Now that three Fox hosts have been caught red-handed lying about the January 6th insurrection in order to cover up for Donald Trump and MAGA world, it’s crucial the media recognize this was not a bug but a feature of Fox’s operating system.
Of course, Crooks and Liars has been doing just that for more than a decade. And even though The Editorial Board somehow missed our perspicaciousness, its interview with media sociologist and journalism professor Jeremy Littau is nonetheless dead on and important.
The interview was a follow up to Littau’s tweet calling the Fox texts “one of the biggest stories to emerge from the 1/6 committee.” He also wrote, “Too often, stories about the Fox propaganda machine are episodic. Orgs have shied away from covering it as a systemic issue.”
Littau explained to The Editorial Board’s John Stoehr:
Jeremy Littau: The press has a habit of treating political coverage and politics as separate categories. There are exceptions, but daily political coverage is churned out by news outlets as if the media environment itself isn’t a factor. I think a lot about what Walter Lippmann wrote in Public Opinion almost 100 years ago, that one of the most powerful functions media have is creating narratives out of facts. Politics doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but rather it is shaped by media narratives.
What’s happening now with Fox is at the nexus of two longer-term trends: the rise of conservative media over the past 30 years and the fracturing of the media landscape.
The narrative power pre-1990 was for a general audience. Conservative media is only trying to reach a loyal fraction of that audience. Its rise has coincided with technology change that allows people to self-isolate in their media use.
Those powerful narratives are not just shaping a large portion of the electorate anymore. This is Lippmann’s idea on steroids.
They have become the way that portion of the electorate sees reality. So when Fox personalities behind the scenes are saying the 1/6 insurrection was a horrible event but going on the air downplaying it, they’ve been caught misusing that power. That is a damning thing for their claim to be doing news, and it’s dangerous for our democracy.
So true! Tell me more!
JL: The news industry largely has treated Fox as a legitimate news operation practicing the same methods as everyone else. That’s a reason you don’t see journalists doing rigorous work about the broader narratives emanating from the network.
That’s why it’s so important for the media to stop perpetuating the fiction that Fox is a news operation and start covering what it’s really up to: manipulating the U.S. by any means it can get away with.