John Kelly Says Fox News Makes You A Idiot. And By 'You,' He Means ...
John Kelly, Donald Trump's former chief of staff, got a lot of attention for his speech the other day in which he said Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman had simply been doing his duty by testifying to Congress about Donald Trump's shakedown call to the president of Ukraine. Yesterday, the Washington Post's Philip Bump focused on another part of Kelly's speech at Drew University, in which Kelly also said, in essence, that a steady diet of Fox News is bad for your brain.
Sure, that's pretty obvious, but it's always a little remarkable when a Republican admits it.
Kelly's comments about Fox came as part of a declaration that he just loves him some freedom of the press, hooray:
KELLY: The media, in my view, and I feel very strongly about this, is not the enemy of the people [...] We need a free media.
That's nice! Bump noted that line seemed "somewhat at odds with" Kelly's own "demonstrated behavior in the White House," like especially that time Kelly followed up his lies and insults about Rep. Frederica Wilson by weirdly insisting he'd only take questions from reporters who have actually met Gold Star families. It's a long-established principle of the free press that only those who have been in the presence of the sanctified heroes of the nation are allowed to ask questions of a general about an ambush in Niger that killed American and Nigerian soldiers.
Ahem. So yeah, Kelly likes a free press as long as it's not getting too mouthy to him while he's working in Trump's White House, is the point. Then he got to the responsibilities of those who consume media:
KELLY: That said, you have to be careful about what you are watching and reading, because the media has taken sides. So if you only watch Fox News, because it's reinforcing what you believe, you are not an informed citizen.
Golly gee, wonder if he had any particular Fox News viewer in mind? Like maybe one that he reportedly considered an "idiot"?
Ever the diligent journalist/news analyst, Bump went on to document that Donald Trump watches Fox News to the near exclusion of all other media, and noted the many reports that
Trump disdains the traditional briefing materials provided to presidents. He doesn't read intelligence briefs and has himself admitted he doesn't "need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page."
"I like bullets, or I like as little as possible," he told Axios shortly before taking office.
Then, in what almost seems a pedantic digression but isn't, not quite, Bump went to some lengths to explain why television, as an audiovisual medium, conveys less information than print, noting that text just plain delivers more words per minute to the average reader than oral communication does, before tying it all together:
Television news is often, to some extent, the bullet-point version of what happened. It's also the primary way in which Trump gets his news.
Having established that the "president's" preferred medium is inherently prone to lacking depth, Bump then demonstrated the fairly obvious point that Fox News is particularly slanted and plays fast and loose with the facts, as if no one had noticed. Look, Bump had read his Aristotle and is building a college debate case here.
And that case, to put it far less kindly than Philip Bump does, is that Donald Trump is, by choice, a low-information voter who courts fellow low-information voters and they all live in the same media bubble that he does. That's maybe not a great thing for America! For all that, Bump's conclusion is sort of charmingly hedged, if you're charmed by bending over backward to give someone the benefit of the doubt:
Again, you don't have to take our word for it. John Kelly, a former Trump staffer and career military official, sees those who seek out Fox because it reinforces their views as, at best, underinformed. Whether he meant this as a direct criticism of his former boss or not, it serves as one.
Well yes, that's far more reassuring -- and normalizing -- than pointing out that a guy who has the nuclear codes is an idiot, and deliberately seeks out an information source that repeats his own lies to make him feel good.
Also, you should probably buy one of Wonkette's tasteful Enemy of the People t-shirts.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.