Letter: Outrage equals ratings at Fox News
Haglund writes, "The Fox News business plan is simple. Stir up a constant sense of discontent and outrage among viewers and they will become loyal followers and keep coming back for more. Fox chooses a topic, usually a lie, and then rants about it day and night stirring up anger and total acceptance of the lie by their viewers. When viewers grow tired of the topic, Fox finds a new subject to appeal to the emotions of its listeners."
A Facebook friend claims that Fox News must be the truth since it is the most watched news network in America. But it is clear that Rupert (and his son, Lachlan) Murdoch preside over the country’s most toxic news organization with no consequences for its abuses.
Rupert’s other son, James, finally left the family business saying he could no longer be a part of the “disinformation, lies and toxic politics.” In 2016, when Roger Ailes was forced to resign from Fox News because of sexual harassment issues, James wanted to replace Ailes with the head of CBS News, David Rhodes. He wanted to move Fox toward excellence in news coverage and away from the propaganda and divisiveness of the evening opinion shows. Rupert refused saying “changing direction would be business suicide.” He was right.
The Fox News business plan is simple. Stir up a constant sense of discontent and outrage among viewers and they will become loyal followers and keep coming back for more. Fox chooses a topic, usually a lie, and then rants about it day and night stirring up anger and total acceptance of the lie by their viewers. When viewers grow tired of the topic, Fox finds a new subject to appeal to the emotions of its listeners.
Donald Trump ignored his security briefings but was wedded to Fox and depended on them for his ideas. In 2019 Media Matters counted every time Trump tweeted in response to a Fox program and found at least 657 instances where it happened. Even worse, the Fox influence became so strong that almost all Republican politicians bowed to its pressure. They feared saying anything that might anger Fox viewers because it would destroy their political careers.
As former Republican House Speaker, John Boehner, said about his fellow House members, “It’s now all about appealing to Fox News. They didn’t really want legislative victories, they wanted wedge issues and conspiracies and crusades. [They] were just thinking of how to fundraise off of outrage or how to get on Hannity that night.”
When the pandemic stuck, the Trump-Fox feedback loop took on life-and-death consequences. Fox News chose COVID-19 as their wedge issue by echoing Trump’s false claim that “It will just go away,” promoting false “cures” for the virus, and putting out misleading information about the vaccines. During a two-week segment Fox aired 129 segments about coronavirus vaccines. Forty five percent of them said the vaccination drive was government overreach and 37% of them said the vaccines were not necessary or dangerous.
Fox’s worst sin was propagandizing the lie that Democrats stole the election from President Trump. This lie led to the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. In the two weeks after Fox News called the election for Biden, the network’s hosts and guests cast doubt on the results at least 774 times, according to a count by Media Matters for America. An August survey showed that two thirds of Republicans are still convinced that voter fraud stole the election from Trump.
When the election news got old, Fox made “cancel culture” their next anger-inducing issue followed by critical race theory, which has gotten over 1300 mentions in three-and-a half months. Instead of working on critical issues like health care, climate change, immigration reform, child care and building a fair economy, like sheep Republicans react to the fictional issues created by Fox News. They waste time passing bills to suppress voting, ban vaccine mandates, and ban the teaching of critical race theory. People once feared that the Republican Party had become the Trump Party, but now that Trump has been sidelined, we see that he was just the latest manifestation of the pervasive power of Fox News.
Roger Haglund lives in Moorhead.
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.