First off, you have to watch this clip from ghoulish Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham, attempting to communicate the fact that Joe Biden has won the election and the Supreme Court ain’t gonna do a thing about it:
A few things to notice from that clip, which is littered with mini apologies surrounding a piece of truth that has been accepted by every sane person in America for about a month:
1. Immediately, she leads with “as unpleasant and disappointing as these past three weeks have been to so many of us…”
2. After delivering the Biden news, she goes into full apology mode, citing “potential fraud” and a host of other unspecific “problems” with the election.
3. Next, she has to defend herself as “not a sellout.”
4. “Trump should challenge! Trump is good!”
5. “I'm just doing my job! We have to live in reality! You know me, I'm your honest truth-teller friend!”
My friends, this is some extremely embarrassing content right here. Liberals constantly get called snowflakes by their conservative pals, but this is the kind of Loyalty Oath chest-beating you'd see in the Soviet politburo. The undertone of that two-minute monologue is achingly clear: Ingraham, who is legitimately one of the most psychotic zealots Fox News has to offer, is absolutely down-to-her-bones terrified of the people she's speaking to. It's her job as a pseudo-newsperson to admit that Biden is going to win, but she knows the MAGA wackos watching are going to hate her for it, and that they're too foaming-at-the-mouth nuts to distinguish the message from the messenger. She has two options here, the first of which is to just give in a join the baying yahoos, the second of which is to try to retain some professionalism and make gestures at respectability. She chooses the latter, but she's so shook by her audience that she issues a million and one disclaimers, even apologies, for stating the obvious. She knows she must do fealty to Saint Donald or risk the wrath of of his blood hordes.
And the really sad part? Even as she's doing it, you can tell she knows that it's not going to work. When she tweeted it out, with yet another disclaimer (“Trump will remain the most compelling voice in American politics,”) here's a sampling of the most-liked, most retweeted responses she got:
Those represent the “nice” replies, and believe me, you don't want to wade deeper into that bog.
Here's the problem with Ingraham's hedge: you know that Mobb Deep lyric, “no such thing as halfway crooks”? Well, there's no such thing as a halfway cult, either. What makes this situation so delightful is that Fox News is caught in a trap of its own making. For decades, Rupert Murdoch's soulless far-right propaganda outlet has altered the tenor of American life by demonizing liberals and stoking the fires of culture war. No entity has done more to push the polarization that is currently ravaging our country. What's clear now is that they wanted to drive ideology, make money, and assert control over the direction of our country. In other words, they wanted to create a monster, but keep the monster on a leash.
The monster isn't just off the leash; the monster is ravenous, and it has a taste for blood. Trump saw to that. And what the aftermath has revealed is that Fox News never wanted the rabid, pure-cut, unadulterated state of chaos. They wanted, needed some veneer of respectability, and now that the base they created is demanding the full-throated vicious hate that they themselves dog-whistled until they were blue, they're quaking. To go in that direction means to go into the wilderness of batshit aggressive populism, and aside from a Sean Hannity or two, they're not willing to enter the madhouse. These are rich, professional people who live in cities and send their children to private schools, and they prefer to commandeer the howling wolves from a distance.
Well, the wolves aren't having it. They're mad at stooges like Ingraham, they're mad that Fox News was the first to call Arizona, and they're made at anything but total adherence to the Trump-as-god complex that has re-routed the wiring in their brains. And good for them! If you're going to be tortured into a psychological frenzy over years of classical conditioning, you may as well kill the masters when all hell breaks loose.
Trumpism, as a political doctrine, is incoherent, but as an aesthetic doctrine it makes total sense. Randy Quaid, more than anyone else, got the spirit of it just right in this piece of Twitter theater:
That, right there, is the stuff. Fear, power, derangement, commitment. That's the conservative death urge personified, and Fox News just doesn't have it in them. There's no more dangerous person to be than the moderate in a cult, and folks…well, damn, you hate to see it.
This is the American Trump voter of today, and while you shouldn't watch this if you're not up for the frequent f-bombs, it's worth noticing who she name-drops at the 50-second mark:
Fox News can’t talk its way into a managed retreat. There’s an old Russian proverb that applies: “If you call yourself a mushroom, jump in the basket.” It’s about putting your money where your mouth is, and all across the country, Trump backers who have spent their lives being transformed by Fox News propaganda have done just that. But now it’s Fox News’ time to jump in the basket, and they can’t do it. It’s too much for them—they can’t become OAN and lose the last of their credibility among their cultured neighbors. But Trump has captured the souls of his people, which means that Fox News will suffer. The last people watching them will be a few retired CEOs, while everyone else does what they’ve been trained to do in an increasingly polarized country—head to crazier territory.
What Fox News’ hesitancy at the critical hour proves is that they never really wanted to destroy America. They just wanted to strangle it half to death and ride the wheezing body to success and power. Their influence was predicated on remaining in control of the forces they wrought, but that’s not how these things go. Now that their viewers have become a little too radicalized, the result is worse than being left behind: they’re now the target. No matter how bad it gets for Fox News, never forget the hideous impulses they helped unleash, and never forget that they deserve every bit of what’s coming. These are the people who tried to destroy our country from the inside-out, and even if the sabotage isn’t working the way they intended, it’s still working. Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude; if nothing else, enjoy the spectacle as these halfway fascists get roasted on a spit in the hell they’ve made.