Manufactured outrage is a staple on Fox News. The cable news network’s talk-show hosts are the most viewed and the most heard. Their eye-popping viewership gives the slanted Channel enormous power to alter American politics and philosophy. The Channel’s unconcealed right-wing bias offers the hosts an exclusive right to scream and shout, holler and howl. American living rooms have been never so divisive.

In the eye of the storm are Tucker Carlson and his notorious ilk, the most-watched hosts on the Fox News Channel. Their high-decibel harangues keep, not Republicans alone, the whole lot of American politicos under a spell. They leverage their raucous talents to asperse men who are on the right side of law. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is one target. Fox’s divisive hosts are making sure America remains divided.

Propounding Phoney Theories

Consider Fox News has been trying hard to swing American opinion on Russian president and autocrat Vladimir Putin. The Channel has been defending Mr Putin and his illegal war efforts in Ukraine. The network’s audacious anchors, with temerity, go on to describe the Ukraine war as a ‘border issue,’ Ukraine as a ‘pure client state of the United States state department’ and Mr Zelensky as a ‘dictator and dangerous authoritarian’. Fox News excels in distortions.

The Channel’s deliberate distortions do not stop at the Ukrainian president. Fox News has the dubious distinction of propounding the phoney ‘great replacement’ theory. This is a racist ideology which tries to prove a pre-meditated plot is underway to replace white Americans through immigration. For Fox News, everything is fair in polls and propaganda, and it leverages its vast viewership for attaining its partisan goals. 

The Threat is a Potential Minefield

If inspired mass shootouts by white supremacists are on the rise, blame the fulminating Fox News. Consider Mr Carlson has amplified his weird great-replacement dogma in more than 400 of his shows. As a whole, Fox News has disseminated worthless testosterone theories and testicles-tanning theses far and wide in divided America. While promoting such theories, Fox News does not give two hoots to learned experts.

These theories are exercises in deliberate obfuscation and they threaten to continue right through 2023, and beyond. With viewership booming and gullibility spreading, the threat from Fox News is real. This threat is a potential minefield for American democracy. Despite an editorial code breach, the ABC television presenter Sarah Ferguson’s two-part documentary Fox and the Big Lie is seen as an impartial confirmation of this threat.

Focus on Fox’s Damaging Role

Ms Ferguson’s documentary focuses on Fox News and its damaging role in the 2020 US election. Rightly so, Ms Ferguson accuses Fox News of spreading former American president Donald Trump’s conspiratorial stolen-election theory. Her claim: Fox News backing Mr Trump’s hollow theory is “a compelling story in the best traditions of public interest journalism”. This is a resounding slap across Fox News Channel’s face.

Confirming her claims, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (Acma), a statutory regulator, noted: “The episodes focussed on newsworthy allegations, presented evidence to support these allegations, and demonstrated open-mindedness by seeking and, where available, including relevant perspectives.” Acma went on to add: “Accordingly, the Acma finds that the ABC did not unduly favour one perspective over another.”

The Lawsuit Arraigns Lawyers

What worries Fox News more is a defamation suit filed by one DVS, Dominion Voting Systems. DVS claims Fox News made a false charge that the former rigged the 2020 presidential polls. Fox News has been sued by DVS for USD 1.6 billion for repeating its fake claim. Fox News hosts, including Mr Carlson, too have been pulled up for claiming voting machines were used to switch ballots from Mr Trump to president Joe Biden.

Fox News hosts apart, the lawsuit arraigns Mr Trump’s lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell for promoting the stolen-election theory on the Fox News Channel. The lawsuit is against parent Fox Corp too for hurting DVS’s interests. A desperate Fox News is wielding the free-press weapon to ensure the lawsuit is dismissed. Fox News may not be lucky this time, as freedom of the press does not mean freedom to spread lies.

Convincing Through Legerdemain

Fox News Channel’s propensity to propagate lies was proved earlier as well. In November 2022, watchdog Media Matters for America found that each week, from Labour Day onwards and until the voting day on 8 November 2022, Fox News beamed on an average 141 crime segments. Post-polls, the figure was 71. This proves the Channel tried to convince viewers, through legerdemain, crimes remain uncontrolled under Democrats.

There is a definite game plan behind such motivated coverages. Identify a theme for amplifying, make the Republicans latch on to it and then compel the mainstream media to dive in. Bad luck for Fox News, the stolen-election story flopped. A tactical Fox Corp may thus be trying to switch tracks now. Is this why the Channel did a recent volte-face to call Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort-home a ‘classified documents library’?

Serious Hurt from Salvos

This volte-face may be a sign of Rupert Murdoch trying to appease his warring son James Murdoch, who has left the family business over differences. Plus, James Murdoch has been firing open salvos at Fox News for its political leaning. Reports say Rupert Murdoch is much hurt by his son’s salvos. Yet, Fox News will not kill its undying love for Mr Trump. The Channel cannot afford to tell its star hosts to say the opposite on air now.

Rupert Murdoch’s publications display this dichotomy. His New York Post called Mr Trump a Humpty Dumpty. His Wall Street Journal named Mr Trump the biggest Republican loser. Fox News was shy in defending Mr Trump’s mid-term losses. Yet, watching Fox News every Tuesday night will tell any viewer the Channel is far from divorcing Mr Trump. Managing this unwieldy dichotomy will not be easy for Fox News.

In Conclusion

At the end of it all, Fox News has a ratings-edge over its competitors. Ratings do not matter for Americans, but they know Fox News enjoys the highest viewership. This Channel formidability is a threat to American democracy, for two reasons. One, Fox News viewers are one homogeneous political unit. Two, Fox News is thus able to filter its content and show viewers what it wants them to see.

Who takes the blame for this muscular might? Rupert Murdoch, the guiding spirit behind Fox News? Or, Lachlan Murdoch, who runs Fox Corp? Lachlan Murdoch knows Fox’s muscle hangs heavy on its Right tilt. He will not thus force Fox to change its clothes. Expect Fox News to continue as a hollering political activist, neither objective nor neutral. When political activists masquerade as news channels, democracy dies.