Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fox News Viewers: Foot-Soldiers for Elite Special Interests

Fox News and right-wing talk radio position themselves as populists, championing the causes of their viewers, who are conservative, patriotic, and often middle- to low-income. They appeal to the conservative values of their audience, then get that audience to champion causes that primarily benefit wealthy people and special interests. Yet, if you suggested to a Fox News viewer that they were foot-soldiers for special interests and wealthy elite, they would never believe you.

Here's why they are, though. Consider the tax revolt "tea parties" last April, organized, led, then gleefully reported as a spontaneous "grass roots" effort by Fox News. Many of these protests took place in states with positive balances of payments (they receive more funding from the federal government, from the tax revenues of the country at large, than they contribute in tax payments). Should taxes be restrained or cut as the protesters wished, they themselves would likely have borne the brunt of reduced services, subsidies, roads, and other federal benefits. The primary beneficiaries of their efforts would have been the wealthy, who are the primary target of planned tax increases.

Now consider health care. Many people in Fox News's demographic have tenuous health insurance, and I suspect that many others have none at all. They would be the primary beneficiaries of real health reform. Yet wealthy Fox News and talk radio hosts have incited them to disrupt town hall meetings intended to advance the process of reform. They have taken on the mission of defeating reform as if it were a threat to democracy and the American way of life, when in fact it's primarily a threat to insurance companies, doctors, and others who may benefit disproportionately from the current payment structures. In other words, these protesters are working for powerful special interests, and against their own personal interests.

Thomas Frank dives deep into this topic in his book, What's the Matter with Kansas, which I admit that I haven't read. So this isn't an original idea. I do wonder, though, if the specific manipulative relationship that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh have with their audience, inciting them to work against their own interests, has been sufficiently explored. And I wonder what it would take to get these people to understand how thoroughly they're being played by people they trust.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Provocative question, Vic.

Our healthcare mish-mash is a devil's game. Daughter Erin became sick on a flight from Denver to Indy. Plane returned to Denver, she spent about 15 hours at U of Colorado Medical Center Hospital, and her insurance was billed $22,000. (It was not anything serious, as it turned out.). What if she had no insurance?

The opposition to any real healthcare reform is mindless & tragic.

-- Leon