It’s mysterious how swiftly a society can collectively change its mind. As rapidly as the financial markets crashed, so has Fox News’s credibility. What was gospel to an entire segment of voters and viewers just a few months ago has become a desperate flapping in the wind. Some may view this as part of the swing cycle that politics is heir to. But from the Reagan era forward, certain truths were held to be self-evident, and far from inventing anything, Fox News simply put the high gloss of mass media on them.
If you tune in to Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, or the network’s humbler toilers in the vineyard, their tactics haven’t changed. They must be shocked to find themselves stranded, all the more because it seemed to happen overnight.
In the spirit of Emerson’s dictum that evil is the absence of good, it’s worth recalling where good was absent just a year ago. Here are the working beliefs of the Fox News credo.
Article 1: The worst aspects of human nature are actually cherished freedoms.
This is Fox News’s main rallying cry. Hating minorities, despising gays, ridiculing women’s rights, and slandering the ACLU all fall under the rubric of precious liberties.
Article 2: God loves gun owners.
Fox News rabidly seizes the high ground when it comes to law and order, an issue that is seen primarily as a loaded gun under every pillow and a triple-bolted front door.
Article 3: Patriotism is the last refuge of ratings wars.
Here the old axiom that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels has been updated (but by no means abandoned). Every Fox News commentator earns his battle scars by wrapping himself in the bloody flag, without ever personally endangering his own skin, of course.
Article 4: Ideology is way better than thinking.
Pre-chewed ideas are more easily digested than actual thinking. But ideology goes one better by answering every doubt in advance. Thus Fox News is never in doubt. Truth is as automatic as a gum ball machine.
Article 5: The mind’s primary use is for bellowing.
I advise any prospective guest on Fox News to demand that there be no shouting. This immediately decouples the mind of O’Reilly and Hannity. Their most basic assumption is that any guest, once shouted down, has lost the debate. (I tested this gambit out personally and can vouch for its effectiveness.)
Article 6: Shamelessness is next to godliness.
In other words, you can sin at leisure as long as you keep pointing out other people’s sins. Long a tactic enshrined in the Book of Hypocrisy, Fox News has turned holier-than-thou into a moneymaker.
Article 7: Don’t bother me with the facts. My mind is already closed.
This is really just a corollary to the belief in ideology, but it deserves its own chapter and verse because of the ironical light it casts on the Fox News logo, “Fair and balanced.”
Article 8: The little guy is always mad.
On the whole, Fox News tries to make the little guy feel that he is always right and those pointy-headed educated elitists always wrong. But sometimes the little guy proves tricky, as when he doesn’t like Republican deficits and foreign wars. Luckily, Fox News always has a fallback — the little guy is always blistered about something, and a little kerosene is a marvelous accelerant, as they say in arson investigations.
Article 9: “They” are about to get you — watch out!
The bulk of Fox News’s sanctimony rests on its pledge to look out for everyday working Joes. Since there is no record of the network actually protecting something realistic like clean air, freedom from assault weapons, and safety in the workplace, what is really being safeguarded is the right to be freaking paranoid every minute of the day.
Article 10: If I just said it, it must be right.
Here, as in several other places, Fox News is indistinguishable from a drunken frat party where not only is bellowing a sign of intelligence, but never backing down, however cockeyed your last statement may be, shows that you are a man.
I am not a communicant in this particular creed, so I’m sure I’ve left out some key passages in the gospel. For full knowledge one would have to delve deep into the Old Testament of Fox News (i.e., the minutes of the John Birch Society 1958-date). Daily viewing will keep one abreast of new anathemas (i.e., socialism) and potential saviors (Sarah Palin). Or you could take the easy way out and celebrate the waning of Fox News’s belief system and the cleaner air left behind.
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