Like a man without a country, Republicans are members of a political tribe sorely lacking media support. That fact alone makes it all the more incredible that Trump ever set foot in the White House, and also helps explain his (possible) defeat in 2020.
Now the question is, did Fox News just outfox itself?
Once upon a time, Fox provided the Republican Party solitary shelter from a storm of media attacks, which ramped up considerably with the election of Donald Trump, a Washington outsider loathed by the establishment. Eventually, however, for reasons known only to Rupert Murdoch, the channel began to abandon its core audience.
Last year, for example, Fox viewers got their first whiff of change when the 89-year-old media mogul brought on board none other than Donna Brazile, a former CNN commentator as well as a former Democratic National Committee chair. Then there’s Chris Wallace, the Fox News anchor who served as moderator during the first debate between Trump and Biden. Critics say Wallace was so harsh with the US president that it appeared as though Trump was debating against two people instead of one.
It wasn’t until Election Day, however, when many Fox viewers got blindsided by the painful realization that the channel they had followed for years had finally betrayed them – and at the worst possible time. That much became apparent when Fox, even before ‘fake news’ CNN, jumped the gun and called the swing state of Arizona for Biden with just 73 percent of the state’s votes having been tallied. The Trump administration seemed justified in calling that move “voter suppression” – a rusty knife in the back. Many Republicans probably turned the car around when they heard that dubious news.
The straw that broke the Fox back, however, came on Thursday, when anchor Bret Baier told viewers, “We have not seen the hard evidence,” after Trump remarked during a White House press conference that the election process had been rampant with “fraud and corruption.” Baier could have at least acknowledged that some of the more questionable incidents – such as Republican ballot observers being turned away as the votes were being counted, and the names of the dearly departed appearing on the ballots – deserved some scrutiny.
Now Fox will have to suffer with the ramification of its political volte-face, which, judging by the comments on Twitter, has thousands of erstwhile viewers running for the fire exits.
But is there a safe alternative media universe to escape to?
It should disturb many people, not least in the world of media, that Trump got 71 million votes in the 2020 showdown against his rival. That number represents not only millions of jaded American voters, exasperated by the apparent botching of the most consequential US election in modern times.
It signals a massive migration away from the so-called ‘legacy media’ that was complicit in dragging Trump through the mud for four years over the fake news of Russiagate and impeachment. They say the public has a short memory, but somehow I doubt that will be the case when it comes to Donald J. Trump, who had achieved a messiah-like status among his fervent supporters.
So, what now? Will throngs of former Trump supporters abandon the mainstream media and social media camps for the green pastures of alternative media? Personally, I’ve considered making such a move myself. But then I’m confronted with many questions, the most disturbing one being: who’s to say that, in a few years’ time, my hip new media selection won’t have sold its soul to the mainstream-media devil? Or that it, too, will one day crack down on my liberties or suddenly switch political allegiances?
That’s no small consideration. After all, just last week, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrat from New York, was in a particularly authoritarian mood when she pondered out loud on Twitter if her followers were archiving social media posts from Trump supporters to be used later as evidence of their “complicity.” If ever there was an ominous signal that the US is heading for a nasty bust-up that was certainly it. Once fools forget history and start making lists, it’s game on.
All of this discussion about media bias, however, fails to acknowledge something so obvious it’s regularly ignored, and that is this: the media was never supposed to take sides in political clashes. At least not so conspicuously as is the case today. The function of the media is to investigate and report the news in such a way that the viewer is able to arrive at their own conclusions, not be dragged there by monster corporations. In the US, however, the media has morphed into a gigantic center for political activism, where viewers and readers are regularly told what to think.
The reporter Glenn Greenwald once remarked that the key purpose of journalism is “to provide an adversarial check on those who wield the greatest power by shining a light on what they do in the dark, and informing the public about those acts.” That sounds like a pretty fair assessment of how journalism should work.
With that credo in mind, all pointless discussions about ‘what side’ CNN, ABC, Fox News, or whatever is on would finally cease. All of the media conglomerates would be on the same side, working for the same purpose, which is elevating the American public through genuine investigative work and diligently getting the information to the public for the betterment of society. Until people start remembering that the primary function of the media is to inform, which has nothing to do with political activism, all talk of ‘alternative media’ will end in self-delusion.