President Donald Trump lashed out Thursday at his longtime favorite station, Fox News, and zeroed in on the real purpose of the channel.
“Many will disagree, but @FoxNews is doing nothing to help Republicans, and me, get re-elected on November 3rd,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “Sure, there are some truly GREAT people on Fox, but you also have some real ‘garbage’ littered all over the network, people like Dummy Juan Williams, Schumerite Chris… ….Hahn, Richard Goodstein, Donna Brazile, Niel Cavuto, and many others. They repeat the worst of the Democrat speaking points, and lies. All of the good is totally nullified, and more. Net Result = BAD! CNN & MSDNC are all in for the Do Nothing Democrats! Fox WAS Great!”
Clearly, he’s upset with Fox News because some on the channel have occasionally been critical of him. But he’s only mad at the station because he perceives — correctly — that its true purpose is to get Republicans elected.
“Trump admits that he considers Fox News a tool to help him get elected,” noted legal analyst Renato Mariotti.
This isn’t an exaggeration. The late Roger Ailes, who built Fox News, was a first a media consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. During the presidency of the second Bush, he constructed the network’s narratives to serve the administration’s ends. He advised Trump’s 2016 campaign, too.
As Rolling Stone reported:
The network, at its core, is a giant soundstage created to mimic the look and feel of a news operation, cleverly camouflaging political propaganda as independent journalism.
The result is one of the most powerful political machines in American history. One that plays a leading role in defining Republican talking points and advancing the agenda of the far right. Fox News tilted the electoral balance to George W. Bush in 2000, prematurely declaring him president in a move that prompted every other network to follow suit. It helped create the Tea Party, transforming it from the butt of late-night jokes into a nationwide insurgency capable of electing U.S. senators. Fox News turbocharged the Republican takeover of the House last fall, and even helped elect former Fox News host John Kasich as the union-busting governor of Ohio – with the help of $1.26 million in campaign contributions from News Corp. And by incubating a host of potential GOP contenders on the Fox News payroll– including Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum – Ailes seems determined to add a fifth presidential notch to his belt in 2012. “Everything Roger wanted to do when he started out in politics, he’s now doing 24/7 with his network,” says a former News Corp. executive. “It’s come full circle.”
In 2017, Vox reported on a study that examined Fox News’ influence, and it found it was quite effective at fulfilling this purpose. Dylan Matthews explained:
A new study in the American Economic Review (the discipline’s flagship journal), with an intriguing and persuasive methodology, finds exactly that. Emory University political scientist Gregory Martin and Stanford economist Ali Yurukoglu estimate that watching Fox News directly causes a substantial rightward shift in viewers’ attitudes, which translates into a significantly greater willingness to vote for Republican candidates.
They estimate that if Fox News hadn’t existed, the Republican presidential candidate’s share of the two-party vote would have been 3.59 points lower in 2004 and 6.34 points lower in 2008.
For context, that would’ve made John Kerry the 2004 popular vote winner, and turned Barack Obama’s 2008 victory into a landslide where he got 60 percent of the two-party vote.
One provocative finding of the study was that this wasn’t even in the network’s best financial interests. This suggests that that the driving force behind the network isn’t to make money, while just happening to boost the GOP. The point is to bolster the Republican Party’s electoral prospects:
What’s more, they find that Fox isn’t setting its ideology where it ought to to maximize its viewership. It’s much more conservative than is optimal from that perspective. But it’s pretty close to the slant that would maximize its persuasive power: that would result in the largest rightward movement among viewers. CNN, by contrast, matched its political stances pretty closely to the viewer-maximizing point, showing less interest in operating as a political agent.
What Trump can’t seem to accept about this scheme is that, for the ruse to work, the network can’t literally back the president 100 percent of the time. If that were the case, it would have the look of One America News, a cartoonishly pro-Trump outlet. This probably makes OAN less effective at propagandizing for Trump, because it doesn’t even have a veneer of even-handedness. You need an occasional Chris Wallace or Neil Cavuto, both of whom are actually capable of thinking for themselves, to get viewers to swallow the overwhelmingly pro-Trump message of the rest of the broadcast.
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