It seems the Fox News network—which is as much a “news network” as I am a “banana cream pie”—is trying to kill off its audience.
Not directly, of course. I’m not suggesting Tucker Carlson has murder on his mind.
But the network’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic does appear perplexingly aimed at reducing the number of people alive enough to watch Fox News.
Consider the “anti-lockdown” protest last week in Michigan’s state capitol, where thousands of residents, many standing way too close to one another, came together to violate and express outrage at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order. It may have been the largest-ever gathering of people standing up for their right to die from a highly contagious virus.
Rather than point out that a gathering of that size in a state with nearly 30,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 2,000 deaths is something any medical profession would deem “not good,” the fine folks at Fox News applauded the protesters.
Tucker Carlson—again, NOT a murderer—described the Michigan governor’s stay-at-home order as “mindless and authoritarian” and praised a protester he was interviewing, saying, “Thank you for coming on tonight, and thank you for exercising your constitutionally protected rights as an American. Bless you.” (I hope he didn’t say that last part because she sneezed.)
On Sean Hannity’s show, which I believe is called “The Sean Hannity Hysterical Untruths Hour,” fellow Fox News intellectual Jeanine Pirro said this about the Trump flag-waving Michigan coronavirus party:
“They want to keep us locked in our homes. They want to keep us away from churches and synagogues. They want to make sure we don’t go back to work. They don’t get it. The American spirit is too strong, and Americans are not going to take it. And what happened in Lansing today? God bless them, it’s going to happen all over the country.”
If by “they,” Pirro is referring to “people who don’t want you to die unnecessarily,” then, yes, they are trying to keep you in your homes. That’s what one does during a pandemic when operating on the belief that remaining alive is a better outcome than shuffling off this mortal coil.
But what’s most disturbing about Pirro’s “Don’t Let Those Libs Keep Ya From Livin’” attitude is the last part of her quote, suggesting protests like the one in Lansing will soon be happening across the country.
Well, Ms. Pirro, they certainly will if you and other popular Fox News hosts keep talking about them like they’re the modern-day version of the Boston Tea Party! (I feel like I remember this plot unfolding about a decade ago.)
Protesting or stubbornly ignoring stay-at-home orders during a pandemic is not patriotic. It would be like the Boston Tea Party only if the colonists in 1773 had thrown the tea in the harbor then jumped in themselves and drowned, dragging a few innocent bystanders down with them.
But still, Fox News persisted. Host Laura Ingraham tweeted about the Michigan protest, “Time to get your freedom back,” and similar language was echoed by “Fox & Friends” resident nonsense sprinkler Brian Kilmeade on Thursday morning.
Encouraging people to get out before it’s safe or to fight back against social distancing orders that are quite literally saving lives is not a particularly good way to maintain an audience. It would be like me advising newspaper subscribers to go play in traffic.
The worst thing anyone or any state can do right now is jump the gun on “getting back to normal.” If a fire breaks out in your kitchen and you start to get it under control with an extinguisher, you don’t put it halfway out, chuck the extinguisher out the window and get back to cooking.
But that’s effectively what Fox News is advising its rather passionate viewers to do, which is awful, particularly since many of those viewers are in an older demographic, one that is, to continue the fire metaphor, highly flammable.
What’s the endgame here, Fox News? Does the network have money tied up in funeral homes? Is it angling to cause a spike in deaths that it can then blame on Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?
I likely disagree politically with somewhere between 99.99% and 99.999% of Fox News fans. But I want them to stay healthy. As a journalist, I’ve always maintained a strict “don’t get anyone killed” policy, and as a human being, well, that’s just common decency.
So, I implore you, Fox News viewers, beware false prophets who tell you it’s time to take to the streets when there are still thousands of Americans dying each day. There’s nothing patriotic about risking your life or the lives of others in a fake fight against faux tyranny ginned up by carnival barkers.
If I didn’t know better, I’d say that network is trying to kill you.
Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.