Fox News as a Social Movement

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Here’s an intriguing chart from Vanessa Williamson, Theda Skocpol and John Coggin, via the Monkey Cage. It shows coverage of the tax day rallies put on by the tea party movement in 2009 on both CNN and Fox. The nickel version is that CNN gave the rallies a lot of coverage on the day of the events plus a little bit of followup the next day. In other words, they treated the rallies as a news event. But Fox’s approach was a wee bit different:

In telling contrast, Fox News shows significant and growing coverage in the lead-up to the April rallies. … FoxNews has explicitly mobilized its viewers by connecting the Tea Party to their own brand identity. … Rather than serving a journalistic, or even a propagandistic function, Fox News in effect acts as a “national social movement organization,” as described by sociologist Debra Minkoff in studies of liberal identity movements. For a scattered set of people who might feel isolated or marginalized (like gays and lesbians, in Minkoff’s original example), a resourceful national organization can help to provide “an infrastructure for collective action” by promoting “the diffusion of collective identities” and fostering “at least a minimal degree of solidarity and integration.”

Fox News and its audience are all one big happy family, and Fox views its job as rallying its base, not as simply providing them with news. I don’t think anyone will be especially surprised to hear that, but this is an interesting lens for understanding the difference between how a news organization covers the news and how an activist organization like Fox covers the news.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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