Wednesday, October 7, 2020

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

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

Fox employed the same trick Roger Ailes had used after Hurricane Katrina: an immediate shift toward optimistic “getting America back on its feet” stories. States were still in the beginning stages of shutting down when Sunday night host Steven Hilton said, on March 22, “You know that famous phrase, ‘the curse is worse than the disease’? That is exactly the territory we’re hurtling towards.” Trump watched Hilton on his Genie DVR a couple hours later, then tweeted in all caps, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.”

This was the Trump-Fox feedback loop at its loopiest. On March 23 the confirmed U.S. death toll was under one thousand, and models showed it on a path to surpass a hundred thousand, which meant the shutdown would need to continue for months, but commentary on Fox triggered days of confusing, contradictory get-back-to-work chatter weeks before it was rational. “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” Trump said on March 24. He backtracked a few days later—which meant those days were wasted. A better focus would have been on supply shortages, problems with the Paycheck Protection Program, outbreaks at veterans homes and aircraft carriers—anything else, really. But those issues were depressing and damaging to Trump’s political standing. “Reopen America” was uplifting and easy to sell as an us-versus-them story. In other words, the perfect Fox story.

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