The New York Times has a new piece (‘How Fox Chased Its Audience Down the Rabbit Hole’) detailing Fox News’s (and Rupert Murdoch’s) venture into election conspiracy.
To be fair, The Times criticizing Fox News would be like the Yankees criticizing the Red Sox or Ohio State criticizing the University of Michigan; Fox and The Times represent two different teams, two different sides of America, who see things in very different terms.
And the piece, which details how Fox gave viewers precisely what they wanted – at risk of the country and democracy – should probably take a moment to point out that The Times (and just about every publication) strives to give its viewers/readers what they want; the ultimate goal of all media outlets is to turn a profit – don’t kid yourself into thinking the primary objective is some higher purpose, it’s not, and The Times is no different.
Although, Fox is much more casual with the truth when giving its viewers what they want – making The Times’s criticisms worthwhile, and the piece worth a read.
Murdoch Didn’t Like the Direction Fox Was Moving
The piece, written by Jim Rutenberg, explains that Murdoch wasn’t pleased with his network’s coverage following the 2020 election.
“The big story that day, as it had been every day in the two weeks since the election, was election theft,” Rutenberg wrote. Murdoch watched in dismay as Rudy Guiliani, “sweating profusely, black hair dye dripping down the side of his face, spun a wild fantasy about Joe Biden’s stealing the election from President Donald J. Trump.”
Remember that Guiliani press conference? It was especially unhinged, with Guiliani detailing an election conspiracy that was “dizzying in its delusional complexity,” that “centered on a supposed plot by the Clinton Foundation, George Soros and associates of Hugo Chavez to convert Trump votes into Biden votes by way of software from Smartmatic and voting machines from Dominion Voting Systems,” Rutenberg wrote.
Murdoch was not happy with what he was watching on his own network. Although Murdoch had built his media empire “by understanding what his audience wanted and giving it to them without fear or judgment,” Trump and his cronies were now taking things too far.
“Trump now appeared to be making a serious bid to overturn a legitimate election, and his chaos agents – his personal lawyer Guiliani chief among them – were creating dangerous new appetites.” The situation put Murdoch in a difficult position – report the facts or adhere to the viewer-pleasing formula that had served him so well, “all the way into the land of conspiracy theories.”
Murdoch disagreed with what Trump and Guiliani were doing (Murdoch’s private correspondence indicates disgust) – but ultimately, Murdoch didn’t do much to prevent Fox News from descending into the land of conspiracy theories; instead, the network continued giving its viewers the lies that they wanted. And now, the company at the heart of those election-stealing lies – Dominion Voting Systems – is suing Fox for $1.6 billion in a defamation lawsuit.
“Dominion’s pretrial court filings have already provided a rare look inside the company’s decision-making process through the election crisis that preceded the Jan.6 insurrection,” Rutenberg wrote. The glimpse is not pretty.
And now a court will decide whether Fox went too far in giving its viewers what they wanted, and whether Fox committed defamation.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.