Brian Stelter honed in on how Sean Hannity’s rhetoric is poisoning our discourse, our democracy and even our country, but it’s pretty clear that Hannity is far from the only culprit on Fox or elsewhere.
Stelter opened with an explanation as to why it’s critical for non-Fox fans to know “the poisonous propaganda that the GOP's activist base is listening to.” After noting that he and/or his staff watched every episode of the Hannity show last week, and color-coded the transcripts, Stelter came up with this accurate assessment:
STELTER: On Hannity's show, President Biden is President Sippy Cup. Biden's a weak, frail, cognitive mess, Hannity says, yet the Democratic Party is portrayed as an existential threat. Hannity calls it the Green New Deal Socialist Party and he labels some Dems extremists.
He calls American cities hell holes. He sometimes calls them Democratic-run hell holes.
And he says the media is a mob, full of, quote, stalkers. Just think on that for a minute. Fox claims to employ lots of reporters, but their primetime star calls reporters stalkers, to the idea of the news media as a check and balance, as a form of accountability, flawed but essential.
Here's my point: don't get numb to this abusive language, because it is through these insults, it is through these attacks that Hannity yields power. This dark, dire language is fundamentally authoritarian. It softens the ground for movements like Stop the Steal, you know, Trump's ploy to actually steal the election. It portrays anyone who disagrees as not legitimate, as not American.
But it’s not just Hannity spouting this kind of abusive language. It’s almost all of Fox.
However, Stelter was 100% on the money in his smackdown of Fox’s BS defense of its poison:
STELTER: It's not opinion what Hannity does. You know, that's been a Fox defense for decades, right? Opinion shows, we have opinion shows. No. Saying, I don't know, well, yes, we should keep the 2017 tax cuts in place, that's an opinion. Let's expand universal pre-K. That's an opinion.
Hannity is spouting something else. Hannity is spouting poison, denouncing democratic norms like a free press, that's poison. Corroding the public discourse is poisonous, and the Murdochs let it happen every day, and it radicalizes people, people like Hannity's colleague, Tucker Carlson, who's out there calling the joint chiefs chairman a stupid pig. ...
It's destructive. And the language gets more and more vile, with a propagandist One America News suggesting that Democrats could be killed for suggesting -- for supposedly stealing the election.
Fox hosts don’t (as far as I know) come right out and argue that anyone deserves executions, but they deliberately endanger people in the service of their politics: Dr. Anthony Fauci, several journalists and even parents whose kids wear face masks have been harassed or worse as a result of Tucker Carlson’s rhetoric. Recent target Dr. Peter Hotez recently pleaded with Laura Ingraham and Carlson to “please dial it down.”
And let's not forget Hannity has never apologized for the harm he caused a grieving family by trying to frame murder victim Seth Rich as the 2016 leaker of DNC emails to WikiLeaks. (Fox forked over big bucks to the Rich family just in time to keep Hannity from having to provide sworn testimony in the case, yet Hannity has never apologized for promoting that lie.)
In fact, Fox is poisoning viewers' image of the entire country:
STELTER: [Y]ou listen to enough of this filth and you stop recognizing your country, and you start living in fear or disgust, and you might stop at nothing to save America.
That's what the signs at Trump's rallies say, "Save America." But do they even know what they're trying to save anymore? Do they even know the real America?
That is an excellent question. The “America” the Murdochs want you to see is a putrid place. And don’t forget, Lachlan Murdoch tries to pass off this poison as “center right” opinion “that’s where Middle America is.”
A discussion with The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer followed. It highlighted the power of Fox News propaganda as seen through the election of Donald Trump:
SERWER: I think you have to look at Trump as kind of a product of Fox News.
SERWER: Fox News was Trump's main line to the Republican base. He was reflecting Fox News back to Fox News viewers.
SERWER: And that is why they loved him so much. He was telling them that -- he was watching Fox, and he was repeating what he heard on Fox, to Fox News viewers, and that created a kind of intimate connection, because they -- he was sort of creating a community in which they all hated the same people and he was validating that hatred, and it's a feedback loop that continues to this day.
Probably as much as anyone, I can understand the desire to ignore Fox the way you would the incoherent ramblings of a drunk uncle at Thanksgiving. But, unfortunately, this collection of drunk uncles (and aunts) is funded by the mega-rich Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch and held dear by a large swath of Republican voters and their lawmakers. As Dr. Fauci and others can attest, the viewers act based on the diet of fear and hate mongering that is dished out to them.
In a 2006 radio interview, just after Democrats took back both the U.S. House and the Senate, I think I annoyed the host when I responded to his statement that “Fox is finished now” by saying it was “dangerous” to underestimate the network. I rest my case now.
You can watch this powerful and important segment below, from CNN’s June 27, 2021 Reliable Sources.