Tucker Carlson said on Fox News that more children die of bathtub drownings than of accidental shootings. They don’t.
Steve Doocy said on Fox that NASA scientists faked data to make the case for global warming. They didn’t.
Rudy Giuliani said on Fox that President Barack Obama has issued propaganda asking everybody to “hate the police.” He hasn’t.
John Stossel said on Fox that there is “no good data” proving secondhand cigarette smoke kills nonsmokers. There is.
So maybe you can see why serious people – a category excluding those who rely upon it for news and information – do not take Fox, well … seriously, why they dub it Pox News and Fakes News, to name two of the printable variations. Fox is, after all, the network of death panels, terrorist fist jabs, birtherism, anchor babies, victory mosques, wars on Christmas and Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. It’s not just that it is the chief global distributor of unfact and untruth but that it distributes unfact and untruth with a bluster, an arrogance, a gonad-grabbing swagger, that implicitly and intentionally dares you to believe fact and truth matter.
Many of us have gotten used to this. We don’t even bother to protest Fox being Fox. Might as well protest a sewer for stinking.
But the French and the British, being French and British, see it differently. And that’s what produced the scenario that recently floored many of us.
There was Fox, doing what Fox does, in this case hosting one Steve Emerson, a supposed expert on Islamic extremist terrorism, who spoke about so-called “no go” zones in Europe – i.e., areas of Germany, Sweden, France and Great Britain – where non-Muslims are banned, the government has no control and sharia law is in effect. Naturally, Fox did not question this outrageous assertion – in fact, it repeated it throughout the week – and most of us, long ago benumbed by the network’s serial mendacities, did not challenge Fox.
Then, there erupted from Europe the jarring sound of a continent laughing. British Prime Minister David Cameron called Emerson an “idiot.” A French program in the mold of “The Daily Show” sent correspondents – in helmets! – to interview people peaceably sipping coffee in the no-go zones. Twitter went medieval on Fox’s backside. And the mayor of Paris threatened to sue.
Last week, Fox did something Fox almost never does. It apologized. Indeed, it apologized profusely, multiple times, on air.
The most important takeaway here is not the admittedly startling news that Fox, contrary to all indications, is capable of shame. Rather, it is what the European response tells us about ourselves and our waning capacity for moral indignation with this sort of garbage.
It’s amazing, the things you can get used to, that can come to seem normal. In America, it has come to seem normal that a major news organization functions as the propaganda arm of an extremist political ideology, that it spews a constant stream of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, paranoia and manufactured outrage, and that it does so with brazen disregard for what is factual, what is right, what is fair, what is balanced – virtues that are supposed to be the sine qua non of anything calling itself a newsroom.
If you live with aberrance long enough, you can forget it’s aberrance. You can forget that facts matter, that logic is important, that science is critical, that he who speaks claptrap loudly still speaks claptrap – and that claptrap has no place in reasoned and informed debate. Sometimes, it takes someone from outside to hold up a mirror and allow you to see more clearly what you have grown accustomed to.
This is what the French and the British did for America last week.
For that, Fox owed them an apology. But serious people owe them thanks.
Leonard Pitts Jr.’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.