The 2016 Republican field of presidential candidates has become a silly-faced, whack-a-mole reality show of news gossip because Fox News has figured out an ingenious way to monetize our political system by cultivating an unending you-should-be-near-violently-pissed-off news cycle. Hopefully, Fox Executives did not have the perversion of our politics planned from the network’s inception, but they certainly have realized that our nation fortifies a very weak defense against deliberately abandoned journalistic ethics.
Fox New pompously was created in the first place to legitimize an ideologically-biased perspective, and to conduct an orchestra of yellow reporters and anchors who first write the stories and then do the interviews and investigations. The Fox motto “FAIR AND BALANCED” is iconic in a British dystopian way, and the doublespeak is ironically self-congratulatory in its implication that no other news network is honest; it’s like a narcissistic priest’s excessively sinful pride regarding his personal piousness. And the network’s constant warnings to its audience about the liberal media uses fear- literally fear- so that viewers neither change the channel nor turn it off.
And in this way a lot of Fox viewers are famously misinformed. Just look at the misinformation Fox peddles regarding Republican foil President Obama: that he is a Muslim atheist pretending to be a born-citizen in order to kill people with healthcare death panels and to destroy America from within by converting our legal system to Sharia law and our economy to anti-colonialist, communist, fascist, socialism. This portrait of Obama is stunningly paradoxical, with many of conservatives’ favorite buzzwords being as misunderstood as they are misused.
And even though Fox does not always directly lie, the network’s habit of not correcting lies still counts as lying: Fox News might not explicitly say that the President is a terrorist, but it does report that people- its own viewers- think so as if wildly unexamined opinion is fact.
With this faux-news, fear-based format Fox has mesmerized the political right with Pavlovian political hatred, and the vehemence with which its commentators enunciate words and phrases like “liberal,” “progressive” and “mainstream media” betray that they are too worked up about controversial issues and opposing perspectives to even consciously pretend to have the emotional sobriety necessary for objectivity. This is because the manipulating commentators themselves are in the habitual morning routine of bias because they are instructed daily to articulate dutifully what distortions the network wants to present as news.
Fox News is a closed-door political salon, and a conservative ideological monopoly with a vertical integration of media. Fox creates, disseminates, analyzes, and then critiques the news all in-house like a political Bauhaus of fictional narrative: in the morning Fox writers invent the news, then its reporters report that news throughout the day, then its opinionators opinionate on that news at night, and finally the news reporters report on the opinionators’ opinions the next morning along with newly minted agitprop. Fox operates an efficient four-step process that counterfeits its own journalistic legitimacy.
But this is not a new insight, and I am not a revolutionary in political criticism.
However, despite the clearly identified toxic effect Fox News produces on our political discourse, its work is admirable for being a brilliant business model in which all opposition to the network is celebrated as proof of the supposedly authoritarian liberal media. When Fox viewers believe that only Fox News tells the truth, Fox World becomes an insulated culture of deliberate political isolationism.
And this instilled us-Vs-them fear of any disagreement, especially from professional and educational expertise, becomes adroit marketing. What other company highlights routine and universally negative criticism in its advertising campaign and even its raison d’être? It’s like a car company running television commercials explaining how consumers inversely must buy its latest model because the mainstream safety “experts” warn that it will spontaneously burst into flames.
And Fox News is a commercial behemoth because of this. The Huffington Post, MSNBC, and other ideological opposites have tried to combat Fox, but Fox’s political unilateralism cannot be dissuaded by facts or truth, and even thoughtful conversation cannot reconcile Fox News with any perspectives other than the one it narrates. Fox News is a viewing-prism of conservative pathos so focused on emotional verisimilitude that it does not make rational or even practical sense that Fox invites guests on air for discussion because it always erupts into yelling. Fox News’ only tool of persuasion is volume.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on two of its most successful and controversial money-hour, prime time opinionators: Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly (whose show is aired twice a weeknight). Genuine discussion and interviewing are impossible when the former does not let a guest speak unless the guest swears allegiance one way or the other in his narrow worldview of dichotomized Patriots & Terrorists, and the latter imperiously views his guests with dimmed eyes in a permanent scowl of preemptive disagreement.
Crammed between these fat stack amp ideologues is Megyn Kelly, who to her credit occasionally goes rogue inside the Fox News propaganda machine with independently examined journalism, but her recent Trump-related vacation reveals the professional harm that can come from swimming against the current in Fox’s uber-partisan stream. Kelly received death threats, yes, death threats, from Fox viewers furious at the idea that even Fox News might be tainted by the mythical liberal media’s infiltration, and this reveals the danger of intentionally biased news: liberals and the mainstream media are not merely political and philosophical opponents, they have become actual, real-life enemies.
And it is precisely this consequent, psychological victim-mentality that the network stirs up in its viewers why facts and truth have no effect on the journalistically perverse Fox News. Fox does not survive amidst criticism of its legitimacy, it thrives.
As such the most successful counterpart to Fox is not an ideological rival such as MSNCBC or any other twenty-four-hour fact-checker of Fox’s subjective sensationalism, but merely comedy, and most poignantly, satire. The best of our satirists, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, simply have used Fox’s own words and own ideas, respectively, against it. Unfortunately, the absurdity of crooked, commercial news generates too much money to be vanquished. Fighting Fox is an eternal stagnation of trench warfare. Even Stewart in the last few years of his tenure on The Daily Show grew tired of setting up incriminating videos of Fox’s recorded hypocrisy and would say “just roll the tape.
But Fox’s conspicuous, existential absurdity is ignored by its viewers as conservatives tend to idolize the value of loyalty above rationality even when it turns self-destructive- as the Fox-brewed Donald Trump campaign has been- and Fox has certainly been a destructive force on our political system at large. The Party of No was molded by the Fox-sponsored litmus test of partisan purity that has exiled the moderate wing of the Republican Party in favor of radical government loathers. And Fox’s legacy is much more impressive than that.
Here is Fox’s track record: the rubber-stamped Bush era of freedom-preservation via offensive defense and war-time presidential infallibility, Sarah Palin and the totalitarian libertarianism of the Tea Party, an America-hurting Obama-must-fail mentality of total-war politics, the unwarranted fear of Obamacare death panels, fake scandals like Benghazi and the Birther Movement, warmongering toward Egypt/Syria/Libya/Russia-Ukraine/Iran, and the complete opposition to legislative progress on nearly every problem facing the nation.
And let’s not forget that Fox News publically advocates for the legal discrimination of immigrants, Muslims, the LGBT community and women; opposes any governmental support for the poor, sick, old and young; and if Fox had its way the United States would impulsively be involved in wars throughout the five regions listed in the paragraph above, as well as continued Afghan and Iraqi operations. That is seven separate wars. Add Fox’s invented socio-political culture war defending Christian/white/heteronormative/male privilege and Fox’s neo-conservative, Religious Right paradise is one of eternal physical and spiritual war.
This endless belligerence is not fair or balanced, nor is it journalism. Fox News is an oxymoron and a corporation of propaganda that is literally and figuratively dangerous for America and the world. It is unfortunate that Fox is still the ratings king.
Image via The Huffington Post