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We Need To Fix Our Fox Problem
Fox's media networks through a mutually beneficial relationship with the GOP are shaping national policy.
It’s been clear for some time that Fox “News”—and I’ll call it just “Fox” from here forward, because there is no actual legitimate “news”—brazenly operates as a mouthpiece for the GOP. The network has a decidedly conservative, even radical agenda, and its prime-time “opinion” hosts have fed Fox viewers a steady diet of rage and grievance for well over a decade and a half.
In recent years, the network has existed not only to advance Republican talking points, but to shape actual policy.
This became most evident during the Trump White House years.
The former President spent hours each day glued to Fox. Sycophants hoping to gain his attention would appear on the network and say what they presumed he wanted to hear, hoping to gain favor.
This was a dangerous feedback loop as the network did things to please the ex-President, and he did things to drive more Fox viewership.
Ron DeSantis took serious advantage.
Ron DeSantis, when he was just a candidate for governor of Florida, went on Fox regularly in 2018.
He apparently so impressed Donald with his attacks on Robert Mueller he eventually won a coveted Trump endorsement. DeSantis then groveled shamelessly by running an ad showing his children “building the wall” and being read MAGA bedtime stories.
In short, Fox also became the crucible for GOP leadership, with Trump auditioning potential candidates as if they were contestants on The Apprentice.
Full disclosure: I was actually on that show, and Trump fired me from it. I moved on quickly.
The relationship between Trump and DeSantis today is admittedly far less friendly, but that’s literally how it got started.
Fox played Trump for all he was worth.
While in the White House, Trump would often see a story on Fox and then tweet it to his tens of millions of followers. This effectively turned Fox propaganda into actual policy as his aides scrambled to make sense of and fulfill his wishes.
We later learned Fox hosts had such a deep relationship with the White House many had direct access to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. We know this from texts they fired off to him, begging him to get Trump to call off the violent insurrection on January 6, 2021.
Those texts ironically are now likely prosecution exhibits in a criminal case against Trump—and possibly Meadows.
Fox didn’t even believe its own lies.
The final straw, if we can even point to one amidst all this carnage, came after the discovery process of the Dominion defamation lawsuit against Fox revealed damning, internal management communications.
Those confirmed even Fox did not believe any of the wacky conspiracies it was feeding to its audience about a stolen 2020 election.
Here’s a taste of what Fox leaders said behind the scenes:
“ludicrous” ~ Tucker Carlson, 11/20/20
“totally off the rails” ~ Tucker Carlson, 12/24/20
“Fucking lunatics” ~ Sean Hannity, 12/22/20
“nuts” ~ Dana Perino, 11/16/20
“complete bs” ~ producer John Fawcett to Lou Dobbs, 11/27/20
“kooky” ~ Maria Bartiromo re email from Sidney Powell, 11/7/20
“MIND BLOWINGLY NUTS” ~ Raj Shah, SVP, 11/21/20
It’s one thing to push such a damaging and dangerous lie irresponsibly. It’s quite another to do so purposefully—all because you’re afraid of losing the very audience you have conditioned into needing to be fed those lies.
So what do we do?
Let’s start from the assumption, which is now beyond any doubt, that Fox is nothing but a propaganda arm of the GOP. This has many implications.
First, we have to stop hoping to “win over” Fox News viewers.
If Russia were running a state media channel in the U.S., Democrats wouldn’t appear on it.
They would know better, because no matter what they did or said, the Russians would come back to distort and spread disinformation with a torrent of lies. No guest, however skilled or honest, stands a chance against that.
The same is true of Fox.
So Democrats have to simply refuse to play along. Much as we love what Sen. Bernie Sanders and Secretary Pete Buttigieg have to say when they appear, it only legitimizes what is otherwise an illegitimate broadcast.
And we have to give up on the idea that by some new fact or powerful logic, Fox viewers are going to come out of their haze and stop consuming the lies.
If they do so, it will be like being deprogrammed from a cult. It will not be because of anything the much-demonized Democrats say or do.
Second, Democrats have to stop advertising on it.
The Biden campaign spent real ad dollars in 2020 with Fox. But the cost of that was high.
We learned from the Dominion suit Rupert Murdoch previewed those ads to Jared Kushner and advised him how to counter them.
Knowing that today, why on earth would Democrats hand over their digital assets and give the upper hand to the other side, which is aligned with the Fox Network?
Fox should get not a penny more from anyone in the Democratic Party.
Third, we have to cut Fox off from government channels.
There is no reason our public tax dollars should support the showing of Fox on government property, particularly on military bases. This is especially important now that it has become clear many who stormed the Capitol were current or ex-military members.
We can expect Republicans would howl and demand “liberal” media also be censored if Fox is pulled. But that would still be preferable to dripping further poison into the eyes and ears of our troops.
Again, we wouldn’t let state-run media of a foreign power be played on our government-owned monitors. We shouldn’t let pure propaganda from Fox stream either.
Finally, we need to tell the cable companies ENOUGH.
Fox makes most of its profits from the outrageous rates it charges cable service providers. These funds come directly from the monthly cable bills of subscribers.
If you’re a cable subscriber, you’re handing over something on an average of $20 per year to Fox, whether you watch the channel or not.
Fox negotiated much higher rates with these cable service providers than the other networks were able to. The public needs to demand those high rates be cut, or even better the big carriers drop Fox as a built-in channel for spreading lies while posing as news.
Each of us can take a stand here, by the way. If your cable carrier insists on carrying Fox and paying it far higher rates, then you can drop your cable carrier.
Just cut the cord.
Do it for our democracy.
Don’t let your dollars go to support Fox in any way.
Be like Joe.
President Joe Biden took an important step recently by refusing to appear on Fox during its traditional Super Bowl day broadcast.
We need all Democratic leaders, and the DNC with its big ad dollars, to follow suit. Cut Fox completely out of the conversation, because it’s simply not worth having.
Fox has already played the American public for too long. And sadly, we can’t realistically hope to wean one-third of the population off of that poisonous kool-aid.
But we can draw a principled line and simply refuse to play along with their sick game anymore.
That’s how we start to fix our Fox problem.