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.
21, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 708
Where Is The "Fair, Balanced &
Vigilant" Reporting At Fox News Network?
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
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
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'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.
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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."
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
That's why I argue that our
attitude regarding Terrorism should not be based in anti-Terrorism
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.
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.
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
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."
20--A Day With Georgie
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