Fear, Identity, and Fox News


I hate Woodrow Wilson… He's an evil SOB.

Uttered by Glenn Beck on the Fox News Channel, this sort of hyperbolic rhetoric has become a staple of the hyperbolic rhetoric found in large supply on the network. Fox News Channel is the obvious worst of the bunch, adopting a sort of reconstructionist position that engages a sort of commentary which runs obviously counter its telling tagline: "We report. You Decide." While other networks have obvious underlying assumptions and agendas that inform their reporting, the level of intensity and disregard for responsibility within the platform displayed by FNC is disconcerting.

From the FNC color scheme to the insistent soundtrack to the highly emotive talking heads, the network often seems to have little interest in reporting at all. Bill O'Reilly, the top news show host of the last decade, hosts what amounts to little more than a fear-driven talk show, as evidenced from his opening line: "Caution! You are about to enter the 'No Spin Zone.'" Glenn Beck spends the majority of his time positioning himself as a professor of politics, even placing a chalkboard on his set. It is of note that this supposed expert doesn't possess a single degree from any university. The same goes for Sean Hannity, the host of Hannity's America. One certainly cannot quibble with the show's title, as it is Hannity's America, certainly not the one you or I inhabit. His America is one in which struggling patriots fight a battle against the America-hating liberals who want nothing more than to burn our nation to the ground.

Why would the Fox Corporation funnel its funding into such a bizarre venture? Because it sells in droves. The Fox News Channel's top shows usually beat out all other news networks programming within the same time block combined. FNC's understanding of the viewer psyche is disconcerting, as they've tapped into the most basic drives and needs of viewers: fear and identity reinforcement.

Within the reality constructed by FNC, every moment is of the utmost importance, as a single misstep could cost the futures of you and your family. Threats loom behind every corner, with only the "Fair and Balanced" Fox News team to guide its viewers to freedom (an element constantly thought to be in danger). From President Barack Obama and his supposed terrorist connections to Democratic leadership and their supposed hate for all that makes America great, the viewer is trained into a paranoid state of being.

Aside from the issue of fear, Fox News Channel steps out of its way to underhandedly reinforce negative elements of identity among its viewers. Racists, homophobes, misogynistic patriarchs, all are welcome under the Fox News Channel umbrella in ways that often border on the obvious. One of the most ridiculous was the focus put on Obama's middle name (Read: Anyone of a racial or ethnic background that would allow the name "Hussein" is a threat to America.). Attitudes and (lack of) understandings that would result in the social ostracizing of individuals in many settings is embraced by FNC.

The success of Fox News Channel says more about the lack of political and social understanding in American culture than it does about a greedy corporation. Nearly all corporations seek the bottom dollar above all else, but networks like FNC do not succeed without mainstream viewer endorsement. Concerned individuals should take FNC's existence as a constant reminder of the work to be done over the following years to elevate the level of discourse in the next generation and generations to come.