• At Fox News, It’s Always About Scary Threats to White People

    Isn't this sweet?SMG via ZUMA

    So here’s how things work on Fox News. This is from Laura Ingraham’s show a few minutes ago.

    First, she invites New York state senator George Borello to discuss a bill in the state Assembly that would allow the governor to detain anyone who is “or may be” a public health risk. They both agree this is outrageous. Where’s the due process? If you’re out in the woods and someone reports you for not wearing a mask, can you be unilaterally detained? Where’s the ACLU on all this?

    Quick cut, and next up is Chris Rufo, a Fox regular who’s made a name for himself by inveighing against critical race theory. Ingraham feigns an ah-hah moment: you know, she says, New York governor Andrew Cuomo has called systemic racism a public health crisis. So does this mean he could detain anyone he thinks is a racist? Rufo enthusiastically agrees. This is yet another example of liberals inventing a crisis (i.e., the COVID-19 pandemic) in order to control the movements and words of ordinary Americans.

    Scary stuff, says Ingraham. Please keep on it. We’ll be back after a few words from the MyPillow guy.

    Check out what’s going on here. First, there’s no bill in any serious sense of the word. This is something that was introduced years ago during the Ebola scare and has been reintroduced every year since, never even getting out of committee. Cuomo’s spox says he’s never even heard of it.

    Ingraham then takes this nonexistent bill and makes it into a race thing. How? It hardly seems possible, but Ingraham manages the pretzel bending by taking something Cuomo once said—namely that high rates of COVID-19 in the Black community show that “racism is a public health crisis”—and absurdly twisting it into the scary possibility that Cuomo might start locking up anyone who tells an off-color joke. In a nutshell, it goes like this:

    1. Introduce scary story about minor state legislation regarding public health that has no chance of ever going anywhere.
    2. Invent out of whole cloth a segue into racism as a public health issue.
    3. Conclude that liberals want to lock up white people they disapprove of.

    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the pros do it.

  • Forget Social Media: Fox News Is Still the Real Problem

    See? All just peas in a pod.Erik Mcgregor/Pacific Press via ZUMA

    I get questions. For example, one reader emails to ask my why I have such a special animus towards Fox News. Isn’t social media the big problem right now? And aren’t all the right-wing radio shows just as bad?

    Sure. But let’s take the radio contingent first. In many cases they’re worse than Fox. But here’s the difference: even the most devoted fans who listen to them understand that Rush and Hugh and Mark and all the other AM talkers are engaged in opinion-mongering. It’s extreme opinion-mongering, but still, at its core it’s bar room hot air.

    Fox News is different. You and I and all the Beltway sophisticates understand that “prime time Fox” is also bar room hot air. But you’d be surprised at just how differently the average Fox viewer sees things. Start with the basics: The organization is called Fox News! It’s got news right in its name. And during the day it looks like news, too. It has studios and anchors and reporters who tell you what’s going on around the world. Other networks treat it like a news organization. And that Bret Baier fellow seems pretty fair-minded, doesn’t he?

    Now, do you think this all changes when the clock ticks over to 8 pm and the daytime news folks give way to the primetime stars? Do Fox viewers suddenly realize that everything is different and this is no longer news? Nope. It’s just a different set of anchors and a different set of guests. But it’s all still news. Right?

    Many of you will find this hard to believe. Perhaps you cling to the notion that the real problem is the tainted information Fox delivers even during its news programs. It’s not. The problem is (currently) Tucker and Sean and Laura and Lou and Jeanine and all the rest of the insanity posse. You know they’re different from everyday news anchors but the average person doesn’t. The average person simply has no idea how news works. It’s all just an interchangeable set of people in suits and ties, some of whom you like better than others.

    If you don’t believe me, go ahead and ask a few friends some basic questions about the news biz.¹ Who writes the headlines in a newspaper? What’s an op-ed? Who decides which stories to play up every day? How does advertising affect news content? You will find that their ignorance is near total.

    I continue to be haunted by an offhand question a friend asked me a few years ago. I don’t remember what the Fox outrage du jour was, but he asked me why I was skeptical. It was something so outrageous that I wasn’t prepared for it, so I just said lamely, “They’re lying.” He asked, in all sincerity I think, “But why would they lie?” I had no answer—not one that would do me any good, anyway. As far as he was concerned, Fox was a news outlet. Why would a news outlet baldly lie?

    And he was right. A news outlet might get something wrong. It might have biases here and there. But their job is to tell you what happened in the world. They don’t just lie about it. So why should he believe that Fox News lies? All of us smart folks know the answer, but it’s not one that will persuade anybody who doesn’t already believe it.

    But what about social media? Over at New York, Kara Swisher says it’s time for Facebook and Twitter to ban Donald Trump forever. Sure. Fine. But this is just a distraction. I have much more to say about this, which I will share with you someday,² but social media isn’t fundamentally our problem. The evidence we have suggests that social media appeals primarily to people who are already part of a conspiratorial bubble and it therefore doesn’t really change a lot of minds. Minds get changed only when one of its hobbyhorses gets picked up by mainstream news—which usually means Fox. And the evidence on that score is very clear: Fox does change minds and it does influence elections—and Republican politicians know it. Donald Trump is not fundamentally the problem with American politics right now. He is merely the unsurprising product of a quarter century of Fox News.

    Fox is the cesspool from which our political polarization and 50-50 hatred arise. Newt Gingrich may have been the original instigator, but his influence was less personal than it was institutional: he provided Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch with the blueprint for a market-dominating cable outlet dedicated to Gingrich’s vision. Until that changes, the United States will never be whole again.

    ¹Ideally, these will be people who aren’t politics junkies and don’t have college degrees. But just do your best.

    ²Seriously, I will. There’s quite a bit of evidence to bring to bear on this, but it requires multiple thousands of words to explain. I’ve already written several thousand of those words, and when I’ve finished the rest of them you’ll be the first to know.

  • When Will Republicans Finally Disown Fox News?

    Why is this man still allowed in polite company?Starmax/Newscom via ZUMA

    In the aftermath of yesterday’s insane quasi-coup attempt, a number of Republicans have stepped up to condemn Donald Trump’s actions. That’s great. But it’s nowhere near enough. They have a lot more work to do if they want to be taken seriously.

    I’m going to skip the entire laundry list in favor of one single thing: Fox News. That mob on Capitol Hill didn’t show up on its own. It didn’t even show up because Donald Trump wrote a few tweets. It showed up because Fox News has spent every day since the election spewing conspiracy theories about Democrats stealing the election. More to the point, it’s spent every day for the past couple of decades making money on pillows and gold scams and reverse mortgages by scaring the hell out of old, white people with fever swamp reporting about liberals and “illegals” and political correctness and Benghazi and a long, long list of other Democratic perfidies.

    Is it any wonder, then, that polls show half of all Republicans believe the 2020 election was stolen? You’d believe it too if you spent your evenings watching Fox News. Rupert Murdoch’s network is a bleeding, open wound on the politics of America. It’s fundamentally why half the country hates and fears the other half.

    So give me a call when the Republican leadership works up the nerve to finally disown Fox News. When they finally admit publicly what everyone else already knows: Fox isn’t a news network, it’s a machine designed to make money by pitting Americans against each other. The First Amendment may give them this right, but it doesn’t force any of us to accept it—not even Republicans. Until they disown Murdoch’s cynical meal ticket, they aren’t even remotely serious about disowning Trump. He’s merely the symptom. Fox News is the underlying disease.

  • Tucker: “It’s not your fault. It’s their fault”

    A variety of dead-enders are trying to float the idea that the folks who invaded the Capitol are actually leftist antifa members. Meanwhile, over on Fox News, Lou Dobbs is speculating along the same lines. And Tucker Carlson says the riots today are all the fault of liberals:

    Tucker bemoaned the woman who was shot because she seemed so “normal” looking, not like the BLM protesters earlier in the year. I wonder what that could possibly mean?

    Meanwhile, the Capitol police were surprisingly chummy with the protesters/insurrectionists. Perhaps someone should start looking into that.

    UPDATE: I’m coming late to all this, but the Fox News take on today’s violence appears to be pretty consistent. In a nutshell, lefties started it all by protesting during the summer, and today’s storming of the Capitol is the perfectly understandable response from a bunch of patriots. It’s wrong, of course. All violence is wrong! But really, when you dig below the surface it’s all the fault of antifa and AOC and the biased news media and the theft of the election.

  • Here’s One Silver Lining to the Trump Mob in Washington

    Bill Clark/Congressional Quarterly via ZUMA

    I’ve been asleep all day, and when I finally woke up I was greeted by news of an insane mob of MAGAnauts occupying the Capitol building. I gather they are being treated with surprising deference since they are, after all, mostly white and therefore considered patriots.

    I know that everyone looks to me for the silver lining to things like this, so here goes: this is the perfect opportunity for everyone to finally repudiate Donald Trump completely. He obviously egged on the mob, and this is, finally, behavior that even the most sycophantic Trump supporter can use to break ties if they want to. If enough of them do it, this would ensure that Trump leaves town on January 20 and is forever after ignored and detested until the day he dies. Fox News can pretend he never existed and the rest of the media will have license to ignore him.

    Will enough Republicans do this? I don’t know. But they have one last chance to do the right thing. They should take it.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    You’ve seen pictures like this before, and they’re harder to take than you’d think. The problem is that with an extreme telephoto lens, you have to be in precisely the right spot to get the moon rising where you want it. A difference of even 50 yards in either direction will ruin it, and once the moon starts to appear you only have about a minute to get into the right spot. To make it even worse, the moon rises in a slightly different place every day. So even if you scout locations on one day (as I did), you have to estimate how far away you need to be on the next day to get it just right. I missed on my second day, so I went out again and then had to scurry around to find . . .

    Oh hell, I never did get it exactly right. Luckily Photoshop came to the rescue. This is Santiago Peak, home of lots of antennas, and this is what it would have looked like if I’d managed to position myself precisely right. Good enough, I say.

    December 31, 2020 — Trabuco Canyon, California