Two Never-Trump neocons publicly forsaking their paychecks from Fox’s propaganda network is the latest sign of how no one but far-right conspiracy theorists wants anything to do with the place.
That’s nice. But what we really need right now is for major figures from the traditional media – from real news outlets and academe – to call out Fox as a pariah network.
“There has to be a bright line that what is happening there is not journalism,” said Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters for America, which has been inexhaustibly devoted to tracking Fox and other sources of right-wing misinformation since 2004. “They shouldn’t get to use the imprimatur of journalism.”
In a column I wrote earlier this month — Fox News is not news. Say it with me. – I issued a clarion call for my profession to call out Fox for violating pretty much all of its basic tenets. I offered up a 14-point plan, including that news organizations should actively encourage people to stop watching Fox and should expose the beneficiaries of its propaganda and lies.
The problem, Carusone explained to me in a phone interview, is that there is a residual feeling among many journalists that Fox, while deeply flawed, is at some level still engaged in news-gathering – that some of the people who work at Fox are, despite everything, journalistic colleagues.
This has remained the case even as Fox slid into virtually non-stop reality denial. The honest journalists are almost extinct there now, relegated to near invisibility (and they should quit.)
So what reality-based journalists need, Carusone said, is a “permission structure” to call out Fox as most definitely not news. “The permission structure comes from prominent journalists and prominent academics,” he said.
“The single most important thing that they can speak out about is that what Fox News is doing does not adhere to the professional standards of journalism and that the concept of journalism should not be used as a veneer to enable and validate the misinformation and extremism that’s coming out of the show.”
So who should help create the necessary permissions structure? I’m thinking:
- Highly respected veteran journalists
- Media critics
- High-profile anchors
- Editors of our top reality-based news outlets
- Journalism school professors and deans
- Heads of journalism-related foundations and centers
- Editorial boards and prominent columnist
Feel free to nominate specific individuals in comments.
Carusone identified Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik and MSNBC host Chris Hayes as two journalists who are already effectively speaking out.
Zurawik, for instance, wrote a column in March headlined “If Fox News wants to be a political tool, it should be treated as such and not given access meant for journalists.” He wrote:
The dangerously anti-democratic behavior of former President Donald Trump and the slavish endorsement of it by Fox News the past five years has forced me to rethink several bedrock beliefs about journalism, media criticism and politics.
In 2008, when the Obama administration started distinguishing between Fox and others in the press corps, Zurawaik had been “one of the first journalists to push back hard saying presidents don’t get to determine what is or isn’t a legitimate news organization.”
For Zurawik, the last straw was when Lachlan Murdoch, the CEO of the Fox Corporation, told investors that the role of his channel with Democrat Joe Biden in the White House is that of loyal opposition. Zurawik wrote:
There is nothing remotely journalistic about that definition. It’s political through and through…
Beyond adopting the appearance of a journalistic operation on-air, there is little that is journalistic about the content Fox produces. It is much closer to propaganda than journalism. In 2009, I defended them on the principle of a free press, but they have consistently betrayed that value since.
And Chris Hayes has been simply marvelous on the topic. Read the transcript of the first 20 minutes of his show on Oct. 8. It starts off “Tonight, the undeniable evidence that Fox News is the real source of America`s rising rage.” He continues:
There is a direct pipeline from what appears on Fox News to the absolute worst manifestations, worst behavior, worst elements of our politics and society, input to output, clear and strong connection. Just take a step back and survey the wreckage of the current moment, this unprecedented era in American politics. The first president in the country`s history without any meaningful political or military experience, the first president impeached twice, the first deadly insurrection which tried to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power and overthrew the duly elected government since basically, the cannons firing in Fort Sumter during the Civil War.
We have experienced all of that, these genuinely novel, unprecedented destructive events in just a few years. How did we get here? The answer is in large part Fox News.
And it’s not a one-time critique. Hayes comes back to it time and again.
.@chrislhayes: “Rupert Murdoch is the person responsible for all of the anti-vaccine nonsense coming out of Fox that has led to untold thousands of unnecessary deaths. He is responsible for the increasingly dangerous rhetoric around January 6 that Fox News is spewing.” pic.twitter.com/6PV6RnMGqS
— All In with Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) October 30, 2021
We need more David Zurawiks and Chris Hayeses.
In the meantime, let us celebrate Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg, even though they are not in any way role models for reality-based journalism. Hayes carried water for Dick Cheney, most famously by asserting a (nonexistent) link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Goldberg is a notoriously ignorant troll.
Nevertheless, as New York Times media writer Ben Smith wrote:
Their departures… mark the end of a lingering hope among some at Fox News — strange as this is for outsiders to understand — that the channel would at some point return to a pre-Trump reality that was also often hyperpartisan, but that kept some distance from Republican officials.
There are so many excuses to formally denounce Fox — whether it’s Tucker Carlson’s insinuations of a “false flag” operation on Jan. 6, Lachlan Murdoch’s declaration of opposition, the channel’s spread of election conspiracy theories, the death toll that can be attributed to its anti-vax hysteria, its absurd sway over the susceptible, Shepard Smith’s decision in 2019 to walk out rather than be the lead-in to liars, or any number of other horrendous, anti-journalistic acts chronicled by Media Matters over the years.
So use whatever excuse works for you. And better late than never.