Let's Finally Stop Pretending Fox News Is A Real Media Outlet
Fox News isn’t just a rightwing propaganda outlet. It’s the communications arm of the Republican Party, promoting its agenda and providing a safe space for its elected officials. I wrote those exact words more than a year ago. Now, it's been revealed that Fox News hosts willingly lied to their viewers about the 2020 presidential election, specifically spreading conspiracy theories they knew were crap about Dominion voting systems flipping votes — perhaps the very definition of "actual malice."
Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch told Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott in a November 16 email: “Trump will concede eventually and we should concentrate on [the Georgia runoff elections], helping any way we can. We don’t want to antagonize Trump further, but Giuliani taken with a large grain of salt. Everything at stake here.”
The scam is revealed, as if there were ever any doubt, so, you might wonder what happens next. Will Dominion sue Fox News into oblivion, dousing cleansing water on the wicked witch of the airwaves? We'd all love that, but if Murdoch simply pays off Dominion with some money from between his couch cushions, we're still not helpless against Fox News. If Democrats and the supposed mainstream media accept the truth, maybe we can all stop living the lie that Fox is a legitimate news outlet.
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Oh, So Now The Mainstream Media Gets That Fox News Is Garbage?
Democratic politicians should freeze out Fox News completely and stop appearing on the propaganda site like clever sheep who think they can win debates on an all-wolf network. People bring up Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg dunking on Fox News anchors during interviews that liberals share widely on social media. These interviews, however, amount to a fraction of the air time Fox devotes to mocking Buttigieg as a gay male father and suggesting he’s an incompetent empty suit. A center-right news organization doesn't have to necessarily sing Buttigieg's praises, but Fox treats him no better than Elizabeth Warren or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
It would also help if mainstream media stopped treating Fox News like fellow travelers in real journalism. As I mentioned in my December 2021 post, back in 2009, White House communications director Anita Dunn said: “We’re going to treat [Fox News] the way we would treat an opponent ... As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”
She was right, but unfortunately mainstream media rallied behind Fox News with self-righteous naïveté. Journalist Brian Stelter chastised the Obama administration in a New York Times op-ed:
Attacking the news media is a time-honored White House tactic but to an unusual degree, the Obama administration has narrowed its sights to one specific organization, the Fox News Channel, calling it, in essence, part of the political opposition.
Stelter admitted in The Atlantic Friday that "I Never Truly Understood Fox News Until Now." He writes:
Inside Fox, the prime-time stars and senior executives raged against the network’s reporters not because they doubted that Biden had won, but because the truth was too disturbing to the audience that had made them rich. Fox’s postelection strategy, the texts and emails suggest, was to stop rubbing Biden in its viewers’ faces. But in their effort to show their viewers “respect,” they ultimately disrespected both their audience and the American experiment they claim to protect.
This is still overly generous to Fox. Stelter quotes a source who told him to think of Fox "not as a network per se, but as a profit machine." Sure, there's profit in shilling white grievance politics, but Fox is more than just shoddy, cheap entertainment or even the very pornography some Republicans want to outright ban. Its stated objective is to help Republicans win "any way [Fox] can."
What Anita Dunn said in 2009 remains true almost 14 years later. Fox News hasn't changed, however, but perhaps Democrats and the media can finally change their perspective. Stop playing the rigged game. There’s a name for those who believe they will somehow break the bank in Vegas — chumps. No matter how well you think you’re doing at the moment, you will never beat the house.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."