Thursday, September 24, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter, excerpt one)

from Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter:

The Tea Party was an early test of Fox’s political mobilizing power. Democrats tood power; a black man moved into the Oval Office; a woman became the House speaker; and Fox’s biggest stars suddenly stood up and said stop spending out money. Of course, the organizers swore that the movement was all about reining in spending and reducing government, regardless of color or gender. Hannity and Glenn Beck promoted Tea Party events across the country and pushed ahead to a special day of live coverage on Tax Day. “Anybody can come,” Hannity said. “Celebrate with Fox News,” Beck said. The rallies drew large crowds and mirrored Fox’s older, almost-all-white audience. Harvard researchers said Fox said as a “social movement orchestrator,” spreading the word and cheering the Tea Party on. It was a perfect with-us-or-against-us emblem. After a follow-up rally in DC in September, Ailes bought a full-page ad in The Washington Post asking, “How did ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and CNN miss this story?” That was a lie, of course; the rally was widely covered by all the networks. But Fox needed to present itself as the One Real True Source. Murdoch denied reality when he said, years later, “We don’t promote the Tea Party. That’s bullshit.” He claimed Fox merely “recognized their existence.” But the coverage went much further than that. The posturing, the appeals to white identity politics, the screams about media bias—all of it was a foreshock to the Trump quake. I couldn’t help but notice that ten years after the first “party,” when Trump’s tax cuts and policies caused the deficit to balloon to historic levels, there wasn’t any heartland uprising or “Hannity” tea-bagging.

At the height of the Tea Party’s perceived power, I interviewed Paul Rittenberg, the head of ad sales at Fox, who articulated his pitch to advertisers. “People who watch Fox News believe it’s the home team,” he said. He wasn’t labeling the network as “conservative” or calling Fox the voice of the opposition, the way pissed-off Obama aides were, he was just reflecting the point of view of the audience. “Home team.” It was powerful, and pure tribalism.

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