The purpose of this blog is NOT to convince anyone that Fox News Channel isn’t “news” or that conservatives are wholly responsible for societal and global problems. You will find here not the slightest investment in presenting CNN, MSNBC, or liberals in general (and the Democrats they support) as politically viable. As a far-left loony with a Marxist-feminist bent, I see US liberals and conservatives as situated not along a “left-to-right” political spectrum, but rather “center-to-right.” A glance at any European social democracy’s political parties reveals that even in the necessary absence of democratic socialism from the range of electoral choices within capitalist democracy, the US two-party system contains a) a center-right party posing as an acceptable, post-Red Scare “left” and b) a far-right party whose platforms have more in common with fascism than contemporary European conservatives.
The liberal (“mainstream”) media, as they are referred to on Fox, are indeed liberal, but in US political language this means “leftist”. In fact, though individual personalities and themes can lean right or left of center, the narratives they propagate, like those of the Democratic Party, are centrist to the core and thus from my perspective a more bland form of the same market-worshipping, imperialistic, liberal-conservative hybrid that has produced the dominant 21st century US outlook: they’re liberal about using state-corporate power to conserve a liberal economic system and all the social stratification and power relationships that it entails. I find conservatives and their narratives much more fascinating than liberals for a number of psychological and philosophical reasons that I will enumerate in depth over the course of my writing.
Fox News IS “news”, because “news” is not some sacrosanct, objective relay of events as they “actually” happen. Fox claims to be “Fair & Balanced”, and to have clear-cut distinctions between “news” programming and “opinion” programming. This is remarkably devious reasoning, all the more admirable for the extent to which it is utter bullshit. Our nature as ideological actors is to use language to continually construct (consciously and unconsciously) practical narratives about an ambiguous reality that has no linguistic expression an sich. Nietzsche writes of the philosophers of his day that they claim that there are only facts. “Facts,” he says, “are precisely what there are not. There are only interpretations.” Fox News claims the most loudly to have “the facts”, but so, explicitly or not, does MSNBC. So, too, do Al-Jazeera or Democracy Now, my most personally trusted news sources. Nothing to despair about, folks, we can’t escape the subjective positioning of a “worldview”: our ideology is constantly in flux yet built into our very language.
Fox is fascinating because it is an extreme case, a calculated distillation, of hegemonic discourse that is actually all around us, in all corporate media (not just “news”) and sociopolitical narrative-building. Because I was raised in an atheist, pacifist house in which my liberal parent was the de facto conservative, the extent to which ultraconservative viewpoints are ingrained in US culture is absolutely thrilling to me: as an outsider in many respects, I find the militaristic, dogmatically religious, unselfconsciously Eurocentric culture of the mainstream “heartland” simultaneously pervasive and exotic. A critique of Fox is meaningless if it condemns only the narratives being represented while ignoring the psychology of the spectator, that is, the pre-existing beliefs or ideological tendencies WITHIN the “intended” audience. Fox isn’t brainwashing, because the only real brainwashing is culture at large. The reactionary narratives on Fox are not created in a vacuum: YES, conservative and Republican narratives are more unapologetic in their service to the interests of the economic elite, but is that where the critique should end? This elite would have no power if large portions of the population had not been not made so easy to manipulate (“Take back our country”, anyone?) by broader, earlier, even more pervasive cultural conditioning. As we will explore, Democrats and liberal ideology are NOT exceptions to this; but liberalism’s preservation of the status quo is somewhat more ideologically and materially circuitous than abolishing the EPA and the “Flat Tax”.
Basically, there’s something awe-inspiring about Fox News in particular and conservative discourse in general, and something despicably cowardly in the ambivalence of centrist imperialism: Our current President, true to his two-facedness as a Nobel Peace Prize-winning war criminal, insults the intelligence of his anti-war supporters with his criticism of waterboarding while continuing to sanction torture in secret prisons, assassinate “terrorists” without trial, and put the civilian death toll under Bush ever more to shame with his expanded use of drones. Democrats know as well as Republicans that our “national security” interests (i.e. those of the Israeli and Saudi governments, not to mention our permanent domestic defense industry) dictate that Iran must ultimately be pummeled into oblivion by US and Israeli democratic justice. Fox and Republicans do not dick around with imperialist apologism: they worship the bipartisan, electorally popular US narrative of military dominance consistently and unambivalently. They RECOGNIZE the social Darwinism of liberal capitalism as the essence of “upward mobility” and the “American dream”. US ultraconservatism is crypto-fascism at its most unapologetically jingoistic, corporatism in which the state primarily serves the economic elite, and not vice versa.
I did not start watching Fox in order to write about it, or even to critique it. I started watching Fox at a difficult point in my life when I needed something different, something fascinating, something stimulating: an intravenous influx of flashy establishment propaganda that is derivative of both liberal and conservative rhetorical traditions and, for better or for worse, is not “state television”. The spectatorial tension between myself and the text, between my positioning and worldview and those of the “target audience” of Fox, keeps me watching day after day. It even keeps me on the elliptical machine at the gym. Finally, I’m going to share my thoughts.
Stay tuned, America.