Thursday, February 11, 2021


Nicholas Kristof wishes we could impeach Fox News.
As America debates whether to hold former President Donald Trump accountable for inciting insurrection, what about his co-conspirator Fox News?

Fox helped sell Trump’s lie about a stolen election, propelling true believers like Ashli Babbitt — a fan of Fox personalities like Tucker Carlson — to storm the Capitol. Babbitt died in the attack, while this week Fox Corporation merrily reported a 17 percent jump in quarterly earnings.
He thinks there's a possible remedy for the Fox problem.
... there are steps we can take — imperfect, inadequate ones, resting on slippery slopes — to create accountability not only for Trump but also for fellow travelers at Fox, OANN, Newsmax and so on.

That can mean pressure on advertisers to avoid underwriting extremists (of any political bent), but the Fox News business model depends not so much on advertising as on cable subscription fees. So a second step is to call on cable companies to drop Fox News from basic cable TV packages....

Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, says that Fox News relies on unusually generous cable fees — more than twice what CNN receives and five times what MSNBC commands. So Media Matters started a campaign, at, for people to ask cable carriers to drop Fox News from their packages.
But Fox would threaten to pull its other channels -- especially sports channels -- from any system that tried to do this. Fox-loving viewers would howl. And there'd be cries of "deplatforming" and "cancel culture." (Kristof is squeamish about this idea for precisely that reason.)

I don't believe we can get cable system to drop Fox, for all these reasons. We can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. And no, I don't think we can solve this with the revival of a Fairness Doctrine that made sense when television had the capacity to show you only a handful of channels, but stopped making sense when cable TV expanded, followed by the Internet.

At the risk of repeating what I said in my last post, I think the answer is to stop treating Fox (and Newsmax and OANN) as if they're media properties and begin covering them as if they're part of the government -- because they are.

The Republican Party is one of our two major parties, with power virtually everywhere in America -- and Fox and other right-wing media outlets act as full-time propaganda, messaging, and opposition research operations for the party. If you cover press releases and public statements from Mitch McConnell or the Republican National Committee on a daily basis, you should cover what's broadcast on Fox and its imitators the same way.

Years ago, Keith Olbermann was right every time his nightly "Worst Person in the World" was a Fox personality. Olbermann understood that what Fox hosts said was the news. He understood that Fox was injecting a toxic effluent into our politics. Years of that led to January 6.

Fox was, as Chris Hayes used to say, "state TV" during the Trump years. It was also state TV during the George W. Bush years. And if it's not the communications wing of the Republican government-in-exile now, then Newsmax or OANN will be.

The mainstream news audience needed to know the vile things Bill O'Reilly was saying in the Bush years and needs to know what Tucker Carlson is saying now. If deplatforming is impossible, then the next-best thing is relentless scrutiny. Stop treating these people as celebrities and media figures -- or as fellow journalists. Treat them as political operatives, because that's what they are.

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