“To see what is in front of one’s nose,” George Orwell wrote, “is a constant struggle.”
Orwell’s wise, timeless counsel is often lost on writers who prefer to bury the plain truth beneath a blizzard of distractions and obfuscations.
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The tendency of America’s punditocracy to miss the glaring point has, once again, been on grating display in the still smouldering residue of the mad January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill conceived, planned and executed by thousands of Donald Trump’s rabid disciples who were, on cue, unleashed en foaming masse by the former president.
Beyond considering Trump’s political future, the punditocracy was seized with debating the existential implications of the deadly mayhem for the Republican Party.
The quick consensus was that a “reckoning” was certainly in the offing. The Republican Party confronted an “inflection point” – the media-manufactured cliché du jour – that required either finally abandoning Trumpism in the wake of the bloody insurrection or continuing to embrace it.
The assumption was that the Republican Party, including its congressional leadership, would make that seminal choice. But who constitutes the Republican Party and its leadership and how would they go about deciding which path to take?
These questions were largely left adrift.
If the punditocracy had bothered to look, the answers were right there, neon-bright, in front of its nose: Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News is, de facto, the Republican Party, Sean Hannity and berserk company on cable TV are its erstwhile leaders.
As such, there was never going to be a reckoning given that Murdoch, Fox News, Hannity and supplicant crew are not prone to introspection of any sort, at any time, for any reason.
The “news” organisation that happily gives vent and succour to every despicable aspect of Trumpism was never going to renounce Trump and his confederates since that would mean renouncing itself and its odious raison d’etre.
The storming of the Capitol by a murderous mob of Confederate-flag-waving white supremacists, anti-government vigilantes, lunatic conspiracy theorists and Christian fanatics was the predictable, even necessary, denouement of a decades-long, near 24/7 Fox News diet of white supremacist, anti-government vigilantism, lunatic conspiracy theories and Christian fanaticism.
Fox News may have gingerly distanced itself from the violence perpetrated by its radicalised viewers, but it has stood steadfast by the man who offered his followers giddy rhetorical licence to exact that violence to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.
So, Trump and Trumpism will not only survive the assault on the “citadel” of American democracy, but endure because Murdoch’s Fox News made that choice on behalf of the Republican Party it commands.
Understood through this prism, Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s pilgrimage to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida to make amends was not so much a grovelling display of sycophancy but a recognition of who runs the show – Rupert Murdoch and his wind-up marionettes on Fox News.
The 45 senators who recently voted against pursuing Trump’s impeachment know who runs the show too. Despite his censure of Trump for “provoking” the sacking of the Capitol, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, like his supine colleagues, inevitably returned home to the agreeable bosom of Fox News. To do otherwise, would be a politically fatal act of heresy.
The swift Fox News-led excommunication of the 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment was a blatant reminder to McConnell et al of where power lies inside the made-by-TV Republican Party.
Indeed, the 89-year-old, Melbourne-born bona fide boss of the Republican Party made a rare public appearance recently to accept a bauble for “life-time achievement”.
In an acceptance speech-cum-Fox-News-manifesto, Murdoch complained, of course, about “woke orthodoxy” and a “wave of censorship that seeks to silence conversation, to stifle debate and to ultimately stop individuals and societies from realising their potential”.
Yes, I agree, Mr Murdoch, thousands of cosplay enthusiasts and wannabe special forces recruits turned rampaging seditionists who bludgeoned a policeman to death, threatened to hang the vice president and shoot House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “in the friggin’ brain” are sure signs Fox News subscribers are “realising their potential”.
Still, depending upon your perspective, William Randolph Hearst’s Australian twin made a commitment to his hosts or warned a Republican Party at his mercy that he was “far from done”.
What a chilling prospect.
A Washington Post columnist thinks the best way to “get the Fox News monster under control” is not to appeal to Murdoch’s “conscience”, but prevail upon the network’s loyal advertisers to boycott.
“The only answer is to speak the language that the bigwigs at Fox will understand: Ratings. Advertising dollars. Profit,” the columnist wrote.
This Pollyannaish prescription assumes that businesses who have advertised on Fox News throughout Trump’s pestilential presidency will suddenly develop a conscience and belatedly choose truth over lies and civic responsibility over profit.
It is a silly, almost comical, suggestion.
Corporate America’s canonical devotion to the bottom line has always meant being wilfully blind to injustice and intolerance at home and abroad.
I doubt even an insurrection, dismissed by Hannity as the work of Antifa or trivialised by Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy as the understandable expression of a handful of “frustrated” patriots, is going to dissuade much of corporate America from continuing to make lots of money by continuing to sell lots of stuff to the insurrectionists and millions of like-minded brethren who watch Fox News.
The ascendency of Trump to the presidency and the violent attempt to thwart the will of more than 81 million Americans that wanted to be rid of him were not the deeds of a loony “fringe”.
They were the consequence of the considered, deliberate designs of the population of “red state America” who religiously follow Murdoch’s cavalcade of charlatans on Fox News and its surrogate, the Republican Party.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.