Monday, February 20, 2023


Axios's Mike Allen reported this today:
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has given Fox News' Tucker Carlson exclusive access to 41,000 hours of Capitol surveillance footage from the Jan. 6 riot, McCarthy sources tell me.

Carlson TV producers were on Capitol Hill last week to begin digging through the trove, which includes multiple camera angles from all over Capitol grounds. Excerpts will begin airing in the coming weeks.
The Hill adds:
During a press conference last month, McCarthy said he supported the idea of more footage from the Jan. 6 attack being made public....

“I think the public should see what has happened on that,” McCarthy told reporters in January while discussing the footage.

“We watched the politicization of this. I think the American public should actually see all what happened instead of a report that’s written for a political basis,” the GOP Speaker added.
But the footage isn't "being made public." If it were being made public, it would have been made available to every news organization that expressed an interest, on the same day Tucker Carlson's producers were given access to it. Maybe it all would have been posted on a public website, possibly with some redactions for security reasons. It would not have been handed off to a Republican propaganda outlet posing as a news organization, and certainly not to the most dishonest and conspiratorial of that propaganda outlet's prime-time stars.

I know that news organizations sometimes gain exclusive access to particular government documents -- but those are leaked documents, documents released unlawfully because the leaker and the news organization believe they're intrinsically newsworthy. What we have here is an official release of visual information that's in the possession of the government -- but only to one news outlet (although I'm sure selected items will find their way to The Daily Mail, the New York Post, Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, and Elon Musk's Twitter). Will The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and CBS ever get access to the entire trove, if it's "public"? If Carlson retains exclusive access -- which we know he'll use to cherry-pick the footage in the service of conspiratorial right-wing narratives -- then McCarthy, at least in this one instance, is openly turning Fox into state TV, with other media outlets relegated to second-class status.

We know which narratives Carlson intends to advance, because we've seen them on his broadcasts: The January 6 protesters were simple patriots who had legitimate reasons to believe the election was stolen; the cops on January 6 were guilty of police brutality, some of it lethal; a man named Ray Epps who was secretly working for the FBI "orchestrated" the unrest to make the MAGA movement look bad. Maybe Carlson and his tape editors will generate a few new conspiracy theories from the footage. But it's all meant to flip the facts on their head.

This is a preview of what might be coming to Washington two years from now, when Republicans might well have full control of the federal government, under President Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis. DeSantis already makes a habit of freezing out the mainstream media and granting full access only to friendly media outlets. The Nieman Lab has a report on how DeSantis worked hand in hand with a newly minted right-wing outlet called the Florida Standard to discredit a Tampa prosecutor who announced that he wouldn't prosecute women seeking abortions: State officials drafted a request for public records relating to the prosecutor and forwarded it to the Standard, which filed it unchanged, not even correcting an obvious typo. The Standard then published reporting based on the documents obtained -- but it eventually became clear that the governor's office leaked the documents to the Standard well before their official release, a fact that the Standard clumsily tried to conceal by citing the documents in a story published mere minutes after their official release.

Republicans have long dreamed of the demise of what they call "the legacy media." They once imagined that bloggers would overthrow established news outlets; now they want to treat mainstream outlets as illegitimate. I'm not at all certain that the Times, the Post, and the major broadcast and cable outlets (apart from Fox) would even be accredited in a DeSantis White House.

We're slouching toward Orbánism. I didn't think Kevin McCarthy had it in him to advance the cause of illiberalism this way, but he's hanging with the Long March Through the Institutions crowd now -- some of it was bound to rub off.

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