We Televise Fear: An Accurate Slogan for FNC
Phoenix street art parodying the Fox Noise Channel (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The morn­ing hosts on Rupert Mur­doch’s FNC had fixed on a minor detail to den­i­grate the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Convention’s vir­tu­al first night, chortling that tele­vi­sion rat­ings were down from four years ago.

It wasn’t quite so. CNN Dig­i­tal had wel­comed near­ly thir­ty-one mil­lion unique vis­i­tors on the first night. The Democ­rats’ open­ing night in 2016 drew an audi­ence of twen­ty-six mil­lion, the Repub­li­cans twen­ty-three million.

But the rat­ings cel­e­bra­tion had an interruption.

Don­ald Trump was live and stick­ing his foot in it. He was ridi­cul­ing Michelle Oba­ma for tap­ing her speech ahead of time, and for under­stat­ing at 150,000 the num­ber of U.S. casu­al­ties from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump was too self-absorbed to real­ize what he was doing, name­ly dri­ving home a cen­tral theme of Obama’s speech. Ego and a total lack of empa­thy are the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of the forty-fifth president.

In Obama’s words: “That’s not just dis­ap­point­ing, it’s down­right infuriating.”

The snip­ing con­tin­ued Tues­day, with Tuck­er Carl­son sneer­ing that Oba­ma had taped her talk at Martha’s Vine­yard. He denounced her speech as a “total lie, a cal­cu­lat­ed lie,” a lie designed to make Amer­i­ca more fearful.”

Michelle Oba­ma wants “domin­ion over you,” he charged.

Low ball was fol­lowed by low ball by anoth­er mul­ti­mil­lion­aire Fox host… Sean Han­ni­ty, who sneered that Bernie Sanders has three houses.

Don’t these peo­ple have any fresh mate­r­i­al? Can’t they stop Trump from the habit, while look­ing out for num­ber one, of con­stant­ly step­ping in num­ber two?

The right wing mis­in­for­ma­tion machine in Amer­i­ca is formidable.

Usu­al­ly, it is able to coor­di­nate themes across the coun­try, for instance, mov­ing from one city to anoth­er to sug­gest that streets are ruled by thugs.

A blovi­at­ing Rudy Giu­liani was sug­gest­ing Mon­day on FNC that Black Lives Mat­ter should be clas­si­fied by the Attor­ney Gen­er­al as a ter­ror­ist organization.

But these shout­ing guys can’t get their acts straight.

The 2020 Demo­c­ra­t­ic tick­et has them flummoxed.

Trump has denounced run­ning mate Sen­a­tor Kamala Har­ris as the most “far left” mem­ber of the Sen­ate. The Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee has decried her for being too harsh as a pros­e­cu­tor. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic tick­et is “the most far left” in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, Han­ni­ty declared on Tuesday.

An hour ear­li­er, Tuck­er Carl­son had described Har­ris as a tool of Wall Street.

It’s awful­ly hard to be all of these things.

The far-right media is dri­ving home its theme of urban vio­lence, and I’ve become used to KTTH host Jason Rantz slan­der­ing my city. But they’re run into gen­uine pub­lic out­rage over slash­ing the post office, dis­con­tent borne of vital tasks per­formed by the Postal Ser­vice apart from deliv­er­ing ballots.

“Democ­rats should be deeply embar­rassed that their lead­er­ship has embraced con­spir­a­to­r­i­al claims about the Unit­ed States Postal Ser­vice,” Mol­lie Hem­ing­way, senior edi­tor at The Fed­er­al­ist, tweet­ed Tuesday.

Huh? Amer­i­cans of all ide­o­log­i­cal stripes, not just Democ­rats, began to sus­pect some­thing fishy with delays in mail ser­vice, sus­pi­cions root­ed in appoint­ment of a Repub­li­can megadonor (Louis DeJoy) as the Post­mas­ter General.

The Democ­rats’ tick­et is pre­sent­ing a basic, very big prob­lem for right wing media. The pub­lic is com­fort­able with Joe Biden.

By con­trast, Don­ald Trump has giv­en us more than three years of West Wing and exec­u­tive branch chaos, with the chaos spread­ing over to his campaign.

Kamala Har­ris is an immi­grant suc­cess sto­ry. The low­est dwellers in right wing media have tried to besmirch her char­ac­ter. What has Rush Lim­baugh called the tick­et? “Joe and the ‘Ho”. Carl­son has con­demned Har­ris for join­ing the tick­et of a man accused (in a con­stant­ly evolv­ing sto­ry) of unwant­ed touching.

The pro­pa­gan­da machine will get its act togeth­er, even if Trump doesn’t.

As if to remind us of this, one­time George W. Bush polit­i­cal aide and Repub­li­can dirty trick­ster Karl Rove was ubiq­ui­tous Tues­day on Fox.

So were junior press aides to Trump, claim­ing the poten­tial for “mas­sive fraud” in mail in vot­ing, offer­ing no sup­port­ing evidence.

Sen­a­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham is all over the place, show­ing that long­time friend­ship with Joe Biden means noth­ing when you are Trump’s strumpet.

Dinesh D’Souza, the pun­dit who ped­dled he’s real­ly from Kenya non­sense against Barack Oba­ma, sneered at Michelle Oba­ma, writ­ing: “With its vac­u­ous plat­i­tudes and emp­ty mor­al­iz­ing, Michelle Obama’s speech was per­fect­ly designed to appeal to shal­low peo­ple for whom the dis­play of virtue sub­sti­tutes for virtue itself.”

No won­der he had the nick­name “Dis­tort D’Newsa” at Dartmouth.

Lis­ten­ers loved the Michelle Oba­ma speech. Her auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Becom­ing, has set­tled on the most-read list for more than a year.

She is nobody for a snot­ty extrem­ist to mess with.

The over­all impres­sion, look­ing at reac­tion since Har­ris was named: Right wing media is seri­ous­ly out of touch with the country.

All the shout­ing is direct­ed at a core group of those Lim­baugh refers to as “dit­to­heads” — a dull, sus­pi­cious, defi­ant­ly uni­formed minority.

Fear can be used to arouse such folk, wit­ness the non­stop images (some pho­to­shopped) of Seat­tle, Port­land, New York and Baltimore.

But the coun­try has pro­gressed in its views on racial jus­tice, and Trump seems tone deaf with his appeal to “sub­ur­ban housewives.”

Still: it’s a dirty game, but some­body has to play it.

If they know what’s good for them, nev­er again will Democ­rats fall into the trap of think­ing or say­ing: “The Amer­i­can peo­ple will nev­er believe false­hoods being thrown at our can­di­date. They are too intel­li­gent for that.”

The pres­ence of Karl Rove on Fox should serve as a warning.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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