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Watching Them Squirm: Is Fox News Abandoning the Mob It Created?

A huge schism develops between Fox's post-election attempts at "civility" and its pitchfork-wielding audience.
 
 
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The first polls had just closed when the Republican Right's "Agony of Defeat" moment arrived. It was just after 8 p.m. -- right as Fox's "America's Election HQ" show returned from a commercial break, and Brit Hume welcomed viewers back to his "Fair and Balanced" network.

But something wasn't right: There was a strange lack of background banter, none of the golf-buddy joshing that comes with overconfidence. There was just Bergman-esque silence between every one of Brit Hume's dramatic pauses. The Fox cameras wandered over an incredible scene: the cream of right-wing/neocon punditry -- William Kristol, Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke -- were caught slumped in their chairs during the commercial break, deep in a state of hopelessness and depression. They didn't see the camera train on them, or maybe they were incapable of faking it, as if they'd been on a three-day Ecstasy roll at Burning Man, and now they were paying the horrible serotonin-deprived price. Kristol looked like he was suffering the worst: He was slouched over the table, his grotesque Stewie-shaped head sulking down to his navel, his glazed eyes staring down at the floor. He strained to lift his head when Hume called on him to comment -- and when Kristol spoke, it was in a raspy, slow voice, not his usual smirking, energetic arrogance. To quote a sympathetic right-wing blogger, "Will Collier e-mails to tell me that he hasn't seen Bill Kristol look this bad since his man McCain get stomped in S.C. by Bush in 2000."
I started my Fox News Election Day Agony Watch at 6:30 a.m. I was expecting a lot of last-minute shrieking about voter fraud, ACORN and Barack Hussein Osama terrorist-mongering, the climax to a vicious campaign that Fox had been promoting over the previous month or two, but what was so strange that day was the relatively subdued, quasi-civil tone that Fox was taking. They pushed those buttons on Election Day, but only halfheartedly. You'd have to have watched a lot of Fox News -- which I have, out of morbid curiosity -- to detect the tonal shift on Nov. 4. It was as if they had decided to pull their punches. Before the polls opened, Ann Coulter appeared for a few minutes to riff against the liberals, but the 47-year-old MILF-wannabe looked oddly desperate in her mini-miniskirt and knee-high boots, as if she stole her imaginary teenage daughter's clubbing outfit and wanted to show it off. The effect was wrong, a desperate eccentricity, like a neocon Michael Jackson.

What was going on? It was as if the Fox News execs were nervous, so they came up with a Plan B approach. Gone was the usual mob-incitement chest-beating that has made Fox News such a hit in Middle America. It seems that the craftier vanguard of the Republican right-wing mob got together and decided that this was the craftiest position to adopt. Just before the elections, Kristol published a New York Times column that threw his entire 20-year divide-and-quagmire playbook out the window in favor of a new pseudo-gracious "hey, we're all friends, liberals and conservatives, and isn't it a wonderful country we live in?" mantra.

The Fox execs also did their best to affect a civil, gracious tone. That's why watching the Fox News agony-of-defeat spectacle was more subtle than I'd expected: The mob leaders had decided to abandon the mob -- meaning if I wanted to get a glimpse into the raw screeching agony that the right wing really feels when the camera is turned off, I would have to head into the blog world, where they could squeal their lungs out in safe anonymity. The "patriots" at Freerepublic.com, which boasts millions of visitors, went through at least four rapid stages of decline on Election Day: first, hope; then utter shock at the realization of defeat; then outrage and a sense of betrayal; and finally a retreat into Christian prayer and empty threats of Red Dawn armed insurrection. The Freepers aren't just outraged at Obama and the communist-Islamo-terrorists taking over the White House; they are also outraged at the Republican Party that "betrayed" them, outraged at the American population that proved to be nothing but brainwashed "sheeple" (someone named kimchilover wrote, "For the first time, in my adult life, I am ashamed of my country … my little take on Michelle's sentiments"), and even outraged at, yes, Fox News, which they quickly sensed was abandoning them. Many couldn't make sense of being abandoned by Fox. As one commenter wrote, "Watch Fox with the sound off and you will be LESS aggravated."

I lapped up every squeal and screech on Freerepublic.com that I could. Gloating is a healthy human activity, nothing to be ashamed of. How could you not gloat when you watch a thread that goes from this:

My friend, wait until 11 or 12 Eastern time before drawing any conclusions, by then you will see the Palin landslide!! (by word_warrior_bob)

To this:

Turn out the lights. Party is over. Go to bed. ... Election is lost. I'm gonna get drunk. (by GerardKempf)

And the most desperate, toothless woofing stance of all, so popular among the harmless nerds in Freeperland:

All over but the shooting. Stock up on guns and ammo. Use them whenever necessary. (PermaRag)

Next I checked a B-list neocon blogzine, Pajamas Media. You can get a sense of where the Republican elite and their mob followers are at Pajamas, which appeals to a more coastal, secular neocon demographic than the Freepers. Here again you could see what was only hinted at on Fox News.

On Pajamas, the savvier right-wing bloggers and columnists, the ones with their real names attached, have also adopted a grotesquely insincere "let's be civil and dignified" tone. One Election Day blog article was headlined "Let's Take Some Pride in Obama's Election -- No Matter Who We Voted For," repeating a mantra seen by the craftiest right-wingers. No one on Pajamas exemplified this cynical shift more than Rick Moran, a venomous neocon nerd, the missing link between homo sapiens and the Fleck's box jellyfish. In August, pushing the Bill Ayers smear, Moran wrote, "we can say for certain that Obama is a liar of the first magnitude." Just two weeks ago, he posted an article titled " 'Adolf Hitler' Donates to Obama Campaign" -- and he didn't mean it ironically, but rather, to highlight just how far Obama was willing to go to raise campaign money. But then, on the eve of the vote, when it was clear to everyone in America except to the loyal Freeper mob that Obama was going to sweep, Moran published a blog entry titled "Embrace the Future," in which he tried positioning himself as the leader of the Right-Wing Reconciliation Committee, denouncing the Obama hysteria that he promoted, distancing himself from himself.

Many of us are fearful of the future if Barack Obama wins the presidency and the liberals dominate the Congress. All manner of evils are imagined. "America won't be the same," is the cry most often heard on the right. Some even go so far as to say the America we live in now will be no more and a new America will supplant the old one.

I have rejected that notion as totally unrealistic. But there is absolutely no doubt that change is coming.

They're already congratulating themselves for their own cynical new civility, as in the posting titled "How the Rightosphere Copes With Defeat."

Moran is a moron, but he's keeping up with the Kristols rather than sticking with the mob. That's the new official line for all the Republicans angling to remain relevant in the new Obama era. But over in the comments section, the cheap seats for the right-wing mob, it was all squealing and rebellion against this new official dignified Republican line.

Rachel Peepers:

Something tells me this is not the time to be polite. Thus, my congratulations will go unsaid. I think not because I'm a poor sport; it's not a case of sour grapes because I've always been one of the first to congratulate my opponents be they in the political field or on the sports field. But not this time. Because this time my opponent was, as I see it, evil. Did they congratulate Stalin the day after the election. Or Lenin. Or Hitler. Some did. My great-grandfather didn't.

denisem:

I absolutely refuse to give up my guns. I love to hunt but now with Obambam in office, I have to hone in on my skills because he will destroy us from the inside. Khalidi and all Arabs call our government the belly of the beast. The beast meaning America. Obama is great friends with Khalidi and Ayers whom both are terrorists and will be part of Obama's appointed officials. So therefore, we will have bombings and racial riots again. We will be fighting a civil war again soon. Not this year or next but Obambam is going to DESENSITIZE us first then go for the jugglar. Therefore, I will have to learn anti-terrorism and urban warfare. I am to old to join the marines but I can still learn how they protect us. You should learn too.

Like the much more numerous Freepers, the mob at Pajamas Media is outraged because they have been betrayed. It's not just that the liberals betrayed them, but that the leaders they'd followed -- Fox News, right-wing bloggers, and the Republican elite who have been mobilizing their pitchfork fury -- now find their savagery a liability, and they're abandoning them. It's the fury of having been played for a sucker -- and the "real American" mob has been played for the biggest sucker in American history, as is clear from their sense of abandonment.

It is an incredible spectacle to behold: the Republican elite abandoning a 20-year narrative at the snap of a finger just to make sure that it is positioned well in the new Obama dynamic. The Republican elite has clearly decided that the "Real America" mob it had exploited had become a liability, but still it's amazing how seamlessly and quickly it can throw its own audience overboard. Witness the smear campaign against the right-wing mob's heroine, Sarah Palin, who is now being taken down by none other than Bill O'Reilly.

The right-wing mob's sense of rage and betrayal from all this is so great that over at FreeRepublic you can read, for the first time I can recall, hatred against Jews, whose electoral support for Obama poured salt on the Freepers' wounds. Read the comments to a posting the day after the election titled "Obama Receives 77% of Jewish Vote -- More Than Kerry," such as this: "I have always supported Israel and the Jewish people -- NO MORE -- if Iran throws a few missiles their way -- too bad! I don't care anymore!"

As for me, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to gloat and twist the knife, after all the destruction they've wreaked on America and the world. So I created a Bugs Bunny character named "Josh" to dance a virtual dirty chicken all over Pajamas Media's comment section end zone, stirring up the chimps into a frenzy of shrieking. There's nothing a Republican hates more than being called a "loser," in case you're wondering.

All in all, Nov. 4 was a great day for us warm-blooded animals. Nov. 4 delivered not only hope, but satisfying comedy, as we could watch millions of Dean Wormers and Neidermeyers howling in right-wing rage. But Fox's sly response shows that the smarter ones are already strategizing, and that the split in the Republican Party between the crafty elite and the flesh-eating zombies who until now served as its base means that there's plenty more comic entertainment and gloating to come.

 
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