The Tuesday: The Fox Fix . . .

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BY KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON November 23, 2021
WITH KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON November 23, 2021

The Fox Fix

Welcome to the Tuesday, a weekly newsletter about that which has come to pass and that which may yet be, along with politics, language, and culture. To subscribe to the Tuesday, follow this link.

Fox News Refugees

If you'll forgive a little inside-baseball media stuff . . .

My friend Jonah Goldberg has just quit Fox News in response to Tucker Carlson's Patriot Purge pseudo-documentary — not the event in isolation, but more of a straw-and-camel situation. I have some other friends who still work at Fox News and who are going to keep right on working there.

What to think about these situations?

In one sense, these questions are obvious: If a gig isn't giving you what you need, then you quit. We're all adults, and most of us have quit a job before — some of us have even been fired once or twice. I have a great deal more respect for Jonah Goldberg and his colleague Steve Hayes, who also resigned from Fox News, than I do for the cancel-culture types who spend their time trying to get other people fired. People who are willing to pay some personal price for their choices rather than trying to impose costs on others (often to their own personal benefit) are the people who have something to say that is worth listening to.

But there isn't any particular obligation to quit, either. Journalism (and I suppose that we must consider cable-news punditry a mutant species of journalism) isn't a preschool sandbox, and you don't get cooties from playing with the wrong people. If you want to persuade people, then you will just have to grow up and suffer the indignity of being around people who see the world in a way that is at odds with your own views. Horrors.

Sometimes, the other side even does . . . good work. During my recent visit to the United Kingdom, I read a couple of issues of the New Statesman, which you might think of as a British socialist version of National Review. There was a good deal of interesting and entertaining work therein — better, I think, than any left-wing magazine in the United States, and better than most of the right-wing magazines, too. I don't think you have to be a socialist to understand that. But I wonder how many on the right would be scandalized if I subscribed? Some people would see this as supporting socialism, rather than what it is, i.e., paying for a magazine I want to read. Socialist cooties — beware!

In reality, the politics of cooties has hurt both our journalism and our politics, and hurt them in precisely the same way. Instead of initiating conversations with people who disagree with us with an eye toward persuading them, we spend most of our time talking to like-minded people. As a practical matter, politicians in our time get more juice out of rallying their partisans, inflaming their grievances and valorizing every prejudice, no matter how petty, than they do out of giving speeches to skeptical or disagreeing audiences; in precisely the same way, much of our contemporary journalism is oriented toward flattering readers and listeners rather than challenging them, reassuring them that they hate the right people for the right reasons, and that their hatred is not only justified but sanctified. And if Fox News is a gigantic corporate grievance farm, MSNBC is no less so, and neither is National Public Radio or, angels and ministers of grace defend us, Teen Vogue. There is a reason no beat reporter in this country doing real journalism earns a tenth of what a marquee cable-news mouth-hole does.

(Never mind, for now, the absolute phoniness of these champagne populists presenting themselves as the tribunes of the working classes of the "Real American" heartland against the predation of "coastal elites" or "oligarchs." Almost every one of them lives in Manhattan, the D.C. metro, or that New York City suburb known as Palm Beach, Fla. None of them chose to make a living or a life in Oklahoma, a Spanish-speaking border enclave, or some economically dead mill town in Ohio. Rush Limbaugh could have landed his Gulfstream G550 back home in Cape Girardeau any time he liked, and Rachel Maddow spent years opining about the plight of the poor while going home to a West Village loft she bought from a rock star. The tribunes of the plebs don't so much as get downwind from actual poor people or poor communities, unlike, say, your favorite evil elitist correspondent.)

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