It’s Time to Defund Fox News

If more organizations follow the NAACP’s lead, they may be able to force the propaganda network to do better

Last week, the NAACP wrote a letter to the NFL making a request for the good of humanity: stop giving money to fucking Fox News.

Okay, that wasn’t their exact phrasing, but it captures the spirit close enough. And who could fault them? No matter how much you want to pretend Fox News doesn’t exist, the propagandist network is indeed growing more dangerous by the day, and more organizations need to confront that reality. No matter the issue — race relations, the 2020 presidential election, or the ongoing pandemic — day and night they bombard their viewers with racism, sexism, and xenophobia while ignoring mass shootings that don’t fit their narrative. (Fox News couldn’t even be bothered to carry the Boulder Police’s press conference after Monday’s mass shooting.) And their newest tactic is promoting anti-vaccination conspiracy theories that will contribute to the massive (and still rising) coronavirus death toll.

Over the years, advertisers have tried to pretend that they haven’t played a direct part in the damage Fox News has wrought by paying for advertisements, but these days it’s become harder for brands to get away so easily with such lame excuses for complicity.

There is no longer any pretense that Fox News personalities like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, or Laura Ingraham are delivering anything other than propaganda. The same goes for the networks “news” anchors like failed daytime talk show host turned Twitter troll, Megyn Kelly. Whether in prime time or during breakfast hours, they’re feeding their audience mindless bullshit; it’s a scam that has long paid handsomely. But if more organizations follow the NAACP’s lead, they may be able to force Fox News to do better.

I know there are only so many places people can go in this world of media consolidation to have their voices heard. At the same time, there has to be a point where you recognize a lost cause for what it is and focus instead on how to counter the chaos, not further contribute to it.

In the letter, sent by NAACP chair and CEO Derrick Johnson to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and first obtained from USA Today Sports, the NAACP calls Fox News “a uniquely destructive force” that “foments racism, undermines public health recovery from the pandemic, and repeatedly attacks the legitimacy of last year’s Presidential election.”

In a separate statement to USA Today, Johnson added: “It is immensely perturbing that the NFL would consider extending its relationship with Fox, especially after the January 6th insurrection on our Capitol. The NFL should not be used as a bargaining tool to help fund Fox News’ racist and dangerous programming. Fox News has gone far and beyond to disinform its viewers, inciting hate, bigotry, and ultimately threatening American democracy. We have grave concerns with the NFL’s contract renewal with Fox, and we look forward to having a serious conversation.”

Yet, the day after this story was published, Fox News managed to forget about slavery’s history in America.

Presumably trying to spook old White people about migrants at the border (like they always do), Dana Perino quoted a “former government official” with “expertise” saying that “what’s happening at the border right now could be the largest human trafficking event ever in the world.” Dana Perino is at least supposed to be taken seriously, given her past tenure as White House Press Secretary under President George W. Bush. (Remember, the one who lied about the reason to go to war in Iraq for a second time?) She’s on during the day, where it’s purportedly more serious news with less racist overtones. Yet, she and goofy-ass Bill Hemmer somehow overlook the Atlantic slave trade. (Never mind that her former boss is still pushing for a path to citizenship in an immigration deal.)

These people conveniently ignoring that the world existed before 1866 is typical Fox News, but to the NAACP’s point, this is one example of why the network doesn’t deserve the NFL’s money.

Fox News has already managed to offer additional examples at the very beginning of the new week.

On Sunday, the network gave Senator Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican who recently said he was not afraid of the violent White insurrectionists that stormed the Capitol in January but he does fear Black Lives Matter protesters, another chance to be racist.

In response to criticism, Johnson turned victim, whining: “Unfortunately, Democrats and liberals engage in assassination of character. And they reflexively play the race card primarily to silence their critics or silence anybody that they don’t want their viewpoint spread around.”

I miss the days when the only Ron Johnson I knew was light-skinned and lived with Dwayne Wayne.

But speaking of insurrection, on Monday, former President Trump called in to still fault Mike Pence for not helping him steal the election.

“It’s too bad Mike Pence didn’t go back, because you would have had a much different result had Mike Pence gone — he could have said, ‘I’m sorry, but this was not approved by the state legislature, and according to the Constitution, it had to be,’” Trump said.

In case you were wondering if Donald Trump gives a damn if Mike Pence lives or dies, here you go.

Trump also got a chance to be racist and xenophobic on immigration, but when asked why he felt the need to comment, he snapped, “Well, you called me, I didn’t call you, in all fairness.” The dummy’s got them there.

Given that he seized control of the network’s fan base during his time in office, Fox News certainly depends on Trump for a ratings boost, but should this be funded if you profess to care about democracy and Black lives?

“The NFL, a league where nearly 70 percent of the players are Black should not be complicit in helping to increase the profits of Fox News, a leading voice in condemning those same players for peaceful demonstrations against systemic racism,” the NAACP’s Johnson wrote in his letter to Goodell.

Whether or not the NFL is eager to have this talk with the NAACP, it’s about time they’re forced to broach the subject. I may have ditched confession years ago, but I maintain my belief in the value of contrition. (As long as we’re talking apologies, I’m still waiting for the NFL to make amends with Colin Kaepernick and Janet Jackson.)

This is not the first time in recent years we have been asked to consider whether it is worth acknowledging Fox News in any capacity.

During the Democratic presidential primary, Elizabeth Warren refused to do a Fox News town hall, arguing that doing so would only benefit the network. “Hate-for-profit works only if there’s profit, so Fox News balances a mix of bigotry, racism, and outright lies with enough legit journalism to make the claim to advertisers that it’s a reputable news outlet,” Warren said at the time. “It’s all about dragging in ad money — big ad money.”

Folks like Mayor Pete participated anyway, but Warren’s example is the one to follow. It’s one I followed myself when I was asked in 2019 to appear on a Fox News show to discuss a recent essay that I published. The producer, knowing their reputation, tried to persuade me that their show was “different” than the others. I said no anyway.

That’s no knock to those that say yes. I know there are only so many places people can go in this world of media consolidation to have their voices heard. At the same time, there has to be a point where you recognize a lost cause for what it is and focus instead on how to counter the chaos, not further contribute to it.

Propaganda pays their bills, and many of us are sick of chipping in, even indirectly. Hours before news of the NAACP’s letter broke, I unwittingly voiced support. “I hate that I have to contribute to Fox News financially via carrier fees in the cable bill,” I tweeted. “Should be an option to help fund people trying to get you killed at any given hour of the day.”

Some of us might not be able to break from carrier fees yet — even streaming packages like YouTube TV bundle Fox News — but we can and should support efforts to convince advertisers to start spending elsewhere. Advertisers have pulled out of specific shows before; now it’s time to boycott the whole damn network.

Author of “I Can’t Date Jesus” and “I Don’t Want To Die Poor.” Houstonian.

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