The billboard made its debut this week on Sepulveda Boulevard, south of Santa Monica, Calif., featuring a shadowy Uncle Sam figure controlling a handpuppet, as it proclaims in giant lettering, “Shox News Channel, We Distort, You Comply,” an obvious send-up of the cable news channel’s “We report, you decide” slogan.
The billboard text continues with the message, “Manufacturing news since 1995,” and then provides its website address.
The campaign is the creation of Karen Fiorito, a self-described propagandist and culture jammer who says, “My art plays a subversive role in society, offering an alternative narrative to the dominant culture. I hope to initiate a dialogue in the community, not only about political issues, but also about the assumption that art and politics do not mix.”
The dialogue has already commenced, with defenders of the network posting their comments online.
“With the vast, overwhelming incompetence of the liberal, left-wing media, is it any wonder that real Americans would look elsewhere for their news?” asks one critic. “Fox News serves a valuable purpose in American society by restoring journalistic integrity and balance to the mainstream media. Don’t believe me? Ask the millions who tune in every day – far more, I might add, than will ever see your billboard.”
Another writes: “You are confusing entertainment with truth. Since all truth is subjective, you cannot expect news to be anything more than entertainment. Art, like news, and like any form of speech, is political – it wants to persuade. Effective art, news and speech is entertaining. The fact that you may disagree with Fox News really misses the point.”
Karen Fiorito, right, talks with Alice Herrick, of Tempe, Ariz., about her political art (photo: Arizona State Univ.)
Fiorito disagrees with that sentiment, stating, “News is not entertainment; it is the reporting of facts and evidence. All the things that once made our country great, things like journalistic integrity, have vanished or become perverted by those who control the media (for their profit). Once we crossed that line between truth and propaganda, we became no better than any communist or fascist dictatorship. I don’t only disagree with Fox News, but with the entire mainstream media.”
To produce the Shox News billboard, Fiorito received a “generous grant” from the Puffin Foundation, a Teaneck, N.J.-based group which says it provides funding to artists “who are often excluded from mainstream opportunities due to their race, gender, or social philosophy.”
Looking at samples of Fiorito’s body of work, it becomes obvious she has no love loss for President Bush and members of his administration.
A previous billboard shows Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Attorney General John Ashcroft and others with the message, “Dear America, We lied to you for your own good. Now trust us.”
Condi Rice as ‘Condinatrix’
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is portrayed as a whip-toting dominatrix over the world in a piece titled “Condinatrix,” and talk-radio giant Rush Limbaugh is the target of several pieces of work in connection with his personal battle involving prescription pain-killers.
“According to the Patriot Act, I guess I could be considered an enemy of the state,” Fiorito told the New Times of Phoenix last year. “A lot of artists try to be subtle. And sometimes you have to be. But I’m obviously not that kind of artist.”