Red Fox

Whenever I seriously consider Trumpism, I decide that the real trouble is Fox News (and all its propagandic spinoffs and appendages). One way or another, Trump will go away. I mean, he’s in his seventies and he lives off McDonald’s. He will desist. But his henchies will persist as long as they have the likes of Hannity, and Carlson, and Rush to offer them lies that make them feel both virtuous in their hatred and fearful through their ignorance. As long as the right embraces propaganda as their State News Service, as long as people like Trump can cow congresspeople by threatening them with the propagandist’s ire, as long as Fox and friends lie enough about conservative leaders to allow their followers to keep lying to themselves, we will see no defeat of Trumpism. The facts can’t compete with the Fox. And as for reason: Trumpers either reject it as something less godly than blind faith, or they maim it with so many falsehoods that it can point in only the most twisted directions. The Trumpers—the Fox followers—are lost. And I mean that in every sense of the word.

And this leaves us with a much larger problem than someone who won’t survive the next few election cycles. We face something that has come into its own after decades of preparation. Fox has been the most-watched cable news service for the past three years. In 2018, it enjoyed its highest viewership in 22 years. And in that same year, Sean Hannity beat out all other cable-news programs, with an average 3.3 million viewers.

This is what we’re up against. And I think it’s nearly undefeatable. I mean, we can’t outlaw Fox. That flies in the face of the First Amendment. I don’t even think we can pass legislation requiring news services to be truthful. Because even if we did get the votes to do such a thing, we’d just drive Fox underground, where it would play even more to the fantasies of its “Christian” martyrs.

My gut feeling is that Fox will fall only after massive Republican divestment. And most presently, I could see that happening in only two ways. The first is that liberal commentator, Charles Pierce, recently suggested that one reason the Republicans do so much to shelter Trump from the Russia investigation is that it’s very likely that through money laundering via the NRA, a great many Republican politicians actually received Russian money during the 2016 campaigns. If that were true, and if Fox, as a news service, had to break that story to their constituents, the fallout could cause a schism that would be difficult to repair. Fox has occasionally shown streaks of journalistic integrity (say in its opposition to Trump’s ouster of the CNN reporter). If an incontrovertible news story forced their hand, they could betray the GOP just to save their skin.

ON THE OTHER HAND (and this is Way No. 2), my mother made a joke last night about how Trump’s true Russian handler is probably Sean Hannity. We laughed—but then we stopped. I don’t know about Hannity himself. But if I wanted to investigate Russian influence into American politics, the first place I would look would be at how much they have invested in outlets like Fox. I mean, we all know that Trump owes a political debt to Fox. So next we should wonder to whom Fox has a debt of its own. We keep searching social media for Putin’s little, red fingerprints. And I say, go bigger. Have the Russians made inroads with the Murdoch clan? Have they approached Sean Hannity, or Tucker Carlson, or Tomi Lauren, or even Bill O’Reilly? And what about the NRA? If Russia has laundered money through that organization, and if the NRA spends, say, any money advertising on Fox, could we find a trail there? For instance, according to The Hill, the NRA spent more than $54 million on the 2016 election—and this expenditure included political ads. Did any of them show up on Fox News?

I don’t know to what extent Russia has dug its fingers into our little cable-network pies. Maybe—maybe?—they haven’t at all. But the possibility bears investigation. Because one thing is clear: Fox Etc. has worked to destabilize mainline US politics since Roger Ailes established it in 1996. And few people have shown more interest in doing the same thing, except for Vladimir Putin, who first became president of Russia in 2000. If nothing else—if nothing at all—they share both a timeline and at least part of a motive.

Time is a Builder

“Per longstanding Supreme Court precedent, the president’s authority over security clearance matters is both constitutional and plenary. Although there is no known precedent for the action [Brennan’s revocation] proposed by the White House, nothing legally prevents the president from unilaterally granting, denying, or revoking a security clearance,” said Sean Bigley, national security attorney and managing partner at Bigley Ranish. (This is from a July 24 article on the threat to revoke Brennan’s security clearance, by Government Executive.)

So let’s think about this for a minute. This exclusion inflicted on Brennan is something Trump can pull on anyone. In fact, today, he announced (per NBC) that he’s revoking the security clearance of the DOJ official “whose wife worked for the firm involved in producing the dossier on Trump’s ties to Russia.”

I would like to make seven points:
1. Whoever’s situated Trump to do his damage studied our Constitution and our executive branch more than most Americans ever will. And they banked on that.

2. Let’s not underestimate FOX News, whose commentator was the first to suggest Brennan’s revocation. (Rand Paul repeated the idea a few days later.) FOX is not only becoming the Trump State’s sanctioned news service, but it also seems to wield incredible sway over the government itself. This means it’s not too impossible to assume that Trump could revoke security clearance from most people who know something about the world (and thereby tend to disagreement with him), while he both replaces these folks with yes-men and continues to heed the urgings of a network that basically lies for a living.

3. If you have to dodge forest fires, hurricanes, fracking earthquakes, and the whole damn Ku Klux Klan, find a way to vote in the midterms. That’s a critical step–and if Dems don’t win, I honestly worry about civil unrest.

4. That said, this November’s elections alone will not stop Trump. See Point #1. (Come to think of it, also see Point #2.) It will take years for this country to recover from the Trump State. Our enemies knew this. So although it sounds horridly pessimistic, let’s come to grips with that reality. We’ve been attacked by foreign agents, and by domestic propagandists, and by all those in power who care for their own longevity more than they give a flip about their country. They’ve given ordinary people permission to openly hate one another. And they prop up a man who increasingly seeks to control information until–among other things–it deepens the national divide. Starting in November, and going forward, it might take our whole lives to rebuild.

5. That’s a difficult realization. I didn’t know this post would land us here. But in another way, this truth might not be a tragic one. All said (and with all respect to Trump’s victims), it can be a fine thing to recover your country. It’s a good life’s work. It’s like clean-up after a massive tornado. It’s sad work–traumatic, even. But it’s our work. It’s a common purpose. It’s solid good. Somebody once said there are two kinds of heroes: There are the ones who prevent catastrophe. Then there are the ones who respond, and reform, and rebuild even after they’ve inadvertently played a part in bringing about that catastrophe. I think the first hero mostly operates through ability, bravery and luck. The second operates through ability, bravery and wisdom.

6. There are more of us than there are of them. There always have been. The world itself is mostly with us. And as our nation becomes worse off, some of those supporting Trump will step away from him. In time, we will win. But in the meanwhile, we are at the mercy of a government that hates the government. And while we fight and fight again to save it from itself, the civilization that is the soul of this country will have to find safeguarding outside of the White House.

7. I nominate the schools and the arts. I choose the internet and all the other public libraries. I look to the mosques, and the churches, and the synagogues–not the hate clubs, but the ones that read a breathing scripture, those who are houses of love. I look to the immigration safe house, and the resistance-teach-in coffee house, and to the food-pantry shelter house, and to your house, and to my house, and to that neighborhood–that collection of houses–that recently discovered how a resident received hate mail for his rainbow flag, and put that same banner on all their porches. There are more of us than there are of our opponents. If nothing else, as the decades come, they will lose by sheer demographic. And they know that. And it’s why they work so hard to cheat, and hate, and lie. Because they realize that unless they set up some kind of fact-controlled dictatorship, unless they bring about a (deeper) American apartheid, we will simply outlast them all.