Carlson’s comment isn’t just alarming and offensive: It’s also dangerous because it’s the epitome of gaslighting, the tactic of using lies to manipulate people. (Hate crimes are actually at the highest they’ve been in 16 years, Tucker.) Fox gaslights to cause confusion, tighten its grip on viewers and spread propaganda for the Trump White House and the Republican Party. The network is responsible for inserting toxic and fringe ideas into the mainstream, which can translate into real-life violence and hate crimes and the further marginalization of Black and Brown people.
With the holidays around the corner, this is a perfect time to talk to your family and friends about turning off Fox News and maybe signing this petition urging advertisers to ditch the network. Read on to learn more about Fox’s racism. The information below is by no means comprehensive, because that would require an endless document.
The house built on a toxic dump
“Ailes was a monster who was pushed out of the network he founded because dozens of women who had worked for him came forward and reported that he had sexually harassed them,” Media Matters for America’s Matt Gertz told the Los Angeles Times. “... And the legacy he leaves behind is a propaganda machine he created in his own image that has done incalculable damage to the country.” (Full disclosure: I worked at Media Matters for years and monitored Fox News for hours a day as a researcher.)
Fox News has been toxic since its very creation. Rupert Murdoch wanted to create a counter to what he considered a “liberal” CNN, but Ailes advised him that the network should focus on being “fair and balanced”. Ailes created an openly conservative network that not only diverged from CNN, but pitted its viewers against all other news outlets. The late Ailes was gifted at making viewers believe that Fox News was representing the underrepresented (by which he meant white people) and at convincing people to distrust all media outlets except Fox News.
“Fox News was practically a fourth branch of government,” New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman wrote after Ailes’ death. “Ailes helped elect presidents and launch wars, and he remade our politics in his paranoid image, laying the groundwork for Donald Trump’s presidential run.”
Fox News is so racist you can categorize its racism:
Some of the worst offenses from Fox hosts and contributors have centered on Black victims of police brutality. Fox personalities often cruelly defend the officers who have murdered Black people and condemn the victims, some of whom are children.
This is just part of the network’s larger strategy of denying the existence of systemic and structural racism and blaming Black people in the United States for social and economic inequality. Fox hosts, guests and contributors rewrite the history of the United States, gaslight about slavery, promote Jim Crow laws and mock the continuing struggle for civil rights. They were recently quick to defend Trump’s disgusting tweet comparing the impeachment inquiry to a lynching.
Though Fox News can’t take credit for creating these anti-Black strategies, they’re keeping these racist ideas alive.
Racism targeting immigrants of color
The network is particularly unhinged when it comes to immigrants (undocumented and documented alike) as well as refugees of color seeking asylum.
Hosts and contributors paint a fearful picture of diseased invaders who aren’t really fleeing violence but are here to murder people and deliver votes for the Democratic Party. Fox personalities repeat absolutely untrue and harmful stereotypes and caricatures Trump has used in speeches and support violent and terrorizing administration policies such as family separation.
In many of these examples, Fox hosts are killing two birds with one stone. They’re defending or attempting to validate the president’s racism and they’re gaslighting or playing down the gravity and danger of what Trump said.
In one example, host Charles Payne gaslit a Democratic strategist by asking him to explain why it was racist and possibly offensive for Trump to call Mexicans rapists. By asking this question at all, Payne is positing that there’s legitimacy to what Trump said and implies that it’s therefore not racist to call Mexican people rapists. This tactic supports and backs up other hosts who claim that “unless our elected leaders get serious about securing the border, one day they're going to be raising that Mexican flag over the U.S. Capitol” or who charge that Mexico is routinely interfering in U.S. elections.
Racism against women of color
“Ilhan Omar is living proof that the way we practice immigration has become dangerous to this country.”
This is yet another example of Tucker Carlson bringing white-supremacist and white-nationalist ideologies to primetime. And it unfortunately (but not surprisingly) fits into a larger pattern of hosts like Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity making routinely racist and misogynist remarks about women of color in the House and Senate.
Fourteen states plus the District of Columbia as well as dozens of cities across the United States have opted to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus Day every year in October to recognize the fact “that Native people are the first inhabitants of the Americas, including the lands that later became the United States of America.”
Fox News hosts aren’t happy about this, because they worship the past and white men. They’ve used Indigenous Peoples Day as an excuse to whitewash Columbus’ atrocities, deflect and miss the point and repeat white-supremacist talking points about indigenous people.
The problem started when someone (probably Bill O’Reilly) handed Fox reporter Jesse Watters a microphone and told him to go out and “interview” people for a man-on-the-street segment. This time he went to New York City’s Chinatown and treated human beings like caricatures of Asian stereotypes and asked “if he was supposed to bow to greet them, if they were selling stolen goods and if they could ‘take care of North Korea for us.’”
Jeanine Pirro was suspended from Fox News for questioning Rep. Omar’s ability to be faithful to the Constitution because she wears a hijab. This anti-Muslim bigotry is neither new for Pirro given her record during the Obama administration nor is it for the network which regularly refers to Muslim-majority countries as “tar pits,” stereotypes Muslims, fearmongers about Muslim immigrants and defends the idea of deporting Omar for voicing dissent.
Turn off Fox News
There’s an easy way to stop all of this hate and it’s to turn off Fox News. Fox News instills fear into its viewers and keeps them coming back by making them distrust reputable sources of news. This is dangerous.
So when hosts like Tucker Carlson falsely claim that “there aren’t that many hate crimes occurring in the country,” and devoted viewers hear and see that, they believe it, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This is a disservice to the victims of racist violence and hate crimes and also a disservice to the viewer whom is being lied to.
Viewers are the oxygen for Fox’s toxic fire and Fox needs its viewers more than viewers need Fox News. If you have friends and family members who watch Fox, talk to them about the dangerous lies the network spreads. It isn’t easy to have these conversations but one-on-one interactions can be the best way to counter Fox’s racist propaganda.