Wednesday, October 02, 2019


I can't completely dismiss Farhad Manjoo's argument in this New York Times op-ed, titled "Why Lefties Should Watch Fox News."
I won’t lie to you: Watching Fox isn’t easy. Much of it is still a fetid sewer of venom that bears little resemblance to the real world, and I would hope that you have more enjoyable ways to spend your time, like elective dental surgery.

But when news breaks on television — as it will in an unending cascade of hearings, stump speeches, debates and grandstanding news conferences from now until at least January 2021 — Fox should be your go-to place to watch, especially if you are on the left.

There is a simple reason: While other organizations report the news, Fox News is the news.
I don't watch Fox, but I sit through my share of Fox clips. I regularly scan the headlines at -- as well as Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, Free Republic, and other right-wing sites. I read some stories and opinion pieces. I look in at Rush Limbaugh's site every so often and skim some of his radio transcripts. It's awful, but it's worthwhile, for a few reasons. First, it serves as an early warning of the talking points right-wingers want to inject into the national conversation. Second, it occasionally provides an advance look at a story that's going to prove embarrassing for Democrats or the left. But most of the time, it's a reminder that right-wingers really do live a separate universe, one where every Democrat is evil, everyone loyal to the current brand of Republicanism is a secular saint, and there's no such thing as climate change, racism (except toward white people), sexism (except toward Sarah Palin and Kellyanne Conway), homophobia, sexual harassment (except by Democrats), or economic inequality. This is a belief system shared roughly 40% of Americans. They're our relatives and neighbors. I want to know what they're thinking -- forewarned is forearmed.

But this isn't why Manjoo wants us to watch Fox. He wants us to watch Fox because an argument about the president seems to be taking place there, one he believes will influence Trump and the right:
There is now a growing rift on Fox: Its news side is asking increasingly tough questions of Trump, while its opinion side pushes his raving conspiracies. The drama speaks to real tension on the right, and Fox will inform political reality. It is no exaggeration to say that what happens on Fox now — the way it decides to play impeachment and the twists and turns of the 2020 race — could well determine the fate of the republic.

... watching Fox now is like getting a peek into Trump’s war room and, in a larger sense, into the future of the right in America, however ugly that picture may be.
It's possible that the news side's coverage of this story has been good -- I haven't been paying much attention. This coverage might reflect the secret views of some Republicans in Congress.

But it doesn't matter, because none of those congressional Republicans have the nerve to challenge Trump seriously -- and critical coverage of Trump by Fox's news side won't change Trump's thinking, or the thinking of Fox's most loyal rank-and-file viewers, who love it for the feral prime-time hosts and the simpering Trump toadies on Fox & Friends.

Why is the news side deviating from Correct MAGA Thinking? I'm not sure, though it's probably because the Murdoch family would rather have a much less manic Republican zealot in the Oval Office, one who'll get the judges approved, the taxes cut, and the industries deregulated without all this unpleasant nativism, self-dealing, and alienation of suburban white women.

I'm sure it's also because Fox has been trying to persuade advertisers that its product is popular in blue and purple America, not just the red states.

This ad, aimed at movers and shakers as they walk the streets of Manhattan, divides the map of the U.S. into six sectors, and makes the point that Fox is the #1 cable news channel in all of them, even the ones that are largely blue. This is a message intended to make Fox more money. Selling the channel as not completely in the tank for Trump is part of that effort.

Don't believe it. I'm reminded of the old days in New York and other cities, when shops selling pornography would place a few non-pornographic items in the window, to convey a sense of respectability -- mainstream books fifty years ago, mainstream VHS tapes a couple of decades later. Everyone knew that respectable merchandise wasn't the point of those shops. When Farhad Manjoo watches Fox, he's falling for the window dressing.

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