Friday, February 17, 2023

Liberal Bias

Certified demonstrative leftist journalist Mehdi Hasan on TV having a kind of fight with NPR's certified defender of Fortress Neutrality David Folkenflik refusing to tell Mehdi what he wanted to hear on the subject of the not exactly shocking revelations from the Dominion Voting Systems defamation suit against Fox News,   that Fox's stars were knowingly peddling bullshit after the 2020 presidential election—who'd have thunk!?

The hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, as well as others at the company, repeatedly insulted and mocked Trump advisers, including Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. Giuliani, in text messages with each other in the weeks after the election, according to a legal filing on Thursday by Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion is suing Fox for defamation in a case that poses considerable financial and reputational risk for the country’s most-watched cable news network.

“Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane,” Mr. Carlson wrote to Ms. Ingraham on Nov. 18, 2020.

Ms. Ingraham responded: “Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy.”

The really interesting part of the story, which Folkenflik was laying on pretty thick, was that Fox's insane coverage of the Big Election LIe was driven pretty much entirely by business considerations, not ideological ones: after the excitement of Election Night, when Fox (correctly) called Arizona for Biden, launching the (correct) narrative of Biden's overwhelming victory over Trump, which of course enraged Trump himself and became a central theme on his Twitter, the Fox powers began to worry that they were alienating their audience, poetntially driving viewers to the outlets with even lower standards than their own, Newsmax and OAN, and possibly even threatening the share price!

On Nov. 12, in a text chain with Ms. Ingraham and Mr. Hannity, Mr. Carlson pointed to a tweet in which a Fox reporter, Jacqui Heinrich, fact-checked a tweet from Mr. Trump referring to Fox broadcasts and said there was no evidence of voter fraud from Dominion.

“Please get her fired,” Mr. Carlson said. He added: “It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.” Ms. Heinrich had deleted her tweet by the next morning.

(A little like Hermione Granger's "killed—or, worse, expelled!" Makes me wonder how much Fox there is in Tucker's portfolio, at least.)

Hasan's mind was all on that Overton Window, and he kept trying to get Folkenflik to talk about how Fox had gone too far right, and Fox kept explaining that no, that's not how Rupert works, certainly not in Britain; they care about the capitalist issues, of course, as ever taxation and regulation, but they'll cheerfully make a deal with the "center-left" (see in particular the Blair regime) if it will deliver them, but it couldn't care less about the traditional "issues" of conservatism, economic ("fiscal responsibility" and "smallness" of government) or social (crusades against immorality, adulation of rural life). The Big 3 were fixated on company profits and ready to adopt whatever point of view went along with the bottom line; as that got wilder and wilder in late 2020, they simply went along to get along. "But what about Lachlan?" Hasan complained. Was Folkenflik denying rumors that Murdoch's son Laclan is more "right" than Murdoch himself? No, no, no, that's not what they're disagreeing about. They're disagreeing about where the money is,

In that sense, Folkenflik is actually a much better leftist than Hasan, much as both of them would hate to see it characterized this way; seeing Fox's behavior from the systemic standpoint, as something they do because of the customers, very much as MSNBC does what they do because of their own customers. (The suggestion that MSNBC might be courting a particular audience got Mehdi really angry, even as he was working to show how not-angry he was.) The difference is that Fox is obliged to tell lies to maintain their position and MSNBC, with a different business plan, isn't. Reality has a liberal bias, as Colbert said; because that's the fact-universe liberals work in.


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