Just as it launched an assault on the 2020 election that helped incite the Jan. 6 insurrection, Fox News is launching an even more dangerous assault on our entire democracy as a “defense” of Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election Fox acknowledges he lost.
Fox News has long used inflammatory language, even after the network and its personnel became aware of the damage it was doing. Remember Dr. George Tiller? He was the abortion provider murdered in church, in 2009, after years of being vilified as a “baby killer” and worse by then-star host Bill O’Reilly.
The recent defamation lawsuit by Ray Epps proves Fox has not changed a single stripe. Apparently, wreaking destruction is part of the Murdoch network’s business model and political strategy.
An important component of the Epps lawsuit is that he says he believed it his patriotic duty to go to the Capitol on January 6th, 2021 because he and his wife were “persuaded by the lies broadcast by Fox asserting that the election had been stolen.” Not even Epps’ MAGA beliefs stopped Fox from smearing him on the air. He says he was forced to give up his business and move out of state because of all the threats that ensued.
Fox’s latest target is democracy and the rule of law.
CNN’s Oliver Darcy expressed the danger perfectly in his newsletter yesterday. He was talking about right-wing media writ large but, as you can see, it’s quite apropos to Fox News:
The draconian rhetoric, once reserved for the likes of tyrants and dictators, has become commonplace in right-wing media when referring to President Joe Biden and the elected government he leads. The dark and sinister language, normalized on mainstream conservative platforms such as Fox News, has been on full display this week during coverage of Donald Trump's third indictment.
The Biden White House is referred to as the "Biden regime." Federal law enforcement are referred to as the "Gestapo" and Biden’s "personal police force." Institutions such as the Department of Justice are referred to as "the Department of Injustice." The indictments against Trump are referred to as "political war crimes" and an "assassination."
The rhetoric “often flies under the radar,” Darcy says “But it shouldn’t.” He quotes former conservative radio host Charlie Sykes as pointing out, "One does not argue, debate or disagree with the gestapo." Instead, "You go to war with them."
The sad fact is, the rhetoric is having a very disturbing effect:
Each day gives way to evidence that the fact-defying repetition is working. A CNN poll published Thursday found that nearly 70% of Republicans and Republican-leaners said they believed Biden's presidential win was not legitimate, a staggering majority despite there being no evidence of widespread election fraud. Perhaps more alarming, about half of Republicans say they now have no confidence at all that elections reflect the will of the people.
Arguably, the rhetoric saturating mainstream right-wing media today is more extreme than the hyperbole used in the weeks leading up to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In those weeks, just like now, right-wing media forces set the stage and gathered the tinder for Trump — who was happy to light a match to the gasoline-soaked kindling gathered before him on January 6.
I’ve written quite a lot this week about the incendiary language Fox is using in support of Trump's coup attempt. There was Laura Ingraham lying about what she previously acknowledged was an attack on the U.S. Capitol when she said the Justice Department has “charged grandmothers and military vets who merely walked into the Capitol through an open door. And they did that to send a message to the public at large: do not even think about standing up for someone like Donald Trump again. Don't think about it. We could send you to jail.”
There was Rep. Nick Langworthy, (R-NY), a member of the House Oversight Committee, describing the indictment of Trump for trying to steal the election as “stuff that we would see in a third-world banana republic.” As if plotting a coup to steal an election should be allowed and protected.
Then there was Rep. Byron Donalds saying Trump is “allowed to use all means possible” to overturn the election. Donalds added, “legally speaking” as an afterthought. But we know what he meant.
The point is that the poisoned rhetoric is not just being spouted by some talking heads on TV but members of the U.S. Congress.
Below is a powerful video The Washington Post put together called, “How Trump’s allies framed his third indictment on Fox News.” Some of the material has been posted here before. But putting it all together gives it a new, and I believe stronger, impact.
After which, the hypocrites who fed the flames of outrage will declare their personal innocence on the grounds that they never but never ever would have even suggested that as a remedy. Of course not, your Honour. All they did was exercise their freedom of speech … it’s not their fault that that person took their words to such extremes.
The USA is definitely not setting an example of democracy and fascists throughout the world are unfortunately taking notes. Countries that have had direct experience of fascism have strict laws against fact-free reporting and hate speech.
I am seriously worried that the lunatic fringe of Fox’s faithful will be moved to violent atrocities in the very near future. Please take care, everybody.