Monday, October 09, 2023


Here are the lead stories at right now (click to enlarge):

I've highlighted the headline for what I suppose Fox considers the second-most important story in the world right now: "Gov. Whitmer faces call to resign after response to attacks on Israel." So what horrible, potentially career-ending thing did Whitmer say in her response to the Hamas attacks? Fox has run two stories on this subject. From the first:
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, was criticized on social media for not saying enough in her statement about the attack against Israel by Hamas terrorists.

In a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, the governor said she spoke with "communities impacted by what’s happening in the region," but failed to mention "Israel" by name.

"I have been in touch with communities impacted by what’s happening in the region. It is abhorrent. My heart is with all those impacted. We need peace in this region," Whitmer wrote.

The post drew criticism for her omission of Israel's name....
The Whitmer critics include Richard Grenell, who held several foreign policy positions during Donald Trump's presidency, and Aryeh Lightstone, who was a senior advisor to Trump's ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. In the follow-up story, which is the one linked on the Fox front page today, Lightstone calls for Whitmer to resign:
"I hosted you for Thanksgiving in Israel just a few years ago. I am embarrassed for you and by you & disappointed that I opened my home and my family to you," Lightstone responded to Whitmer [on Twitter]....

Elaborating on his comments, Lightstone — who's in Israel witnessing the conflict as it unfolds — told Fox News Digital he was shocked by the "fraudulent nature" of Whitmer's response....

"She watched this happen in real time. And to watch women and children be kidnapped and raped and murdered, and to not be able to say something? She should resign immediately," Lightstone said of Whitmer.
Yup -- it's not merely an inadequate response, in Lightstone's view. It's a response that ought to end Whitmer's careeer. (When liberals talk this way, isn't it called "cancel culture"?)

Whitmer wrote a subsequent tweet:

... and of course Lightstone attacks her for that, too, saying she posted it only after hearing from critics.

I keep thinking about something I saw recently at the Substack of Lauren Hough, author of the fine memoir Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing. It was her response to the decline of Twitter:
I don’t think people miss twitter. I keep seeing posts, screeds, essays, etc about how people miss the “main character.” It would “spice things up.” We had a website where every day a private person was chosen at random for the sin of saying something “cringe” and that person was harassed and humiliated and stalked and threatened for days. For what. Those were witch burnings. And you’d have attended actually witch burnings with equal glee. You don’t miss twitter. You miss being part of a mob. I don’t actually blame you. Being part of a mob feels fucking great. It feels like power and community and goddamn, the rush of it. There are a lot of people still over on twitter missing the ability to direct the mob at a target. They still think they can control the mob. That if they feed the mob, it won’t turn on them. The mob doesn’t care. The mob just needs another witch.
I think there was a lot more to Twitter than that (such as the ability to take powerful and famous people down a peg, which is one of the things I liked it for), but the opportunity it offered to launch or participate in mob attacks was certainly part of its appeal for a lot of people. But I think what Hough offers here is an excellent description of Fox News and modern conservatism: It's about turning the mob on one witch after another, until the right-wing public doesn't care whether its allies in politics can actually keep government running, as long as there's an endless series of witches to burn.

This was true long before Trump. (Think back a couple of decades ago to the rage directed at the Dixie Chicks, Dan Rather, and Ward Churchill, a university professor who referred to 9/11 casualties in the World Trade Center as "little Eichmanns.") But right-wingers had policy goals back then -- mostly bad ones, but they were policy goals. Now it's all witch-burning, or nearly all.

It's not surprising when one side attacks the other side's party leader this way. Democrats attack Trump on a daily basis. And it's not surprising when one side attacks a thoroughly corrupt, ignorant, or extreme opponent. Democrats have done that to George Santos, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and a few other obvious targets.

But the right does this to far more people. Fox News exists to do this almost to the exclusion of all else, and the attacks are often on the flimsiest of grounds.

I know that the right fears Gretchen Whitmer, because she's a Democrat with political talent who's popular in a purple state. I know she could be a 2028 presidential contender, and some think she could run for president next year if something happens to Joe Biden. But this is not a scandal, except in Fox Land. Yet it's probably politically shrewd to begin flinging mud at her now -- leave at least a few people with a negative impression of Whitmer before any effort to sell her to the country really gets underway. It's clearly good business for Fox, which rides these witch burnings to consistently good ratings (even now). Lauren Hough is right: people, or at least some people, want to burn a witch every day. And Fox, unlike the mainstream media, satisfies that craving as often as possible.

No comments: