Monday, November 16, 2020

The Future of Fox News and the Future of America - by Boyd Cathey


It happened on Saturday morning, November 14, 2020, at around 8:15 EST. I had switched over to briefly catch some national news on the Fox News Channel. All of a sudden I heard—and saw—Pete Hegseth stop in the middle of the sentence he was reading from his teleprompter: “…there weren’t any substantiated cases of voter fraud in the swing states….” And there, as he spoke that line, he interjected: “I’m not sure I agree with that script on the teleprompter.”

Think of it: a major newscaster on a major television news network all of a sudden halting his narrative to publicly declare that he did not accept the party line—that he did not agree with what the news writers had set down authoritatively as gospel for him to say on camera.

And it was one more ominous piece of an unfolding drama—the evolving transformation of Fox—from the network that many conservatives and most Make America Great Again “deplorables” once may have thought was on their side, to something that seemed increasingly like only the slightly right wing of the Washington DC Establishment.

It has been that Establishment all along that many if not most viewers believed Fox was standing against, offering an alternate news and information source to almost complete media control by the Progressivist Left. 

Of course, there are other sources now, and they demand closer exploration. There is Newsmax, as well as One America News. But these televised media are not available everywhere, not like Fox. And until recently they did not command the same clout and widespread following as Fox News. Nor did they have—nor do they have—a fearless Tucker Carlson smashing all records for weekly prime time viewership.

So, settling back in their viewing habits cultivated for years, most MAGA folks watched Fox, even if certain doubts, both politically and culturally, arose over time, especially during the past several years.

There had been signals, alarms, along the way, especially since the later years of the Obama administration that Fox had acceded to a post-Christian morality as its operational model.

Although Fox heralded on camera any number of conservative and traditionalist religious leaders from time to time—a Reverend Franklin Graham, a Pastor Robert Jeffress (First Baptist Church, Dallas), and others—at the same time, since the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision (2015) essentially legislating that same sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, and the growing acceptance of homosexuality as normative, Fox accepted that new template without demurrer.  True, there were those on the network who continued to profess traditional belief and standards, but their voices were modulated and not permitted to get out of hand.  

Over a year ago, June 30, 2019, I commented in a published essay: Consider the number of pundits who are involved in same sex unions who now appear regularly on the network and Fox’s apparent de facto acceptance of that assault on an essential belief of Western civilization.”  One can easily think of any number of “married” same sex personalities regularly highlighted by the network: a Guy Benson, for example, and former Director of National Intelligence Rick Grenell, and Tammy Bruce (for a time in such a relationship). And there are others. Not to mention Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA who has embraced (literally) transgendered “conservatives” and drag queens.

Such evolution has not gone unnoticed, nor has a comparison with the early days, pre-Obergefell, of Fox when its pundits seemed to uniformly defend traditional marriage and morality.  Those days are apparently gone, in the name of a new post-Christian template.

But it is not just the progressive acceptance of a new morality. Increasingly, the network seems bent on echoing a progressivist agenda politically and historically, if perhaps not as blatantly or ferociously as its lagging competitors on CNN or MSNBC. Again, in a previously published column I wrote:

“…consider Fox’s canonization of race hustler Martin Luther King Jr. and the disastrous civil rights revolution, and its eagerness to attack older traditions and figures of conservatism, in particular, of the Confederacy, as ‘racists,’ ‘segregationists,’ and ‘reactionaries’. (Remember Fox host Brian Kilmeade’s series on the ‘Civil War’ which could have been—and maybe was—taken right out of Marxist historian Eric Foner’s textbooks?) Or, consider the network’s nearly complete support for globalism and employing American arms (and the lives of American boys) to impose ‘democracy’ (and thus current ‘American values’) on every poor, benighted desert oasis or impenetrable jungle in every God-forsaken corner of the world. I would argue strenuously that this internationalism is, both historically and philosophically, a leftist position and that it stands in direct opposition to traditional American conservatism.”

Those examples can be multiplied exponentially. We need only cite perennial appearances on Fox by recovering Never Trumpers like Ben Shapiro or National Review editor Rich Lowry, not to mention Jonah Goldberg and Steve Hayes whose all-out globalism and disaccord with America First principles are openly expressed. They are heralded by the network as conservatives—but, in fact, they propound an elitist “(neo)conservatism” deeply infected with progressivist views on everything from America’s imperial destiny to force our form of egalitarian liberal democracy on the rest of the world to a firm adherence to a post-Christian (im)morality.

Even on the more Old Right Tucker Carlson Tonight (and on the Laura Ingraham program), the omnipresent Neoconservative Victor Davis Hanson (whose expertise is in ancient Hellenic  history) shows up with regularity as an expert witness on just about every topic which has anything to do with current politics.

Yes, he is supportive of President Trump, but let’s consider his broader views, his essential historical and philosophical foundation.

Pre-1861 America was “racist,” Hanson strongly implies, and noble figures like Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis are comparable to Nazis. He is quick to implicitly condemn the old Southern constitutionalists who actually created the American federative republic as slaveholding racists. As the Old South incarnated those principles, well, it is en dehors de civilization! That is, outside civilized society, at least to Neoconservatives such as Hanson, who, like Brian Kilmeade is held in awe by most everyone at Fox.

This same Victor Hanson glorifies General Sherman’s barbaric “March to the Sea” in 1864-1865 as both highly moral and a model of restraint (only a small handful of outrages against civilians, he asserts, and they were entirely justified). And he forcefully scorns and condemns Hollywood’s 1950s portrayal of the old South and Confederacy in film: “Shane,” “The Searchers,” “The Raid,” “Rio Grande,” and much if not all the John Wayne and Randolph Scott corpus is…racist.

How, we must ask, is this view any different substantively from the “woke” position of the revolutionaries and BLM/Antifa activists on the extreme Left? Yet, Hanson is Fox’s “go-to” authority.

The breaking point for many MAGA “deplorables” came with how Fox covered the 2020 presidential election. Not just the always-skewed pro-Biden polling results, but in a sense a realization that indeed something was happening, something disconcerting and very troubling at the network. And that, I suggest, has much to do with the Fox’s general  adherence (with a few notable exceptions) to a globalist Neoconservatism and an unwillingness to actually sever ties to the Washington Establishment, in this case, the Republican and “conservative” elites who have more or less dominated the acceptable “opposition” to the Deep State, but in fact, don’t really want to be left behind as its minions return to full power and march triumphantly and devastatingly through what remains of our inherited institutions.

Perhaps the first major public row or ruckus came with Fox News announcing early on election night, November 3, that with hundreds of thousands of votes outstanding and Trump leading, Joe Biden had carried Arizona. There were immediate protests from viewers and the Trump campaign: how could Fox make such a prediction based on fragmentary returns? How, indeed? For in North Carolina with about 117,000 votes potentially to be counted and Trump leading Biden by around 76,000, Fox and the other networks refused to call the Tar Heel State for Trump, even though Biden would have had to receive at least 97,000 of those remaining votes, more than 83% of the total (assuming all ballots came in and there were no election shenanigans). In the end, North Carolina did go for Trump, and the margin was maintained.

The outrage concerning Arizona was so intense that the network trotted out on election night for a short interview Arnon Mishkin, head of the team running Fox’s Decision Desk. Mishkin is a staunch registered Democrat who has worked as a campaign consultant for Democrats such as Ed Koch, Tom Bradley, and Mike Bloomberg.  As the Jewish Telegraph Agency detailed in its reporting: “Mishkin, 65, would seem an unlikely election analyst for the news network that is closely associated with the Republican Party….The [Arizona] call injected life back into the Biden campaign, which was reeling as it watched tallies in swing states such as Ohio and Florida grow insurmountable Trump leads.”

About Mishkin there is this from the Wikipedia:

“The New York Times published an article about Mishkin a month before the election entitled ‘Trump Wants to Discredit the Election. This Nerd Could Stop Him.’ In the lead up to the election, Mishkin and Dana Blanton were the main voices at Fox News doubting the chances of Trump being re-elected to the Presidency in his contest with Joe Biden. The two were involved in creating the new VoteCast alternative to exit polls, alongside the Associated Press. Mishkin's model has been supported by other pollsters such as Ariel Edwards-Levy of the [far Left] Huffington Post.”

This was the man directing polling at Fox and how it would call the election on November 3. It was not the first time during his tenure at Fox when he generated controversy and disturbing questions. From several years back, "Eric Bolling, former Fox Business host, claim[ed] that Mishkin and his team were highly dismissive of Donald Trump's chances to beat Hillary Clinton during the 2016 United States presidential election.”

Why is such a partisan Democrat like Mishkin in charge of Fox’s election and polling operation?

On November 9, Neil Cavuto interviewed on his program Trump Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Her appearance was intended to provide details on the ongoing election litigation taking place in Pennsylvania. But abruptly, as McEnany made the case that much of the voting in the Keystone State was illegal, Cavuto declared the interview ended and cut her off: “Whoa, whoa, whoa. I just think we have to be very clear,” Cavuto moaned. “She’s charging the other side as welcoming fraud and illegal voting, unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continue to show you this.” End of story, guillotine for Kayleigh.

Later that day Carlson, in a not-so-veiled response to Cavuto, as well as to the guiding lords at Fox, declared:

“You can’t just cut away from coverage you don’t like. You can’t simply tell people to accept an outcome… because force doesn’t work in a democracy. That’s a dictatorship, Carlson said. “In a free society you have to convince the public of your legitimacy. You have to win them over with reason. Democracy is always a voluntary arrangement. Telling voters to shut up is never enough.” 

Of course, there remain a few highly professional newscasters and pundits at Fox. Britt Hume, Fox’s senior political analyst, appears the most balanced (unlike Chris Wallace, securely tied to the Washington Deep State establishment). And Tucker Carlson continues with his highly rated prime time program.  Carlson, if not always free from network constraints (he still calls on Victor Davis Hanson for opinion), is usually fearless and informed, almost alone in willing to break through the media and tech authoritarian iron curtain which increasingly strangles America and shapes what we think and how we act…and how dodo-brained soccer moms vote.

The pressure on Fox pundits and reporters to accept without too much grumbling a Biden administration will only grow, and like at other supposedly conservative news outlets (e.g., The Wall Street Journal), the new Millennial hires and writers, educated at Leftist hothouses called colleges, may well finally vanquish any dissent.

The Neocons—the slightly more demure wing of Progressivism, broadcasting their message of liberal democratic globalism and post-Christian morality—dominate Fox and have paved the way for what is coming. They have successfully squelched Old Right traditionalist conservative voices, except occasionally on the Carlson program. (Remember his detailed coverage of our horrendous missteps in Syria, his dismantling of the “Russia Hoax,” and his incredible reporting on the Hunter Biden scandal?) But when was the last time you saw an intelligent defender of the Old South and its symbols on Fox (and there are many), or an internationally known Old Right conservative scholar like Dr. Paul Gottfried or Pat Buchanan on the network?

If his ratings were not so high, does anyone doubt that Carlson’s voice, too, would be exiled?

True, there has been a reaction, and it seems that other, smaller conservative media ventures, including online, are gaining. Newsmax TV surpassed Fox Business in viewership the day after the election. And Fox market shares have dipped. Yet, longstanding viewing habits are difficult to change, even if the general drift and flow seems to inevitably carry those glued to the network farther to the Left.

If the Deep State should finally complete its theft of the 2020 election, perhaps Donald Trump should invest his fortune in a genuinely populist traditionalist television network? Of course, he’d have to first divest himself of all of the various subversive Republican and establishment conservative apparatchiks who have surrounded him and undermined his presidency. And fight vigorously Big Tech, Big Media, and Big Government.

A capital idea? Yes; but is it already too late in a decadent and dying America? Is there life yet in the Framer’s dream?