As most of us have seen this last week, the White House has openly attacked FOX NEWS channel, stating very plainly that the media outlet is not a news channel at all, but is rather a propaganda front for the Republican party. Right wing talking heads have spent an inordinate amount of time this week responding to this claim. Hannity now has a “Not White House Approved” label attached to his show, and Glen Beck has made it a point to (again) try and paint Obama as a reincarnation of Hitler. Right-wingers all over the media landscape have taken this story and run with it, making all kinds of claims that the Obama administration is persecuting them simply because their commentators disagree with his politics and their “news” wing is the only one on TV being “fair and balanced” about his policies. Because of the right-wing uproar about the administration’s condemnation of FOX, many on the left have decried the White House’s statements, claiming that Obama’s response to FOX will lead to greater viewership and higher ratings for right-wing ideologues like Hannity. They are absolutely right. At the same time, they are completely missing the point. What they don’t seem to realize is that Obama’s attack on FOX NEWS is one of the most subtle and brilliant long-term political strategies ever concocted.
First let us address whether FOX is really a purveyor of news. While the station admits that their opinion show hosts are clearly biased, they fully stand by the idea that the “news” portions of the show are real journalism. This, of course, is wildly untrue. Media Matters has done several pieces regarding this fact, and I will not get into the specifics here. Suffice to say that you can find them with the greatest of ease just by clicking here.
As far as the question of whether or not the Obama administration’s comments will lead to greater ratings for FOX, the answer of course is that it will. It only makes sense, after all, that when the President of the United States makes a statement about a certain media, people will at the very least attempt to fact-check him and determine for themselves whether or not he is telling the truth. Like it or not, President Obama is the most powerful person on the planet, and when he talks people listen. That being the case, FOX executives are most certainly ecstatic about the White House’s attack, because it will increase their revenues more than anything else they could possibly have done. There is almost zero doubt that FOX’s ratings will expand immensely as a result of this feud with the President, and as we all know more ratings means more advertising money. If anything, the White House has made FOX NEWS millions of dollars without even breaking a sweat.
Like any other rational person leaning left of center, I utterly abhor everything FOX NEWS stands for. They are dishonest, disloyal, irrational fear-mongers who will lie about almost anything if it means they can deride the current Commander-in-Chief. Also like most left-leaning Americans, it pains me to see such miserable programming gain any kind of momentum, and it breaks my heart to think that anyone would ever want to listen to the likes of Glen Beck. But as much as I hate the fact that Obama has drastically improved the ratings of FOX NEWS, I love the fact that the higher ratings enjoyed by FOX will only further ensure Democratic control of both congress and the White House.
Here’s the genius of the Obama plan. Because more people will be paying attention to FOX’s programming, more and more people will have an opportunity to hear the kinds of things said by Beck, Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly (who, surprisingly, seems almost downright logical compared to the other two). People will hear these talking heads and the astounding refuse that continually pours from their mouths, and will associate such blathering with the Republican party. As I told David Sirota this morning, “Obama’s not stupid and he realizes why he got elected.” People voted overwhelmingly for the Dems because they were sick and tired of the right-wing nonsense to which they had been subjected. The vast majority of Americans are tired of the same old “boogeyman” arguments they have been hearing from the right for the better part of a decade, and they are happy to vote against it. What Obama is pushing to ensure is that right-wing lies, fear, and paranoia will not recede from the political landscape, because peoples’ reactions to these things are exactly why he and his colleagues now have the reins of power. If anything, the more crazy ranting we hear from the right, the more powerful the left will become. What White House has done here is ingenious. By throwing out a small piece of bait for the radical right to jump on, Obama has essentially guaranteed that the electorate will try and distance themselves as much as possible from the candidates the right supports, and will vote even more overwhelmingly in favor of the Democrats in the next few years.
The biggest rule in investing is to “buy low and sell high,” and that is exactly what the Obama administration is doing. By investing a small amount now, at little cost to himself, the President is likely to reap huge dividends down the road. The funniest part is that FOX NEWS doesn’t even seem to realize that its psychotic reaction to Obama plays right into his hands. The President’s plan here is just like Guinness beer. It’s subtle, it’s satisfying, and as the commercials say, it’s “BRILLIANT.”