Last night on Fox News, Megyn Kelly defended her Jesus-and-Santa-are-white segment from earlier in the week, telling viewers she'd just been joking. The problem isn't merely that she clearly wasn't joking -- she actually plays the clip from the earlier segment at 0:50 below, and her dead seriousness is unmistakable -- it's that she's telling us haters through clenched teeth that we should just lighten up. (Check that out starting at 3:27.)
Pretending to smile, claiming unconvincingly to be the only one with a sense of humor in a humorless world, Kelly says:
This would be funny if it were not so telling about our society, in particular the knee-jerk instinct by so many to race-bait and to assume the worst in people, especially people employed by the very powerful Fox News Channel....But this is the formula that works for the right. America is a country in which two-thirds of the voters are either moderate or liberal, and yet the conservative third of the country maintains control on a wide range of issues. Partly that has to do with the influence of right-wing billionaires -- but it's also the result of conservative propagandists' success in getting right-wing Americans to take politics very, very seriously.
For me, the fact that an offhand jest I made during a segment about whether Santa should be replaced by a penguin has now become a national firestorm says two things. Race is still an incredibly volatile issue in this country, and Fox News, and yours truly are big targets for many people.
They have Fox and talk radio on all day and all night. They buy every right-wing book that's published. (As I type this, the three top nonfiction hardcovers on the New Yok Times bestseller list are by Charles Krauthammer, Bill O'Reilly, and Brian Kilmeade, with Glenn Beck at #5.) Politics means everything to these people. They feel permanently under siege. Everything they don't like is a threat to the very existence of America, if not of Western civilization or the human race.
Even the promotion of the Fox News brand in Kelly's monologue -- "the very powerful Fox News Channel" -- doesn't come off as shameless for the base, because the base identifies with Fox, as its defender against a relentless liberal juggernaut.
If you're liberal or moderate, you probably agreed or disagreed with Aisha Harris's original essay on de-racializing Santa, or just thought it was food for thought -- but it probably didn't seem like the most vitally important thing you'd read.
That's because you're not right-wing. If you're right-wing, everything is for all the marbles. Everything is a fight to the death. And thinking everything is a fight to death is why right-wingers -- and Fox -- rack up so many wins.