Earlier this week Bloomingdale’s came under an onslaught of well-deserved criticism for an ad that seemed to advocate sexual assault by surreptitiously drugging your female friends. It is inconceivable that this ad went through their marketing department processes and emerged as acceptable to publish. Eventually Bloomingdale’s acknowledge their abysmally poor judgment and apologized.
That, however, is not the end of the story. Because Fox News still had something to say on the subject. And it was left to the kids on the curvy couch of Fox & Friends to articulate the network’s response (video below). Thereupon, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the lone woman on the program, called it a reckless ad. Unfortunately her fellow-co-hosts were somewhat less disturbed. Clayton Morris jumped in to praise Bloomingdale’s for apologizing like a remorseful wife-beater. And Steve Doocy actually tried to make excuses for the ad saying “Remember back in the old days when people used to make jokes?” Morris then joined in to add “When people had a sense of humor.” Yeah, you remember humor? Those uniquely human moments when we are amused by violence against women. [Ironically, I just published an article about how Fox News aspires to be a comedy network]
Indeed, those were the good old days. Men could spike the drinks of women and have their way with them without repercussions. And alluding fondly to those carefree times (for men) is nothing more than a bit of good humor. Bill Cosby must be thinking back on those days with some longing. It’s reminiscent of the time when the Fox & Friends gang happily joked about NFL running back Ray Rice knocking out his fiance in an elevator. Co-host Brian Kilmeade helpfully observed that “I think the message is – take the stairs,” presumably to avoid being videotaped in the commission of an assault.
Fox News has a history of downplaying the seriousness of sexual assault. On one particularly repulsive occasion, commentator Liz Trotta complained about women in the military who whined about being assaulted by their comrades. Trotta argued against “this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much.” Although she never actually defined how much rape was acceptable before it would be considered “too much.”
The takeaway from this is that whenever you hear Republicans talk about returning the country to a past that they imagine as serene and untroubled, what they really want is to roll back the clock on women’s rights and civil rights and any progress made on advancing individual freedom and reducing bigotry. They revere nothing more than a past when white, male, Christians dominated the nation’s social and governmental institutions. And that deranged expression of nostalgia just isn’t funny anymore.
This weekend Fox News ran their regular commentary by reporter Liz Trotta. For those unfamiliar with Trotta’s work, she gained a certain measure of infamy when she joked that President Obama should be “knocked off” along with Osama Bin Laden. On another occasion she criticized women in the military for complaining that they are “being raped too much.” Trotta never defined what an acceptable amount of rape would be, just that these soldiers should expect it.
On the scale of loathsome miscreants, Trotta has set a pretty high bar for herself, but her newest commentary may have succeeded in surpassing all previous efforts. She has managed to squeeze derogatory references to women, men, liberals, African-Americans, gays, teenagers, and Puerto Ricans – all into one grotesque editorial retch. Trotta began by disparaging women as unfit to serve certain roles in government:
“Is there a lesson in the fact the the President, clinging to his diversity mantra, has appointed mostly women to top security and state department jobs? America the exceptional has become America the incompetent.”
Apparently the lesson is that women are incompetent. It’s funny that Trotta never bothered to express this opinion when George W. Bush appointed a women as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State. But then Obama has always had to live by a separate set of standards according to these right-wing hypocrites. Next, Trotta unleashed a barrage of things about which she has grown tired, including…
“…tired of the random rudeness and coarse language on and off the street, especially from oversexed teenagers who advertise their sex and then claim abuse.”
Indeed. Those irresponsible teenagers flaunting their nubile sexuality are just asking for it. They have no right to complain when they are subsequently abused by perverts who can hardly be expected to resist such temptation.
“…tired of weaselly young men with their testosterone challenged beards and mincing ways who would rather do the dishes than defend our country.”
We’ve all seen them, haven’t we? Those young bearded men bellying up to sinks, cleaning dishes, are everywhere. Meanwhile, the quarter million men in the armed services are hardly ever spotted on city streets. They probably have some lame excuse like they’re fighting terrorists in Afghanistan, or they’re stationed in army bases, or some such nonsense.
“…tired of racial imperatives. Hollywood’s robotic devotion to groveling liberalism by requiring every picture to showcase the liberated ingenue as assertive heroine and a cerebral black man as its sensitive anti-hero.”
Exactly!. The last thing we need is Hollywood casting women as positive role models, rather than the dutiful housewives or hookers-with-a-heart that God meant for them to portray. And as for black men, what ever happened to the days when they were rightfully confined to roles as gang-bangers, drug dealers, and dancing slaves? Who ever heard of a cerebral, sensitive black man anyway?
“…tired of the deification of homosexuals who may have won the media race and silenced the incompetent opposition, although many Americans find their lifestyle repugnant.”
It’s good to see that the struggle for civil rights has been reduced to a media race. And the fact that many Americans are repulsed by gays is justification enough for oppressing them, just as it was with African-Americans before they got uppity.
Liz Trotta is obviously bursting at the seams with animus for a wide variety (and a clear majority) of Americans. She even went after Puerto Ricans (who are American citizens) asking “When was the last time you saw an American flag at a Puerto Rican Day Parade?” Well, it took me about two minutes to find this photograph from a parade in Chicago last year.
Trotta is just another in the long line of pseudo-patriots who spew an unending litany of hatred for their country. She ended her rant with a generalized insult directed at the nation as a whole saying “America, the incompetent, rules.” We should be grateful for Trotta and her enablers at Fox. They let us know precisely how they feel about America. It’s too bad their viewers are too addle-brained to recognize that the network they worship hates them and their country.
Well now we can add another commendation for contemptuous commentary to her nauseating resume. This weekend Trotta took her place on Fox News to lambaste the media, and particularly African-American reporters, for covering the Trayvon Martin killing. Trotta complained that “NBC News did a show with a couple of their black employees,” including Lester Holt, who she said was her favorite anchorman of all time. However, she charged that Holt and his fellow African-American reporters…
“…had to agree to telling their experiences as a black person, how the cops would follow them, how security and departments would follow them. It was a sorry show. Where’s the objectivity of this? Why do you involve your black reporters and anchors in this kind of framework that can only hurt their credibility?”
Trotta never revealed where she got the idea that these reporters “had to agree” to express themselves as if they had no editorial discretion or free will. And she is curiously critical of the notion that African-Americans are even able to provide news commentary from a personal perspective (you know, the way white reporters do every day). In her remarks Trotta defined “unique perspective” as “reaching really far to make their liberal case without any evidence to black it up.” And yes, after repeated listening it seems to me that she actually said “black it up,” an interesting Freudian slip off the edge of a harrowing cliff. Then Trotta delivered an absolutely ludicrous closing that demonstrated her utter lack of knowledge of the law:
“Why must we convict George Zimmerman before he’s even arrested? The fact that he isn’t arrested, I open that to the court. But let’s not fry the guy before he’s even given a hearing. That’s what he’s getting now, is a hearing. It’s been a disgraceful show from the media.”
There is so much wrong in those comments that it’s hard to know where to begin. First of all, nobody is convicting Zimmerman before he’s arrested. However, he has to be arrested before there can be a full investigation that preserves and analyzes evidence, records statements, and interviews witnesses and experts. Secondly, it isn’t up to a court to decide whether he should be arrested. Why she’s leaving that “open” to the court I have no idea. Third, Zimmerman is not getting a hearing now, as Trotta claims. It’s the justice system that is getting a hearing from the public for failing to act responsibly. And finally, while Trotta, and others in the conservative media, are so concerned about the rights and reputation of Zimmerman, they are quick to smear Martin as a delinquent and a gangster thug.
I would, however, have to agree with Trotta that some of the media reporting on this has been disgraceful, starting with Trotta herself and her colleagues at Fox News. The insult to reporters of color who contribute perspectives that only they are able to, is reprehensible. It’s also hypocritical since it was just that sort of personal observation that Fox News defended when they hired Juan Williams. Apparently Fox News thinks it’s OK for a black reporter to express his feelings when they insult Muslims, but it’s disgraceful and hurtful to their credibility if those feelings are sympathetic toward a murdered teenager.
The despicable remarks from Fox News commentator Liz Trotta last week are still reverberating through the ranks of the military and the civilian populace as well.
Trotta, attempting to dismiss reports that sexual assault had increased 64%, admonished women for complaining saying “What did they expect? These people are in close contact. She added her disapproval of support for programs that serve “women in the military who are now being raped too much.” She did not define what the acceptable amount of rape would be.
These comments were properly condemned by a wide variety of people in and out of the armed services. Now the Vietnam Veterans of America has issued a press release that expresses the thoughts of all decent Americans and demands that Fox News hold Trotta accountable.
“As veterans who fought to uphold our Constitution, we hold sacred all the rights it insures, said Rowan. “As such, we are appalled that Ms. Trotta would use the Fourth Estate as a vehicle to condone the criminal acts of some by contending that sexual assault in the military is ‘expected’ behavior. It is a disgrace that FOX would stand behind this type of commentary. Ms. Trotta owes the men and women of our military and those in the veterans’ ranks an apology, and VVA believes FOX should demand it of her.”
Trotta responded to the criticism yesterday in a manner that only makes matters worse. She began by implying that any account of heroism on the part of women soldiers amounts to “silly and dishonest fairy tales.” She went on to disparage their competency saying that “their instincts and reactions in crisis are markedly different [from men].” But worst of all she reiterated her belief that “biology is destiny” and that sexual assault is inevitable. She regards the basest criminal tendencies of the lowest forms of behavior as superior to common decency, respect and military training. Shes says that…
“…the environment of combat by definition sets up a situation where basic instincts rule. The niceties of male-female interaction fade in this arena, and any scientist will tell you that testosterone rules.”
This is not just an affront to patriotic women who choose to serve their country, it is an insult to every man in uniform. Trotta believes that male soldiers can be ordered to risk their lives by charging up an enemy held hill, but that they can’t follow an order to refrain from raping their comrades.
On top of everything else, the response Trotta delivered on air was a phony play acted out by her and the Fox host Eric Shawn. It was plain that she was reading her remarks and Shawn was asking the questions that were obviously a part of the script. Somebody at Fox apparently thought it was necessary to control the message so tightly that they had to put on this embarrassing charade. And they also thought that it was unnecessary to apologize to everyone they offended.
Please let Fox News know that this abhorrent rhetoric is unacceptable. You can email Fox here and sign this petition calling for Fox to dismiss Trotta and apologize.
Every media organization has had to, at one time or another, discipline staff who crossed an ethical line. If a reporter loses his or her cool and becomes offensive in the course of their work, they must be held accountable to some set of professional standards. Ideally the standards would be a set of objective criteria that focused on verifiable breaches of honesty or civility. A credible news organization must never tolerate a reporter lying or engaging in personal attacks. I repeat, a “credible” news organization…
Unfortunately, there is a disturbing lack of oversight in this regard. Often offenders are excused without consequence or, conversely, punishment is meted out to an innocent party. For example, NPR terminated their relationship with a couple of executives who were victims of false allegations in a video produced by James O’Keefe, the criminally convicted, right-wing activist best known for deceptively edited videos.
This past week presented a revealing lesson in contrast as to how different media enterprises deal differently with anchors and other editorial personnel who fail the test of principles that ought to govern all journalists.
CNN was put to the test this week when Roland Martin posted a Tweet that appeared to advocate violence against gays. Martin pointed out that it was not meant seriously and wasn’t even directed at gays, but at the sport of soccer. Nevertheless, CNN acted quickly to suspend Martin indefinitely.
By contrast, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta delivered a commentary on Sunday berating women in the military for complaining that they get raped too much (Trotta did not define what an “acceptable” amount of rape is). The news that triggered this revolting commentary was a Pentagon report that rape and sexual assault had increased 64%, a statistic that Trotta cavalierly dismissed. She further asserted that servicewomen should “expect” to be raped because they work closely with men. Fox News has had no comment on this matter despite fierce criticism from women’s groups and veterans offended by the assertion that male soldiers are innately animals and female soldiers should quietly accept assault as a part of military life.
These two examples illustrate the differences between a news enterprise that attempts to act responsibly and one that disregards such restraints in order to forge ahead with a sensationalistic approach and to pander to the scandal-lust of their viewers. CNN has faced this dilemma in the past by meting out punishments for ethical infractions to Lou Dobbs, Rick Sanchez, Octavia Nasr, Susan Roesgen, Peter Arnett, and Eason Jordan. MSNBC has done the same to Keith Olbermann, David Shuster, Mark Halperin, Markos Moulitsas, and Pat Buchanan. Some of these chastisements were warranted (Dobbs, Buchanan), and some were executions of petulant grudges (Markos), and CNN still inexplicably employs miscreants like Erick Erickson and Dana Loesch. So CNN and MSNBC should not necessarily be held up as models of morality. But at least there is some evidence of an internal criteria for ethical behavior of some sort.
Fox News, however, has yet to make any news staffer pay a price for professional indiscretions, despite the fact that things got so bad at Fox they had to distribute a memo asserting a “Zero Tolerance Policy” that warned of “letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination.” The memo was issued after numerous, embarrassing on-air blunders by Fox reporters and producers. But rather than undergoing discipline, Fox News bent over backwards to reward reporters who behaved badly. In fact, while other networks were firing such violators, Fox seems to be on a mission to recruit them. For instance: Juan Williams, Don Imus, Doug McKelway, and Lou Dobbs were all put on the Fox payroll after having been terminated for cause at other networks. Even Glenn Beck who, while no longer hosting his own program, appears regularly with Bill O’Reilly and others.
Fox maintains a clubby environment for recalcitrant reporters, and there remains a full stable of them on the air. Here is a selection of some of the more obviously repulsive people that Fox News should have fired for their absence of morality and professionalism, but to date have not even had their wrists slapped. And make no mistake, the job security enjoyed by these weasels is not due to carelessness on the part of Fox News. Controversy, hostility, and rabid right-wing advocacy are the hallmarks of Fox’s business model. It’s how they cultivate and reward the loyalty of their audience. What other explanation could justify this:
Todd Starnes: Unsurprisingly, Fox News has smeared the Occupy Movement from its inception. They have disparaged them as everything from unfocused to unclean to un-American. But it took Starnes, the host of Fox News & Commentary on Fox Radio, to equate them to mass murderers by asking, “What should be done with the domestic terrorists who are occupying our cities and college campuses?” By comparing Occupiers to the likes of Timothy McVeigh, Starnes is engaging in rhetorical terrorism and insulting hundreds of thousands of concerned Americans.
Cody Willard: This Fox Business reporter brazenly exposed his bias when he attended a Tea Party rally and feverishly barked at the camera this call to arms against the U.S. government, “Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?”
Andrew Napolitano: The “Judge” is a notorious 9/11 Truther who believes that the attack on the World Trade Center towers was an inside job, orchestrated by agents of the United States government. That’s a position considered so crazy by Fox Newsers that it was instrumental in their campaign to get Van Jones fired from his post as a green jobs adviser to President Obama. But, in typical Foxian hypocrisy, it has no impact on the employment of Napolitano. [Note: The entire primetime schedule of the Fox Business Network, including Napolitano, Eric Bolling and David Asman, was recently canceled. But it was due to poor ratings, not content. And all remain active Fox News contributors.]
Bill Sammon: The Fox News Washington managing editor was recorded admitting to a friendly audience on a conservative cruise that he would go on air and “mischievously” cast Obama as a socialist even though he didn’t believe it himself. In other words, he lied to defame the President and rile up his gullible viewers. That would be cause for termination at most news networks, but probably earned Sammon a bonus at Fox.
Eric Bolling: Hoping to sustain Fox’s leadership in inappropriate Nazi references, Bolling accused President Obama of engaging in class warfare that was “forged in Marxist Germany.” And if that wasn’t asinine enough, he sided with Iran against the U.S. by accusing the American hikers who were held in an Iranian prison of being spies and said that Iran should have kept them.
Bill O’Reilly: Dr. George Tiller, a family physician in Kansas, was murdered by an anti-abortion extremist who may have been incited to violence by rhetoric like this from O’Reilly: “Now, we have bad news to report that Tiller the baby killer out in Kansas, acquitted. Acquitted today of murdering babies.” O’Reilly regards the acquittal of a doctor for performing legal medical services “bad news,” and the services themselves “murder.” But he never took any responsibility for fanning the flames of violent incivility that led to the actual murder of Dr. Tiller.
Col. Ralph Peters (Ret): In a rant that argued that the United States should fight back against our enemies with the same tactics they use against us, Peters turned the media into military targets: “Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media. And like Bolling, Peters also took the side of our foes by suggesting, without evidence, that a missing American soldier was a deserter and that “the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills,” presumably by killing him.
Michael Scheuer: This former CIA analyst was concerned that the American people were not sufficiently afraid of future terrorist attacks. He regards that absence of fear as dangerous complacency. But he has a solution: “The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.”
Roger Ailes: The CEO of Fox News proves that a fish stinks from its head. In response to NPR’s firing of Juan Willimas for bigoted remarks about Muslims, Ailes let loose a tirade wherein he viciously attacked the NPR executives saying that… “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism.”
Liz Trotta: Ending up where we began, this abhorrent attempt at comedy simply could not be left off of this list. What started out as a verbal stumble became a call for assassination when Trotta said, “Now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama, umm, Obama. Well, both if we could.”
It’s difficult to believe that anyone could retain a job in the media after making statements like those above. These were not mistakes or misunderstandings. They are not out of context. They were considered, deliberate expressions of opinion that represented the reporter’s views at the time. Yet all of these people are still employed and active at Fox News.
To be fair, there is an example of Fox News firing reporters who crossed a line that even Fox could not abide. Steve Wilson and Jane Akre investigated a story that detailed the health risks posed by the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), a milk additive manufactured by chemical giant Monsanto. Fox objected to the story’s negative portrayal of a major advertiser and ordered the reporters to make modifications that they knew were false. When the reporters refused they were fired. In the subsequent litigation Fox argued in court that the network had a right to determine the content of their stories, and even to lie, and that employees who declined to comply could be terminated as insubordinate.
So while Fox News has no problem with their analysts advocating terrorism against Americans, they draw the line when it comes to suppressing their Constitutional right to lie. Fox has taken great care to set their priorities and to draw their ethical lines in sand that is always under the prevailing tide.
[Update] This week racist Pat Buchanan was sacked by MSNBC and radio schlock jocks John & Ken were suspended for calling Whitney Houston a “crack ho”. But Liz Trotta, Eric Bolling, et al are still happily working at Fox.
Contemporary media has many flaws that weigh upon its credibility. It has earned the disrespect of critics from across the political spectrum, and more importantly, from consumers of their news products. But every now and then there is an occurrence that is so inconceivably disgusting that it defies explanation. Such an occurrence took place today – where else – on Fox News.
In a discussion of the role of women in the military, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta expressed an opinion that could only be held by a seriously disturbed individual. On that measure, Trotta qualifies. The issue involved new rules from the Pentagon that would permit women to serve closer to the front lines. Trotta’s take on this centered on the problems faced by servicewomen who are sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers. She begins by insulting female soldiers as whiners who should shut up accept as a fact that if they work closely with men they should expect to be assaulted:
“We have women once more, the feminist, wanting to be warriors and victims at the same time. […] But while all of this is going on, just a few weeks ago, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta commented on a new Pentagon report on sexual abuse in the military. I think they have actually discovered there is a difference between men and women. And the sexual abuse report says that there has been, since 2006, a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults. Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact.”
You see, it’s not the fault of the rapists. It’s just serendipity, nature playing out its course. From there Trotta moves on to lament the cost of enforcing military laws that prevent such assaults or providing support for the victims:
“And the feminists have also directed them, really, to spend a lot of money. They have sexual counselors all over the place, victims’ advocates, sexual response coordinators.”
I wonder if Trotta would also favor eliminating rules that prohibit any other sort of violent behavior. Perhaps she would oppose counseling for soldiers, male and female, suffering from post-traumatic stress. Those would be bad enough, but they don’t come close to what she said next:
“So, you have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much.”
Raped too much? I would really like to know precisely how much rape is acceptable before it crosses Trotta’s line. Is there any context in which she might have meant that that isn’t unfathomably repulsive?
This is not the first time Trotta has articulated out loud, and on the air, an inexcusably revolting opinion. Last month, in a commentary following the State of the Union address, she demeaned our most elite soldiers by wondering, “How many times is [Obama] going to use Seal Team 6 to get out of trouble? […] They are becoming political operatives.” And during the last presidential election Trotta joked about assassinating Obama.
It is inconceivable that anyone with this sustained record of nauseating commentary can continue to hold down a job as a news analyst. Any network that practiced even the most rudimentary level of ethics would throw her loathsome keister out the door. Fortunately for her, she doesn’t work for a network with ethics. She works for Fox News.
This election, like any election, is a contest of persuading targeted blocks of voters to support your candidacy. It’s a deceptively complex game of identifying groups of people with characteristics that are in harmony with the theme of your campaign and getting them to the polls.
Democrats typically solicit union members, middle-income families, senior citizens, and minorities, and attempt to cobble together a coalition. Republicans have been known to make appeals to business people, the white working class, and evangelicals. But this year there is something happening that is curious and perverse. This new development is observable in a couple of recent comments by GOP leaders and media.
Newt Gingrich, in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, was asked about his his multiple affairs and marriages. He responded with a rather unique justification for why behaving like a rutting pig would make him a better candidate:
“It may make me more normal than somebody who wanders around seeming perfect and maybe not understanding the human condition and challenges of life for normal people.”
Apparently Gingrich thinks that cheating on your wife, and/or wives, is “normal” and humanizing. He actually believes that his moral indecencies make him a superior candidate. And conversely, that marital fidelity exposes one’s arrogance as attempting to pass off a facade of phony perfection. By Gingrich’s ethical standards Romney would be wise to shag a BYU cheerleader if he really wants to connect with America and win the presidency.
Another peculiar comment came from Sen. Jim DeMint (Tea Party, SC). He spoke with Neil Cavuto on Fox News in response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech and the issue of tax fairness and whether the wealthy are paying their fair share:
“Well, Neil, we’ve got a challenge in America because about half the country is getting something from government, and that message is going to appeal to them. Republicans have got to appeal to the half of Americans who are paying income taxes, who are working and know better. And it’s not a matter of kind of watering down our message to appeal to those who want more from government, we’ve got to unite that part of America that understands what makes us great. It’s not going to be easy, because it sounds good to say: Let’s tax the rich.”
DeMint is suggesting that the GOP disregard the portion of the electorate that he says are not paying taxes. First of all, he is regurgitating a false argument that people who do not pay federal income taxes are not paying any taxes at all. They do, of course, pay payroll taxes, sales taxes, and state and local taxes, in amounts that raise their effective tax rates to levels comparable to the national averages. But more importantly, the “half of Americans” that DeMint is writing off are, by and large, senior citizens, students, and the working poor, because that is who generally qualify for exemptions from federal income taxes. Perhaps he’d like to tax them more to make up for the tax cuts he has given to his rich pals.
Finally, Fox News chimed in with a segment on their business network. Regular contributor Liz Trotta was called upon to offer her impressions of the State of the Union speech. What struck her was the news released after the speech about the rescue of an American held hostage by Somali pirates:
“How many times is he going to use Seal Team 6 to get out of trouble?” […] “They are becoming political operatives. I don’t trust this guy at all.”
Seriously? Trotta is appalled that the President is sending elite commando squads to save the lives of American citizens. She is implying that it would have been better if the hostages had been left to rot in the pirates’ lair. And if her indifference to the suffering of the victims weren’t bad enough, she goes on to insult the heroes who risked their lives, freed the captives, and dispensed with the terrorists.
So yesterday was a day that saw the Republican Party cast aside vast amounts of voters who are average citizens and retirees. They rejected voters who dare to be faithful to their spouses. And they insulted heroic soldiers and the patriots who support them. Consequently, it appears that the GOP has staked out a claim for the upper-class, philandering, terrorist sympathizer vote. That’s a unique campaign strategy, to say the least. And if that’s the case, I say let them have it, and good luck in November.
Almost since its inception, Fox News has been a hotbed of irresponsible discourse that encouraged intolerance and hostility. They have harbored hosts, contributors and guests whose language was sometimes thinly veiled advocacy of violence, and sometimes there was no veil at all.
Bill O’Reillythreatened to “hunt down” and “strangle” members of the media.
Liz Trottajoked that “somebody knock off Osama … uh … Obama … well, both if we could.”
Rush Limbaugh told his listeners to start riots at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, “with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that. That’s the objective here.”
Sarah Palin has taken to giving her followers this advice: “Don’t retreat…Reload!”
Glenn Beck agreed with his guest Michael Scheuer that the only hope for America “is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.”
Beck is one of the worst perpetrators of hostile rhetoric. He used to have a regular radio bit wherein he speculated about who he would like to beat to death with a shovel. He fantasized about choking Michael Moore to death with his bare hands. And more recently he frequently condemns progressives as a cancer that has to be “cut out.” So perhaps it was Beck to whom this Fox News story was referring when they said that provocative remarks “could easily incite a rabid fan to commit violent acts.” And that fans “could be influenced because of their devotion.” The article quoted Cooper Lawrence, the author of “Cult of Celebrity” saying that:
“The fear isn’t that a celebrity will influence someone to do something violent or out of character due to the sheer devotion to the celebrity, the fear is that someone who is already vulnerable, mentally disturbed, already considering something dangerous, may be encouraged to do so if it is advocated by their favorite star.”
Image consultant Michael Sands concurred saying that he “is taking his fame too seriously. He is having delusions and his anger” could “get him arrested!”
These criticisms ought to be taken seriously by anyone, left or right, who ventures into such disturbing scenarios and has the ability to influence others who may not be of particularly sound mind. Certainly that would apply to someone with the public posture of Glenn Beck. Just one little thing…The article was not referring to Beck or any of the other viscerally divisive characters above. It was referring to actor John Cusack who Tweeted…
“I AM FOR A SATANIC DEATH CULT CENTER AT FOX NEWS HQ AND OUTSIDE THE OFFICES ORDICK ARMEYAND NEWT GINGRICH-and all the GOP WELFARE FREAKS”
Much of the reaction at Fox News, and elsewhere in the rightist blogosphere, is that Cusack was articulating some kind of threat. That just illustrates how deficient their comprehension skills are. Anyone with a functioning cerebrum can see that Cusack was responding to the bigoted and illogical arguments against the Islamic community center being planned near ground zero in Lower Manhattan. Cusack was satirically turning the controversy on its head by proposing a church of Satan near Fox’s offices. But the dimwits at Fox, and their ideological peers, just don’t get it.
It’s too bad that when Fox News finally gets around to making a principled statement against violent hate-speech that they direct it toward someone who wasn’t engaging in it and ignore their own complicity. It would be nice if those getting so worked up about this phony misinterpretation of Cusack’s comments would be similarly outraged by the very real violent rhetoric that is a regular part of Fox’s programming, as noted above. But I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that expression of fairness and balance to occur.
This morning on Fox News, Shannon Bream interviewed Fox News contributor Liz Trotta. The segment dealt with what Bream characterized as the over-reporting of incidents of violence directed at Democrats in the days following the passage of the health care bill. Those incidents included death threats, smashed windows, mail with suspicious white powder, severed gas lines, etc.
On Fox News, however, such examples of domestic terrorism are irrelevant trivialities. Trotta began her spiel by asserting that the left invented violent dissent back in the 1960’s. You know, the peacenik, free love, flower children, who marched to end discrimination and war. They were a frightening bunch, weren’t they? And because of them, the overt hostility being played out by extremist conservatives today is, in Trotta’s words, “laughable.”
It’s funny, my recollection of the sixties is very different. It wasn’t the followers of the Gandhi-inspired Martin Luther King who were stirring up trouble. It was the right-wingers who were beating up (or worse) anyone with long hair or dark skin. And the rightward proclivity for violence exists today with armed patriot and militia groups, and NRA-sponsored tea partiers who show up with signs that say “We came unarmed – this time.”
But Trotta doesn’t stop there. She goes on to discuss particular acts of violence that she thinks are unworthy of attention. She told Bream that “a brick through a window is pretty low on the violence scale.” I wonder how she would react if it were her window? I imagine she would casually get up from the sofa, pick up the brick with a chuckle, and tell her kids to turn off the TV and go play outside. After all, it’s only a brick. Don’t be a wuss.
“…and now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama … uh … Obama … well, both if we could.”
Trotta further disparaged the victims and critics of violence by portraying their complaints as “whining.” In Trotta’s view, if someone leaves you a profanity-laced message saying snipers are going to kill your children (as happened to Rep. Louise Slaughter), you are just a sniveling bellyacher if you bring it up on TV or report it to the police.
Trotta didn’t say whether she thought Republican Rep. Eric Cantor was whining when he held a press conference to disclose that he was a victim of violence. His allegations were broadcast on Fox News with a screen graphic that read “Gunman Shoots Up Office Of Number Two House Republican. Cantor whined that…
“I have been directly threatened. A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week.”
Perhaps it doesn’t qualify as whining if it is lying. Because police later revealed that the bullet did not directly threaten Cantor at all. It was not shot at his office (it was random gunfire into the air). It was not even his office that was hit (it was a different unit on a different floor). And no one even knew there was a campaign office in the building (the office was unmarked and wasn’t in his district). In short, everything Cantor alleged about the incident was utterly false. Yet Trotta never mentioned Cantor as one of the whiners for whom she has such scorn.
This is yet another example of Fox News embracing the most repulsively hostile rhetoric. Trotta, who has her own record of violent fantasy, is quite at home on the network that features folks like Ralph Peters who advocates military attacks on the press. And Michael Scheuer who told Glenn Beck that “[T]he only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.”
These sort of sentiments are a routine part of Fox’s editorial position. It isn’t whining, and it isn’t concealed. But It is an apologia for domestic terrorism and a justification, and invitation, for continued and escalating violence. The people at Fox News, from the administrative staff, to the presenters like Trotta and Glenn Beck, to the executives like Roger Ailes, and all the way up to Rupert Murdoch, should consider themselves culpable for any and all of the ugly events that their vulgar and irresponsible actions might predictably encourage. They are sitting on a powder keg and playing with matches. If something blows up they cannot pretend that they had nothing to do with it.
In today’s New York Post, and on their website, is a cartoon that shows two cops shooting an ape and saying “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” I’m not going to help the Post out by linking to it. You can find it on your own if you’re interested. But here’s my response:
I suppose there will be apologists for the Post who will deny the obvious racist intent, but it’s hard to find another interpretation when the Stimulus Bill is so closely associated with President Obama and the cartoon depicts the author as a dead ape. In the best light, it is still an overtly hostile response to the serious issues facing our nation.
It is not however the first time a Rupert Murdoch property “joked” about assassinating Obama. Last year Fox News contributor Liz Trotta said:
“…and now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama …uh… Obama … well, both if we could.”
Very funny, huh? And then there was the time Bill O’Reilly declared that he didn’t want to “lynch” Michelle Obama. That was considerate of him.
This recurring theme of racism and violence directed at the President and his family is just more proof that News Corp is not a legitimate news enterprise and should not be taken seriously or supported by consumers.