    erikjay, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 7:46pm

    and it's ONLY Fox, too!

    Yeah, let's pile on! And for Pete's sake, don't let ANYONE even SUGGEST than anyone other than Fox News has EVER done such dastardly things. Well, okay, maybe other REPUBLICANS, but thank Dog we can trust all the fair, unbiased, clean, orderly, and yummy-good content from MSNBC, CNN, The Nation, TNR, The New York Times, Washington Post, HuffPo, Daily Kos... you know, the honest, morally upright Cognitive Elite of this great, exceptional nation that drone-kills 16-year-old citizens who have the "wrong father."

    Fox is no better, no worse, and no goddamn different than any other network, paper, fish-wrapper, or website you care to name. All are staffed by humans, so I guarantee that you will find the FULL spectrum of belief and behavior at all of them. 'Twas ever thus, and ever will be... Reality really is a drag for ideologues, of any stripe. A Democratic State Senator got caught doing the same thing, insulting GOPers as "mouth breathers" and so on in faked postings, but the story got just about zero play. And this guy lied and manipulated as much as Murdoch's boys and girls did. Oh, I forgot: He was lying for a good cause, so it's okay.

    Lest you incorrectly label me, too, I am not a GOPer, conservative, social con, religious right, nothing of the sort. I am a political independent who likes cross-aisle bipartisanship on the RIGHT things, like empire building, the drug war, police brutality, sentencing reform, the police surveillance state... things that bring Rand Paul and Pat Leahy together. Dennis Kucinich is working with the elder Paul, Ron Paul, on a new anti-war campaign. They don't agree on everything and don't have to. They are tackling a HUGE, INTRACTABLE problem that is urgent and will affect our very survival. Good for them, and BOO on all this partisan finger-pointing that keeps us from stopping war, stopping the U.S. slide into debt oblivion, and all the rest.

    Our situation is NOT a left-right, GOP-Dem, liberal-conservative thing. It's everyone's doing, and until people get past the go-team-go BS nothing will ever change. It is BEYOND politics, immune to the cheap, dishonest band-aids that politicians offer to a public whose collective limbs are being lopped off.

    I'm done.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 10:01pm

      Re: and it's ONLY Fox, too!

      "Fox is no better, no worse, and no goddamn different than any other network... blah blah blah..."

      What took you so long to get here?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2013 @ 10:10pm

      Re: and it's ONLY Fox, too!

      I can't decide if you're knocking over a straw tower or a straw mountain. Please help.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 12:01am

      Re: and it's ONLY Fox, too!

      Oh this is a really LONG obvious astroturff.

      Obvious astroturfer is obvious, erikjay.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 12:33am

      Re: and it's ONLY Fox, too!

      The greatest trick Fox used was convincing people they weren't run by Satan.

       

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      Fox Sock Puppet, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 5:24am

      Re: and it's ONLY Fox, too!

      ErikJay - dude.
      We should do lunch - soon
      How many accounts have you trolled today - new record?
      Awesome dude.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 8:04am

      Re: and it's ONLY Fox, too!

      ^^ sock puppet!

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 1:31am

    When it comes to entertainment.... Fox News > The Internet

     

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    Sacredjunk, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 2:06am

    Kind of gives a deeper meaning to this song
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jofNR_WkoCE

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 3:09am

    "Bingo, Fox has now nullified their own real support. Way to go, guys!"

    Let me fix that for you:

    "Bingo, Fox has now nullified their *only* real support. Way to go, guys!"

     

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    Sketch, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 4:07am

    you people make me sad...

    What exactly is a "cell phone thumb drive"?

    Also - an NPR writer biatching about FOXNews is just as ridiculous as a FOXNews writer biatching about NPR... and everyone takes this seriously?

    So much for the TechDirt folks being able to spot BS distractions.

     

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    RyanNerd (profile), Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 6:10am

    Fox in Socks

    When a fox is in the bottle where the tweetle beetles battle
    with their paddles in a puddle on a noodle-eating poodle,
    THIS is what they call...

    ...a tweetle beetle noodle poodle bottled paddled
    muddled duddled fuddled wuddled fox in socks, sir!

    Fox in socks, our game is done, sir.
    Thank you for a lot of fun, sir.

     

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    Crusty the Ex-Clown, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 6:40am

    Whew! Now I feel better.

    I've been bummed out for years by all the blindingly stupid crapola in comments everywhere - blogs, newspapers, opinion pieces, etc. I have feared for America's future after reading reams of ignorant, brain-dead whining and raving across the interwebs.

    But now my eyes are open and I see clearly: America isn't as nuts as one would think from reading web comments. Astroturfers go deep into the crazy and the stupid because they have no sane, reasonable arguments and are trying to sway opinion by hook or by crook. That's their job.

    Aw, cutesy-wootsey little Foxpuppets, bless their pointy little heads. They've given this old clown a new lease on life.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 7:27am

    It always struck me as creepy that Fox News proclaims to be so patriotic when in fact it's not even ran by an American but rather some guy that got his citizenship just so he could influence American policy with his money.

     

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    WileyQ, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 8:10am

    Fox is not the only one in charge of this henhouse

    I know that Fox doing this is the story here, but lest we forget, members of the armed forces and our secret "national security" forces have been doing this kind of thing for a very long time. Indeed, there are programs for sale that facilitate this kind of activity (multiple profiles on social media networks and blogging platforms, etc.) The stories break periodically, but I first read about them about 5 or 6 years ago. I'll do the research and provide links if anyone cares.

     

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    bshock, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 9:50am

    Reality isn't "Fair and Balanced"

    Anything claiming to be "Fair and Balanced" isn't real.

    It's a bit like putting your thumb on the scales to get the weights equal.

     

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    RocRizzo, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 9:57am

    Re:

    Fox News gave me a dead puppy, and chicken soup complete with ptomaine.

     

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    Ray Raynard, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 12:01pm

    Lies damned lies

    FOX NEWS IS THE ONLY TRUTHFUL NEWS SERVICE

     

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    northierthanthou, Dec 29th, 2013 @ 2:09pm

    Fox

    This helps to explain why so many conservatives these days come across as total morons. They are no longer making any judgement calls beyond the need to oppose what someone else has said.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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