Hold Conservative Media Accountable for ‘Inciting Insurrection’

Hold Conservative Media Accountable for ‘Inciting Insurrection’

The New York Times published an op-ed Thursday calling for serious repercussions against conservative media, and Fox News in particular, for endangering the public through dissemination of “disinformation.”

The essay, penned by Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and titled “Can We Put Fox News on Trial With Trump?” begins by accusing Fox News of being a “co-conspirator” of the former president in “inciting insurrection.”

“Fox helped sell Trump’s lie about a stolen election, propelling true believers like Ashli Babbitt — a fan of Fox personalities like Tucker Carlson — to storm the Capitol,” the essay claims before lamenting Fox’s high ratings. 

Babbitt was an Air Force veteran who was shot dead by a Capitol Hill police lieutenant during the January 6 Capitol riot.

The author also accuses Fox News of monetizing “conspiracy theories and disinformation in ways that are sometimes lethal.”

Bemoaning the inability to impeach or try Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity in the senate at a time when the former president is undergoing a second impeachment, the author suggests creating accountability, including pressure on advertisers and cable companies, “not only for Trump but also for fellow travelers at Fox, OANN, Newsmax[,] and so on.”

“If you buy a basic cable package, you’re forced to pay about $20 a year for Fox News. You may deplore bigots and promoters of insurrection, but you help pay their salaries,” Kristof writes, before plugging a recent campaign by Media Matters, a Soros-backed far left-wing media watchdog group, “for people to ask cable carriers to drop Fox News from their packages.”

Kristof then quotes Angelo Carusone, president of the group behind the campaign — Media Matters for America — who described Fox News as such: “It’s not a news channel. It’s a propaganda operation mixed with political smut. If people want that, they should be forced to pay for it the way that they pay for Cinemax.”

Carusone is also quoted as stating that “Fox News’s caldron of lies and extremism boiled over” in 2020. 

“They made us sicker and put up obstacles to the pandemic response by flooding the airwaves with over 13,150 instances of Covid [coronavirus] misinformation,” Carusone said. “They fomented racial animus and promoted white supremacy as a response to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. And, in the first two weeks after the election was called for Joe Biden, Fox News laid the groundwork for the attack on the Capitol by challenging the results on 774 individual instances with wild conspiracies and flat-out fabrications.”

Surprisingly, Kristof himself notes the inherent hypocrisy in his positions as well as the risks involved.

“Frankly, my argument leaves even me a bit queasy,” he writes. 

“I deeply believe in the ‘marketplace of ideas,’ and I do think that there is a danger of a liberal monoculture in some universities, nonprofits and news organizations. I’ve railed against ‘liberal intolerance,’ and I don’t think the ‘cancel culture’ that conservatives decry is entirely a mirage.”

Dismissing years of left-wing media false accusations of Russian collusion and the undermining of the Donald Trump presidency as a result, Kristof claims there is no comparing those “mistakes” with deliberate right-wing propaganda. 

“Conservatives are likewise right that the New York Times, CNN and other mainstream news organizations make mistakes all the time, and surely right-wingers are unhappy that their cable fees subsidize Rachel Maddow,” he writes.

“But there’s no symmetry. Fox News and Fox Business didn’t make an honest mistake about election outcomes but deliberately spun nonsense into ratings gold.”

Kristof then claims that access to Fox News and Sean Hannity in particular, has a direct correlation with Chinese coronavirus death rates in that same vicinity.

“Researchers have found, for example, that places where Fox News is randomly assigned a lower channel number (and thus gets more viewers) had riskier behavior during the pandemic, and that media markets where Hannity is particularly popular had higher Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] death rates early in the pandemic,” he writes.

Kristof then makes several crude analogies.

“Suppose Discovery Channel went haywire and encouraged viewers to drink arsenic to lose weight? Or Cartoon Network was bought by a tobacco company and encouraged children to try smoking? Or MSNBC pundits called on viewers to burn down police stations?” Kristof ponders.

The essay ends with the author’s wish that Fox return from “the Land of Make Believe” as he quotes Tucker Carlson in 2009 stating that The New York Times “cares about accuracy” and Conservatives “need to mimic that in their own news organizations.”

But many readers were not as keen on the idea of censorship of right wing media.

“Censorship Suddenly super cool,” wrote author and Security Studies Group President Jim Hanson. “FOX is in cable packages because tens of millions of people want it Same w/ @OANN & @newsmax.” 

“Are the 75M people who voted for Trump extremists & seditionists?” he asked. “Or are you the anti-Constitutional extremist?”

“This is rich coming from a guy who works for a paper that tried to cover up the Holocaust,” wrote Media Research Center President Brent Bozell.

“America’s communists are no different than communists have always been,” wrote nationally syndicated radio host Jesse Kelly.

“The problem with our Acela Corridor elite isn’t just that they’ve become Soviet, it’s that they’ve become laughably outrageously self-parodically Soviet, which makes it difficult to take their sort of strikingly horrific musings seriously,” wrote Omri Ceren, the national security advisor for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

“We must destroy free speech in order to save it!” wrote one Twitter user. “And I am sure you would not cry Fascism if a republican were to utter the same statement regarding NYT, now?”

The essay is part of a host of calls on the left to shun conservative voices and at a time of unprecedented “purges” of such voices on various social media platforms. 

Last month, a Washington Post op-ed called on heavyweight telecommunications corporations to shut down conservative cable news outlets including Fox News, One America News, and Newsmax TV, comparing the need to do so with that of shutting down foreign terrorist influencers.

Also last month, CNN began pushing for the blacklisting of conservative media outlets such as One America News and Newsmax TV.

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.

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