Channeling Rage: Trump and Fox News

Here we stand
Remote control buttons
In our sweaty little hands
As one man
We’re lining up and waiting
For someone’s command…
TV rules–
Pretty soon you won’t be able
To turn it off at all!
All you fools
Then it will turn you off—
Your back’s against the wall!

“T.V. Age,” Joe Jackson, 1982

What happens when they tell him to bomb North Korea?

The influence that Fox News has on this president constitutes an existential crisis. The fact that this administration is dependent upon Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity for guidance ought to keep everyone awake at night, fearful for the fate of their children.

This is what Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes wanted. This is why they put Fox News on the air on the dark day of October 7, 1996. It was not to compete with CNN. It was not to present an alternative point of view to contrast with the allegedly mainstream media. It was all about political dominion and control. Their goal was to bring about a situation in which a Republican presidential candidate would have to kneel in subservience to Fox to become President—and kneel in subservience for the entire length of that President’s administration.

They didn’t get all of what they wanted with George W. Bush. Dubya figured he had to throw a few bones to non-wingnuts to be competitive in 2000. That’s why he spoke of the fiction known as “compassionate conservatism.” That’s why the 2000 Republican National Convention was drenched in faux-diversity. That’s why Bush made a later-broken promise to tackle climate change.

Bush 43 was never good enough for Murdoch and Ailes. In their view, he was too rhetorically kind to Latinos and Muslims, too deferential to the mainstream media, too soft, too mushy, too weak.

Trump was what they wanted. Trump was their realized dream: a Republican who would give the Fox world everything it wanted, who would attack anyone who wasn’t a rich white Christian male with rhetorical fire and fury, who would channel Hannity and Bill O’Reilly in a way George W. Bush would not and could not. Trump was what Fox News was created for.

Ailes died last year in shame. Murdoch will also pass away one day. However, Shakespeare’s words were never more appropriate: the evil that these men did will indeed live on after them. The Fox virus is an perilous pathogen, a savage disease that invaded the body of our democracy and slowly but surely weakened its immune system, shutting down the organs of civic cohesiveness, narrowing the arteries through which the blood of truth once flowed.

When Murdoch dies, what will his adult children say? How will they spin his dark legacy? What will Murdoch’s fourth wife, Jerry Hall, say about her husband on the day he takes his last breath? How will she rationalize her relationship with this uniquely cruel human being? Will she simply remain a silent widow?

When David Hogg struck back against the malevolence of Fox News host Laura Ingraham, he struck a blow for basic justice, the basic justice Fox has fought so hard to destroy in this country. How many victims of Fox’s attacks have had to suffer in silence? How many victims of Fox’s attacks had their careers and lives ruined by their recklessness? Hogg’s advertiser boycott was, shall we say, an effort to restore fairness and balance after decades of Fox getting away with destroying the lives of real or perceived ideological opponents.

Sure, Fox News might have put corrupt EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on the hot seat this week. So what? Fox News effectively created Scott Pruitt, promoting the ideology of climate-change denial to which Pruitt, Trump and virtually the entire Republican Party have pledged allegiance. This is the legacy of Murdoch and Ailes. What a sad and pathetic legacy it is.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.