Joined: 02 Mar 2009
|Posted: Sat Dec 23, 2017 10:28 am Post subject: Fox News a threat to western democracy ?
|( apparently American's watching an alternative newscast to CNN or MSNBC is a threat to western democracy itself ? liberals are starting to lose sanity the longer trump is president )
Fox News is a threat to Western democracy
By Paul Adams. Published on Dec 22, 2017 11:43am
Sean Hannity of Fox News. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
It has become fashionable to say that the Fox News Channel is the American equivalent of Russian state-directed television. That’s not quite true.
Russian TV news may do Vladimir Putin’s bidding, but he presumably understands the distinction between what is true in what those stations purvey and what is propaganda. It’s a one-way process. Russian TV news takes its direction from Putin — not the other way around.
According to some reports, President Donald Trump watches four hours or more of television a day and won’t let anyone else touch the remote control on his 60-inch TV in the dining room. And he isn’t watching Modern Family. He does some rage-watching of MSNBC and CNN at breakfast, but then turns to Fox for a more congenial diet of support, ideas and political provocation, suggesting everything from a coup d’état in the works against him to his planned assassination by the FBI.
Fox has created an insidious little circle — from its programming to Trump’s brain and back — that is utterly unlike anything in Putin’s Russia. And increasingly, the Fox diet comes with a healthy portion of attacks on the sinews of American democracy — particularly the rule of law, generated out of fury at the Mueller investigation into the connections between Trump and his entourage and Russia.
Robert Mueller has charged four people so far, including two of Trump’s top aides, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. He has secured two guilty pleas, including Flynn’s, so he is obviously on to something. It was almost inevitable that Trump and other Republicans eventually would start attacking Mueller’s credibility, just as Democrats tried to undermine Ken Starr’s investigation into Bill Clinton when he was president. And Mueller made a tactical mistake when he enlisted an FBI investigator, Peter Strzok, who had exchanged scores of private messages with a colleague that were openly hostile to Trump. (Mueller fired Strzok when he learned of the messages.)
So here we are.
Those of us who feared Trump’s election in 2016 (and there were some of us who understood that was a possibility) were concerned about two somewhat contradictory things. The first was his authoritarian impulses, fuelled by his racism and resentment, which took Vladimir Putin as a lodestar. The second was his towering incompetence — his utter ignorance of, and lack of curiosity about, the basic facts presidents must command, married to his temperamental immaturity.
The authoritarian danger was that a President Trump would systematically dismantle the checks and balances of the world’s first and most important modern democracy. The incompetence danger was that he might lead America, or the world, into some calamity, such as an unnecessary nuclear war. But of course, to the degree he was incompetent, he was unlikely to be an effective authoritarian in the manner of shrewder and more capable men such as Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
So far, for all his attacks on American institutions — including his own party, Congress, the judiciary, the intelligence services, the media and even members of his own cabinet — the dominating theme of Trump’s presidency has been incompetence. He has managed to push through just one piece of major legislation — a tax bill that contradicts his campaign promises and may hurt the economic fortunes of his base. His popularity is averaging just 37 per cent in the polls, and as the handy charts at FiveThirtyEight demonstrate, this is unprecedented for modern presidents.
open quote 761b1bFox’s huge audience is being primed to believe that if Republicans lose in Congressional elections in 2018, or if Trump loses in 2020, it will be due not to the routine mechanisms of democracy, but to a nefarious conspiracy.
He has failed to do the elemental work that effective authoritarians must do: build a disciplined party apparatus, bring the bureaucracy under secure control, and shape a coherent ideology.
But this is where Fox comes in, and the real danger to democracy. It is the essence of democratic systems that all the participants accept the results of elections. That’s why it’s a reaffirmation of the system when losing candidates, such as Richard Nixon in 1960 and Al Gore in 2000, accept defeat even if there is reason to think the process was unfair. It is also, by the way, why Trump’s fear that his legitimacy as president is undermined by the role Russia played in the 2016 election is not entirely misplaced.
It is the magic of democracies that when people or parties lose, they do not head for the hills and embark on armed rebellion. They lick their wounds and prepare to fight again.
Part of that democratic bargain is that the victors do not embark on a campaign of arresting their opponents. That is why the “Lock her up!” chant led by Michael Flynn in the election campaign, and enthusiastically applauded by Trump, was so deeply disturbing. It hinted at Putinesque plans to round up opponents, seizing their liberty and their wealth.
Now Fox and Friends in the morning, and Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity at night, along with many less prominent figures on Fox, are stitching together a paranoid vision that sees many of the central institutions of the American system conspiring against Trump and his supporters. At one level, this may seem like building the political predicate for firing Mueller, or perhaps — as an alternative to firing him — for discrediting his investigation.
But the ideas Fox is now propounding are likely to outlast this episode, and quite possibly Trump himself. They are building the predicate for something much more sinister than firing Mueller.
Here are some of the things that people on Fox News have been saying in recent weeks:
•One Fox news host, Jeanine Pirro, called not only for the shutdown of Mueller’s investigation but a wholesale round-up and arrest of employees at the Department of Justice and the FBI. She said they need “to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired, but who need to be taken out in cuffs.” She specifically called for handcuffs for FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
•Fox commentators and hosts have compared the FBI to the KGB, the Soviet-era secret police who were a chief instrument of the Communist Party’s campaign of terror against the citizenry.
•A Fox news host, Jesse Watters, suggested that there might be a coup in the works: that is to say, the overthrow of a legitimate political authority by the use of force from inside the apparatus of government.
•On Tuesday of this week, Fox contributor Kevin Jackson suggested the FBI might be planning to assassinate Trump — an idea already propagated by the crack-brained alt-right broadcaster Alex Jones. The other contributors on the panel seemed shocked by what Jackson said on air, but he doubled down.
It is worth remembering, by the way, that despite a massive upheaval at Fox in the last year or so — the loss of the network’s programming genius, Roger Ailes, and its ratings king, Bill O’Reilly, to sex scandals, as well as the defection of another popular host, Megyn Kelly, to NBC — it ended 2017 on top of the ratings. It is easily beating MSNBC and CNN even as they have their own record-setting years.
Fox’s huge audience is being primed to believe that if Republicans lose in Congressional elections in 2018, or if Trump loses in 2020, it will be due not to the routine mechanisms of democracy, but to a nefarious conspiracy. Fox is encouraging its viewers to no longer accept the rules of the democratic game, but to see an ordinary political loss as an infuriating affront that cannot be redressed by democratic means. And who knows where that might lead?
The logic leads to violence.
The paranoid style of Fox’s thinking will not be erased if Trump is forced from the scene politically. The most chilling thought is that the next champion Fox and its friends attach themselves to once Trump is gone may not be quite so incompetent.
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