Article Overview:  Fox News Network has knelt down before the Beast of Terror.   It is suing Al Franken, admitting that he is a threat to them.    Does this lawsuit weaken or strengthen Fox in the eyes of the public?  To the children, it may be a sign of weakness and have a crumbling effect on a strong, viable news organization.


Thursday--August 21, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 708
Where Is The "Fair, Balanced & Vigilant" Reporting At Fox News Network?
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Aug. 21, 2003--  Nothing is funnier than the "free press" attacking the "free press."   It's like the Beast of Terror swinging a bat at the head of the Beast of Terror.

O'Reilly is waging war on Franken for copyright infringement

      At least, that's the case of Fox News Network versus Al Franken.
      Humorist and left-winger Franken has a new book out titled:  "Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them...A Fair And Balanced Look At The Right."

     Bill O'Reilly, a Fox talk-show host, is waging war on Franken for copyright infringement.   Fox News uses the signature line:  "Fair & Balanced" to promote its network.
       Franken, a noted advocate of the left, is using the right of free speech and humor to place a bundle of burrs under Fox's conservative position.  Published by Penguin Books, Franken's parody on the conservative press hits bookstands this week.  

Fox's claim is that the reader will see the book as an official publication of Fox News

        Fox's claim is that readers might confuse the book as being an official publication of Fox News since O'Reilly's picture is included on the cover in the background.  Franken, of course, stands smugly in the foreground.
       Copyright infringement laws require owners of trademarks to police their namesakes.   Complacency in doing so can convert a trademark into a generic name.  Kleenex is one of the fundamental examples.    The name, once guarded by a team of lawyers who admonished anyone using the name, stopped fighting such unauthorized use.   Eventually, the trademark fell into common use and Kleenex became generic.

The name Kleenex fell into common use and Kleenex became generic

          As a card-carrying journalist and former big brand name marketer, I understand both sides of the coin.    One of the great assets of a free press is its ability to poke fun at everyone and everything.  Certainly, Al Franken has little intent to deceive people into thinking he's on the Fox News Network side.   For years he has been at war with the conservatives, and especially attacking Bill O'Reilly.
       Even the greatest bard of all, William Shakespeare, is known for his wit in attacking the "institutions" in his plays.    His plays, delivered to the common folks, included barbs and jabs at the "higher ups"--the kings and queens and lords--and are known for double entendre impact on society.   He was, in his day, a high-quality version of Al Franken.
       The beauty of free speech is the liberty to make jest of public figures.   To justify a case of libel, one must prove malice.     To prove copyright infringement, the greatest defense, it would appear, is humor and common sense.   Al Franken is, at best, represents the polarization of Bill O'Reilly.
       If there is any crime, it is Fox News Network launching a lawsuit that provides Franken with all kinds of free publicity and boosts his book sales.   I wonder if O'Reilly might have made a deal with Franken to sue him and take a cut of the proceeds, for it makes little sense that there is a smitten of a chance for victory in court.   But, Franken certainly is rolling in pre-sales of his book just because of the publicity.
       No one in a free press society wants to squelch the Voice of dissent.   Dissent is the great tool of Vigilance.    Terrorism comes to bear its club when Voices are muffled, and humor and laughter are converted to screams of pain as those who speak out are stretched on the rack for voicing their opinion, no matter how extreme.

Century 21 understood the importance of having Sentinels of Logo Vigilance to keep its own name

      On the other side of the coin, I fully understand the importance of trademark protection.  When I was the senior vice president of marketing for Century 21 International Real Estate, I worked daily with our legal department to ferret out logo and trademark abuses.
      In just a few short years the name Century 21 grew to more than 90 percent public awareness as our franchises, numbering over 7,000, commanded more than 11 percent share of the $500 billion-a-year real estate market.
      Competitors would try and use our name or versions of it to coattail on our reputation, and we issued countless cease and desist orders against such interlopers.   If we didn't fight the surge of potential abuses, the trademark would become endangered and we might lose the right to protect and own it.
       The guy trying to launch Century 21 Mortgage or Escrow company was swiftly dealt with.  We made sure our 7,500 franchisees understood logo protection and were Sentinels of Logo Vigilance, alerting us of any abuse both within and without the system.
        Our expenditures exceeded $250 million a year, over $20 million being spent on a national level and managed by headquarters, plus another $230 million from the various brokers and nearly 100,000 Century 21 sales associates who used the logo in local and regional advertising, on their cards and flyers and a host of other image-related approved products and services.
        So, I am supportive of the principle of logo and trademark protection.  However, the idea that Franken is trying to dupe the public into thinking that Fox News and he have anything in common is ludicrous at the least.
        Plus, the words "fair and balanced," are, to me, weak words to support a news network.   I understand anything can be trademarked, but nebulous words, "fair and balanced" leaves much for conjecture.
       "Fair" means every possible issue has been examined for veracity before the news was released, and "balanced" means all sides of the issue are delivered.   No matter how articulate a news agency, it is doubtful that Fox, NBC, CBS, CNN or any major news organization can flip every point of view over and over so that the final product is "fair and balanced."
        Wild claims are the fuel of all marketing.  "This is the world's best reducing plan!"  "Wash with Irish Spring and a lovely man or woman will dance into your arms!"   "I will not raise taxes.  Watch my lips!"  
        Hyperbole is the meat and muscle of marketing.   The goal of all advertising campaigns is to isolate and elevate you above the competition, to make you "stand out of the crowd."
        To achieve this, you thump your chest and bellow long before you achieve your goal.

Arnold Schwarzenegger thumped his chest until he achieved his target

          Arnold Schwarzenegger, the action-hero icon currently running for California, vowed when he was young to become famous, rich and involved in politics.   He thumped his chest--a big one at that--until he achieved his target.
         Anyone who watches television ads, or reads them in newspapers, magazines or on billboards, knows about boasting claims.    Every product has to champion itself as the "best" at something or it gets lost in the crowd.
         McDonald's boasts "family" not food.   It's food is perhaps the least child-friendly possible, full of fats and in Time Magazine's recent study, its Chicken McNuggets contents would turn the most iron-skillet stomach into a geyser of bile after reading what constitutes the favorite food of many kids.
         So, I find it absurd that Fox News Network would attack the right of free speech, or, put its tenuous claim, "fair and balanced" up for public inspection.    Opening up Pandora's Box to the public about the veracity of the claim itself would frighten me if I were on the Fox Advisory Team.
          Plus, there's an old adage that if I recognize my competition I've lost.
          Coke and Pepsi went to public war a few years ago when Coke tried to drop its original formula and introduce a new Coke.   The results were crippling.    When Coke, trying to compete with Pepsi's New Generation ads, met with a wall of public dissent over dropping the Classic line, it quickly returned to its foundations.
          Pepsi ran a series of full page ads that headlined the statement:  Coke Blinked!
          Recognizing one's competition pulls you down to the competitor's level.  I guess this is what amazes me most about Fox taking on Franken.   It lessens Fox's power position, or its illusion that it "stands above the rubble and rabble rousers."

Taking on Franken lessens Fox's power position

Franken is, without doubt, an ant on an elephant's ass compared to Fox, but now, the two are equal in size.
         That's why I argue that our attitude regarding Terrorism should not be based in anti-Terrorism thinking.
         Anti-Terrorism thinking recognizes Terrorism, gives it authenticity, promotes its equality and parity in our world.
         Terrorism is like Franken.   It's just  flatulence  in the wind compared to a much greater goal of Vigilance.
         Instead of calling our new cabinet the Office of Homeland Security, we should be calling it our Office of Vigilance.   
         Anti-Terrorism teams should be Sentinels of Vigilance Teams.
         When the President or any member of his staff or law enforcement speaks about Terrorism, the counterbalance terms should be Vigilance. 
         Terrorists should also be modified to Beasts of Terror, clearly defined as to what they are and the primal nature of their acts--animalistic at the best, inhuman.

Terror Cells should be called Beast of Terror Packs so the public sees Terrorists as they should be seen

          Terror Cells should be Beast of Terror Packs so the public sees the Terrorist as it should be seen, as feral vermin, lower than cockroaches, who would kill and maim the innocent and children without blinking an eye, just as a hungry rat would eat the fingers and toes off a newborn unattended baby and then smack its lips in glee.
          Our troops in far-off lands need to be seen as Vigilance Keepers and Terror-Hunters, seeking to replace Fear with Courage, to install Conviction where Intimidation once grew, and to always take the Right Actions that benefit the Children's Children's Children rather than fall victim to the Complacency of war for war, or victory for victory without long-range clarification that bolsters future generations for all children of all lands and all times.
         Politicians need to answer the question of what their decisions are doing to expand Vigilance and to insure the citizenry assumes the roles of Parents, Grandparents, Loved Ones and Citizens of Vigilance.  
         Fox News could take a very high ground on this issue if it were to consider changing its trademark from "fair and balanced" to "fair, balanced and Vigilant."   Now it would have some benchmark, for "fair and balanced" would fuel the need for Vigilance.   
         If Fox News is a true marketing company, it knows market share is about building the future market, not just capturing the present one.
        The news station that encompasses the goals of the Children's Children's Children captures the goals of the Parents, Grandparents, Loved Ones and Citizens of Vigilance.

I helped market Fantastic Sams

       Not too many years ago I helped market a company in trouble.  It was called at the time, "Fantastic Sams."  It billed itself as the "Original Family Haircutters."
        In a year, I was able to help it sell more than 400 franchises, and we were approaching 2,000 units.   The marketing principle was to attract the children.  The hairstylists all had fun names such as Bubbles and Pumpkin so that children would feel they were in Disneyland when they came to get their hair cut.    The floors were kept immaculate.   Television sets played kids cartoons in the lobby and a Fantastic Machine issued out toys for them.  When people finished their haircuts the staff applauded and greeters welcomed each new customer three times to insure the sense of "family."
       The company grew exponentially because by capturing the children the mothers found a place to get their hair done that was effective, stylish and inexpensive.  Grandparents came with their grandkids, uncles, aunts, cousins followed.
       Then one day a lawsuit was filed in the Northwest.  Stylists wanted their own names, not the make believe ones.   The company flinched.   Soon, the "family" atmosphere was gone.  I fought hard to keep the foundations of the family name, but at the time I was a consultant.   Regional owners were afraid of lawsuits and soon the company was stripped of its "unique selling proposition."
        The Vigilance for families gave way to legal threats of Terrorism.
        I left the company, sadly.  
        McDonalds, even though its food is without question unhealthy for young children because of the fat nature of its products, remains a bastion in fast food.   It has endeared a nation to the idea of "family food."   It maintains an environ of friendly, family eating even though its menu is the least family friendly one could imagine.
        Nationally, according to Time Magazine, eight percent of the families eat at McDonalds.
        Fox News is treading on Terror-Thin Ice I think.
        I was hoping it would stand above the wrath of the ants and be an elephant.  But this lawsuit issue reminds me that when an organization or business or government forgets to promote Vigilance as its keynote mission, and doesn't subscribe to the Pledge of Vigilance, and forgets how insidious Terrorism can be, it is vulnerable to Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
       Fox News has surrendered to all three Triads of Terrorism it seems.    By taking on Franken, it admits to its own fallacy in marketing.

Fox should see Franken nothing more than a Beast of Terror trying to attack the Shield of Vigilance

        If it were "fair, balanced and Vigilant" in its reporting, it would see Franken as nothing more than a Beast of Terror trying to attack the Shield of Vigilance.
       It would march on its mission without giving Franken a single glance.
       But now, it is groveling in the quagmire of Complacency, trying to fight the ant.
       I wish Fox were a Vigilant Elephant.
       I am sure out on the horizon is its replacement, the Vigilant News Network.
       But there is hope.
       It was locked in Pandora's Box.
       Perhaps, before it's all over, Fox News will post the Pledge of Vigilance in its newsroom.   And, drop the case against Franken.   And, of course, add to their current slogan:  "fair, balanced and Vigilant."

Aug 20--A Day With Georgie

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