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Media Matters went through the painstaking research of calculating just how much time Fox News primetime hosts have spent during the past two weeks covering deadbeat cattle rancher Cliven Bundy's dispute with the Bureau of Land Management over his refusal to pay grazing fees for the last 21 years like every other cattle rancher in Nevada, and the numbers are staggering:
Led by Sean Hannity, Fox News has devoted 4 hours and 40 minutes of its prime-time programming to cheerleading for a Nevada range war.
The reason for the coverage is obvious: Even though the real story amounts to nothing more than a guy who doesn't want to pay his bills, Fox was able to spin it into a clash between a simple cattle rancher and a Leviathan federal government, creating a storyline guaranteed to enthrall their conservative audience.
Sure, turning Bundy's story into a symbol for something which he has no business representing required Fox to invent a narrative disconnected from reality, but what's the harm in a little bit of storytelling? Well, there's a serious answer to that question: The harm is that by making Bundy into something that he is not, Fox created a flashpoint for dozens of extremists, turning what should have been a run-of-the-mill law enforcement operation into a dangerous standoff featuring scenes like this:
Fortunately, nobody got seriously hurt. But you can bet that if tragedy took place, Fox would be right there, covering the story they helped to create.