Fox News Is Good At Evil, And Don’t You Forget It
"I Come To Bury Caesar, Not Praise Him"
Every few years, and perhaps even more frequently than that in our more accelerated universe, something comes along that gets hyped as “the next Fox News” or some sort of media product that will displace Fox News in the conservative media world.
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Twitter (no, I’m never calling it “X”) is streaming a bunch of shows from has-beens and weirdos like Don Lemon, Tulsi Gabbard and Jim Rome, meanwhile Tucker Carlson is fishing with 9/11 conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and calling the video of that a TV show. Then there’s Ben Shapiro playing with dolls at the Daily Wire. And One America News is still plugging away, along with Newsmax and other also-ran media products.
All of these ventures have the capacity to “pop” and be the subject of conversation for a brief moment of time or even – rarely – a day or two. But then they recede into the background, and you don’t hear about them for months, if ever again. They certainly are dangerous for the way they pollute the information sphere, but they don’t have the sticking power and ability to constantly affect real world politics like Fox News does.
Fox is the right’s premiere propaganda platform and the quasi-official media arm of the Republican Party. Rupert Murdoch’s network exists to make America and the world worse by elevating the worst of the world while tearing down innocent people and the ideas they believe in. It is a cancer.
What makes this form of cancer even more virulent is that Fox is very good at its job, and as the right-wing media carnage has shown us over and over, it is not something that is easy to duplicate.
Roger Ailes, the former Nixon aide and serial abuser of women who conceived of Fox News, didn’t build the organization to just win one election (which is what liberals did with several ventures founded ahead of the 2004 election, including the poorly executed Air America), but to set up a universe where the impeachment and removal of Nixon could never repeat itself.
By that token, Fox has been a resounding success. Witness the cowardice of most Republicans, faced with Donald Trump inciting an armed insurrection against the United States, but nevertheless choosing to vote against his conviction in the Senate. Those cowardly men and women knew that if they did the right and moral thing, their faces would be run hour after hour on Fox News, painting a giant target on their backs for the gun-wielding extremists who make up the bulk of the network’s core audience.
Ailes was media genius who understood that the point of Fox was to lure in an audience with flashy graphics and attractive women, and when they’re on the hook, then force-feed a steady a diet of right-wing nonsense down their throats until they’re compelled to vote for the Republican Party. The execution has not been perfect, and Fox makes thousands of missteps, resulting in multimillion dollar court judgements and at least twelve-and-counting years of Democratic presidents since its launch in 1996 (both Obama terms and Biden, in addition to the tail end of Clinton’s second term).
But Fox has a near-complete hold on the conservative audience because it sticks to a lot of what worked for Ailes. By comparison, the other right-wing media efforts look like bad knockoffs. Like the “puffed rice” cereal at a Dollar Store in comparison to Rice Krispies at the name-brand supermarket.
Few things would be better for the American body politic than the removal of Fox News, but none of these guys has the chops to pull it off.
The men that Fox News built into household names have similarly shown that they don’t have the ability to be bigger than Fox either.
Figures like serial sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly, conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck and white supremacist Tucker Carlson are all out there hawking product, but none of them have the power they used to wield while firmly in the center of the Fox News machine. Glenn Beck wasn’t even a primetime host on the network, but his afternoon show unfortunately had the power to affect decisions by President Barack Obama. Now whenever Beck pops up, its usually for a round of jokes about how much the guy who used to be someone looks like Colonel Sanders.
When I point out the skill of Fox in this context, it isn’t to praise the network. It is to make clear that the powerful, evil thing is good at its job. The Allies didn’t win World War II by fooling themselves into a false sense of security about the often-superior fighting techniques of Hitler-era Germany, after all. Defeat of the fascist would-be empire required outthinking the Nazis and coming up with techniques to out-fight them.
All of this right-wing media isn’t good for America, as the rise of the candidate literally built by Fox News, former Fox News contributor Donald Trump, continues to show us. For the good of our future, it has to be fought and out-strategized and out-shouted. They won’t admit defeat and turn themselves around even if voters reject their agenda and they’re made into laughingstocks in court.
Understanding that the pretenders to the throne have no real shot at pulling down Fox is fundamental to keeping focus on the real problem, instead of being distracted by what are just ephemeral blips on the radar of little consequence.
Fox is dangerous because Fox is very good at it. Please never forget that.
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