So now we know: Although Fox News’ prime-time message for much of the past year has been that Democrats vastly exaggerate the severity of the insurgency that took place on Capitol Hill on January 6 last, the main personalities of the network – including Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade – spent that fateful afternoon worryingly sending then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, insisting he ask then President Donald Trump, to intervene to stop the violence.
This fox is the on-air talent that lies to its audiences is hardly surprising. But this new revelation from bad faith teaches us something more important. This shows very clearly that the practical effect of the network in the media ecosystem is to continually shift the Overton window – the range of politically acceptable speeches and acts – more and more to the right. He does this by laundering words and deeds which once would have been almost universally condemned for their radicalism.
The process couldn’t be clearer. Fox News’ business model is to serve as a propaganda service for the Republican Party. This has led the network to spend most of the Trump administration defending the former president from his detractors as vigorously as possible. But the network had a problem when Trump refused to accept the results of the just ended 2020 presidential election, which Fox’s own election analysts called for then-candidate Joe Biden. Evidence of fraud did not materialize, and even Republican-appointed judges refused to side with the president in court.
It was against this backdrop that Hannity, Ingraham and Kilmeade voiced their concern at the White House on the afternoon of January 6, as ill-informed supporters of the president broke into Congress to demand an end to the certification of the election. Trump has never backed down, but Fox personalities still haven’t criticized his irresponsible on-air rhetoric. This required a reconfiguration of the network’s position, ultimately producing the constellation of demands that viewers are still bombarded with whenever the insurgency is discussed in prime time: The unrest was just a protest by American patriots. ; it was a false flag operation initiated by the FBI; it was okay, but Democrats keep talking about it because of their Trump Derangement obsessive syndrome; And so on.
The effect of this reframing is to normalize and incorporate events that previously seemed shocking. This is how Fox News ends up inexorably shifting the Overton window to the right – by treating anything said or done by members of an increasingly radicalized GOP as perfectly reasonable and justified.
Even when it comes to trying to overthrow American democracy itself.