I wonder whether it will matter.
“It” of course, refers to the revelations that Fox “News” knowingly and intentionally lied to its audience, in order to keep the sheep from abandoning Fox for outlets willing to feed them their desired conspiracy theories.
The Dominion lawsuit has done America a huge service. Lawyers for the company have amassed an absolutely astounding amount of evidence supporting Dominion’s allegations of willful prevarication by a company pretending to be engaged in journalism. I titled this post “Capitalism and the News” because Rupert Murdoch admitted that the decision to promote what everyone at Fox knew to be a Big Lie wasn’t prompted by “red or blue. It was about the green.”
Fox was protecting its bottom line. If facts threatened that bottom line, then facts had to go. (Cozying up to the Trumps was part of that effort: Murdoch also admitted giving Jared Kushner access to Biden campaign ads before they aired.)
Sane folks have long known that Fox was a propaganda arm of the GOP, not a legitimate news organization, and real journalists and pundits have pounced on the evidence.. One of the more thoughtful responses came from David French.
To understand the Fox News phenomenon, one has to understand the place it occupies in Red America. It’s no mere source of news. It’s the place where Red America goes to feel seen and heard. If there’s an important good news story in Red America, the first call is to Fox. If conservative Christians face a threat to their civil liberties, the first call is to Fox. If you’re a conservative celebrity and you need to sell a book, the first call is to Fox.
And Fox takes those calls. In the time before Donald Trump, I spent my share of moments in Fox green rooms and pitching stories to Fox producers. I knew they were more interested in stories about, say, religious liberty than most mainstream media outlets were. I knew they loved human-interest stories about virtuous veterans and cops. Sometimes this was good — we need more coverage of religion in America, for example — but over time Fox morphed into something well beyond a news network.
As French noted, the Fox propaganda-as-business model has made it immensely popular on the Right, where it commands significant loyalty.
But that kind of loyalty is built around a social compact, the profound and powerful sense in Red America that Fox is for us. It’s our megaphone to the culture. Yet when Fox created this compact, it placed the audience in charge of its content…
As the Trump years wore on, the prime-time messaging became more blatant. Supporting Trump became a marker not just of patriotism but also of courage. And what of conservatives, like me, who opposed Trump? We were “cowards” or “grifters” who sold our souls for 30 pieces of silver and airtime on MSNBC.
Our disagreement was cast as an act of outright betrayal. People like me had allegedly turned our backs on our own community. We had failed in our obligation to be their voice…
In the emails and texts highlighted in the Dominion filing, you see Fox News figures, including Sean Hannity and Suzanne Scott and Lachlan Murdoch, referring to the need to “respect” the audience. To be clear, by “respect” they didn’t mean “tell the truth” — an act of genuine respect. Instead they meant “represent.”
That sort of “representation,” of course, is not journalism. (Although French doesn’t use the term, the word “prostitution” comes to mind…)
French says that Fox embodies the “possibly apocryphal remark of the French revolutionary Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin: ‘There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.'”
In a recent podcast, John Stewart made a different comparison: Fox is the “old dope peddler,” and it knows that failure to supply its addicts’ need will cause the loss of its customers.
Conservatives like French have already dissociated themselves from today’s GOP, so the question really is whether any intellectually honest people remain. How will the crazies spin the internal communications and testimonies of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and even Rupert Murdoch, proving beyond a doubt that they all knowingly promoted a lie because they knew their audience wanted that lie–and that failure to provide it would hurt their ratings and bottom line.
As Talking Points Memo put it,
The American descent towards authoritarianism, minority rule, and insurrection doesn’t happen without Fox News. It doesn’t happen only because of Fox News, but it’s been a critical ingredient in the toxic stew of misinformation, grievance, and division.
These stunning revelations ought to spell the end of Fox. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Addicts need their fix, and Fox is a willing supplier….
Truth can be so uncomfortable.