I'm still working on the Big Something, and I'm a little surprised to see that no-one has guessed it. There are lots of stories about it on the net, if you know where to look. The stateside media blackout has been remarkably effective.
I've also been reading books about Glenn Beck and Fox News (authored by Dana Milbank and David Brock, respectively). One theme keeps coming up: Conspiracy.
Fox News is Conspiracy TV-- a fact which became undeniable when they decided to promote the rantings of Glenn Beck, kook extraordinaire. Beck's main trick (which he borrowed from the John Birchers) is simple: He takes a lot of familiar conspiracy memes that have circulated on the anti-Semitic far right for decades, lops off the overt anti-Semitism, and sells the results to a huge audience. And I do mean huge: Even after being kicked off of Fox, Beck is still earning $80 million a year.
Most people don't realize that all of the outrageous guff Beck peddles about Woodrow Wilson traces back, ultimately, to various "underground" works written by American fascists. Don't believe me? Check out this blast from the past
, which demonstrates that Beck's favorite riffs originated with a notorious bigot named Gerald Winrod. Unless you have studied the history of the American fringe, as I have, you can't understand where Beck-ism comes from.
(I pity any naive kids who listen to Beck's crap. It's all new
to them. They might even take it seriously.)
Beck stumbled big time, of course, when he openly acknowledged that he drew from sources like Cleon Skousen and Elizabeth Dilling. Citing Lousy Liz was way, way
too obvious: Dilling used to flog the Protocols
, for crying out loud. Most Americans would not have known her name, but a lot of Jews -- quite properly -- keep track of these things. Beck, like many another recovering alkie, lacks impulse control, so he was bound to make a slip-up of this sort eventually.
Beck is but a symptom of a larger disease. My point is this: On Fox News, everything is a conspiracy. Paranoia is their product.
There's only one area of conspiracy theory that the Fox-ers consider out of bounds: Anything that has anything to do with the intelligence communities of the U.S., the U.K. or Israel
This means that Fox has it all backwards. Most of the conspiracy theories that have become so popular in recent times are, in fact, absolute hogwash. But history tells that there have been real conspiracies -- and the genuine ones usually trace back to the spooks. Conspiracy is what covert operatives do
Did you know that Bill O'Reilly has written (or co-written, which usually means lending his name to) a book about the JFK assassination
? I'm sure he's taking the lone nut line, although he may decide to go for the blame-the-commies angle. (Is Edward Epstein still around to offer advice? I think he is.) I'm also sure that the book will get on the bestseller lists and stay there for the anniversary of the assassination. Jim DiEugenio's long-promised magnum opus
won't get anything like that level of attention, even though it will contain a lot of bombshell material released via the Assassinations Records Review Board. The very idea of Bill O'Reilly poring through the thousands of pages of new material released by the ARRB is rather amusing.
(Hell, the idea of Bill actually sitting down to read
a book is rather amusing. And if Bill-O or anyone else tells you that there's nothing interesting in the ARRB documents, he's fibbing.)
Which brings us back to our larger point. Bill-O, if ever he took notice of a guy like me, would probably make a sneering reference to those awful, awful conspiracy buffs. But his network, Fox News, exists
to promote conspiracy theories.
Just to prove the point, here's Bill-O's latest,
in which he "proves" -- using the scholarly technique of proof-by-assertion -- that the entire Occupy movement is a conspiracy directed by Evil Soros and the Institute for Policy Studies (a long-time far-right hate-magnet).
It gets worse. When OSHA published a squib recommending that people working outdoors drink lots of water to avoid heatstroke, Fox screamed that this advice was all part of a socialist "Obama regime" conspiracy to control even the most minute aspects of our lives. Of course, as this blogger points out
, OSHA offered the exact same advice under Bush (and probably under every preceding president for as long as there has been an OSHA).
If you're a Fox Newser, it's okay to say that OSHA or Occupy is a conspiracy. But it's not okay to say that spooks killed JFK.
Maybe we should get Glenn Beck in on this. I'm sure he'll find some way to place Woodrow Wilson on the Grassy Knoll.
So what is
Fox News? One of the recurrent themes in Brock's book, The Fox Effect
, is that Fox is an anomaly in the Murdoch empire. America's most notorious propaganda network is surprisingly independent. Many readers will have a hard time getting their heads around that concept, since we all know that Rupert is a detail-oriented control freak.
(Incidentally, Fox responded to Brock with an absolutely hilarious hit piece
But Fox News really is a strange beast, and it gets stranger the closer you look. The rest of the Murdoch empire fears
Fox. That's the word Brock uses, and he cites examples.
Let's put it this way: Murdoch supported Obama in 2008. Murdoch has also said that he believes that man-made climate change is a genuine, serious threat. Rupert Murdoch is probably the only human being who might be allowed to express those views on Fox News. And even then, the Fox crew would bring on "experts" from the Heartland Institute to rebut him on global warming.
I'm not sure what to make of this situation. But I can tell you this much: The distinction -- one might even say the rift -- between Fox News and the rest of the Murdoch organization is real. Any Theory of Fox (or Theory of Murdoch) must start with that understanding.