Fox News sold its soul to Trump. Now Trump's walking away with it

Fox News sold its soul to Trump. Now Trump's walking away with it
Photo via the White House.

Hey, here's a feel-good story for you. Let's all laugh at Fox News, the network that sold the scraps of its soul to Trumpism and is now reaping the predictable rewards: Trump viewers now incensed with and leaving the network because Fox couldn't keep up the fiction that Actually Donald Trump Won after Trump demanded, very publicly and poutishly, that they do so.

See, that's the problem with acclimating an audience to hearing only the news they want to hear, even if you have to make it up. Once you've successfully created an audience of conspiracy freaks, it's only a matter of time before they decide their conspiracy theories include you.

We should probably enjoy this news while it lasts, because after Trumpism crawls back into the nation's woodwork it's likely quite a few of these previously Fox-obsessed conservatives will go back to the old familiar faces of Sean Shoutyface, Tucker White Panic, and whoever else was left after sexual harassment, discrimination, and assault scandals rocked the network and ousted a good chunk of its top talent. I think there's a Jesse somebody? Am I remembering that right? Ahem.

Anyhoo, Fox News' advantage here over its new, more directly conspiracy-premised competitors Newsmax and OANN should not be underestimated. Fox News conspiracies come with production values. There's custom theme music, and (until the pandemic sent their hosts into basement table-and-chair studios) custom-made desks and, most of all, just a buttload of flag imagery. Flags everywhere. Parts of flags everywhere. Stars here, stripes there, now stars and stripes alternating, now rotating softly, now stripes with stars in them: Fox viewers may still be completely ignorant of what's going on in the country, but by God they'll always be able to remember which country they're currently in.

It's like the Pledge of Allegiance turned sentient, took up heavy drinking, and got a concealed carry permit.

Now that I say it out loud, however, "nice desks and lots of flag images" rather does seem like a format anyone with a MacBook Pro and some carpentry skills could whip up in short order, and there is literally no end to the number of conservative pundit-wannabes willing to sell their souls, their parents' souls, and their pets' souls for a chance at being the next fabulously wealthy movement talking head. It is possible that Fox may indeed have reasons to be worried, here.

On one hand, Trump voters are going to forget about Trump after he's gone. They're going to move on; if you doubt that, just consider how hard Trump himself is fighting to stay relevant and powerful-seeming only a week after losing the election. There's not going to be a Trump News Network, any more than there's going to be a Donald Trump Healthcare Plan or a Donald Trump Here Are My Taxes Day. This is it for him. It's either retirement or prison. Trump's insistence that his viewers not watch the Bad network is not likely to last long into the Biden administration.

On the other hand, Fox News itself has created an addiction in their viewers that anyone with a website and a willingness to lie can easily fill. Macedonian teens may have pioneered conservative hoax-news sites, but now American private equity firms want in on that action. They have money, and Fox has proven that there is an audience for pie-to-the-face conspiracy clown fights.

It's hard to see how Fox will respond to this new climate, but they've put themselves in a tough spot. When they ceased to be a "news" network and just began inventing conservative-pleasing news on the fly, they created a new market in which the most ridiculous invented news would likely win. Now Sean Hannity and the others are playing in a new pool alongside people who claim the fringes on flags stand for global socialism or that having Dear Leader spit in your mouth will cure COVID-19.

I mean, Tucker Carlson will likely be able to go with that flow without breaking a sweat. But the network heads themselves have got to be feeling a bit of heat.

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