Even if you're familiar with Fox News, if nothing else because of its blaring omnipresence in your weird relative's house, you're probably not familiar with the Fox News website. It's a different beast entirely, and a place where the high-ranking Fox executives that work so hard at maintaining the fiction of Fox as anything but a hard-right propaganda outfit pay little attention and the staff can, for the most part, run wild.
We used to check in from time to time, back when the place consisted mostly of Todd Starnes posting one race-baiting column about "Black crime" after another; FoxNews.com's political and opinion subsides were reliably at or above Breitbart "News" levels of white nationalism-tinged xenophobia. And nobody, seemingly, gave a damn. Nobody in the Republican Party, nobody in the Democratic Party, nobody among the one billion pundits who rain down on us daily through the television screens and newspaper columns, none of the journalists working alongside their Fox News counterparts, nobody at all.
And then a wave of long-covered-up sexual harassment and assault accusations roiled the Fox executive offices, sent host Bill O'Reilly packing, and began the company's long night of figuring out just what the hell they were going to pretend to stand for, during a new Trump era in which new conservative networks willing to be even more boorish, more paranoid, and more racist threatened to eat the company's lunch.
So what have the Fox News website's "opinion" pages been up to more recently? Well, let's take a look at Tuesday’s offerings. We're not going to add links to most of these because screw 'em, that's why, but Google will help you out if you're a complete masochist.
You want cartoonish, they've got you covered:
Biden's State of the Union must make amends for woke response to China spy threat By Newt Gingrich
Everyone's worried about artificial intelligence, but I submit to you that the country has been awash in "artificial" intelligence for quite some time now. Sure, a computer could randomly assemble that sentence from its collection of parts. Putting a Newt Gingrich byline to it is what elevates it from that random sequence of words to that greatest of all random sequence of words: a take. Our nation is governed by takes, and most of them are as artificially intelligent as this one.
What if you want to be scared? A common theme through the posts is threat. Panic. Terror, if possible.
Biden's latest border gambit opens America's doors to evil child smugglers
Think threat of China's spy flights are bad? It's much worse than you think By Mike Rogers
TUCKER CARLSON: The people who owe you the truth on China spy balloon are lying to you By Tucker Carlson
Florida State University has been seized by the DEI bureaucracy By Christopher Rufo
That last one, notably, is a contribution by the author of the "Critical Race Theory" hoax himself—the "activist" who assembled an extremely obscure law school topic into a new alleged conspiracy that bundled every mention of current racism or the United States of America's explicitly racist history up into one supposedly anti-conservative agenda by the woke. He invented the hoax. He's been quite open about intentionally "recodifying" the phrase to mean "the entire range of cultural constructions" that the racist conservative base objects to.
Then there's the new "Fox Nation" streaming service, the dumpster in which Fox video efforts are placed when they're too absurd, too extreme, or too grotesque to win the support of the network's more wary executives. And that dumpster is very much on fire:
America 'unrecognizable' and on the brink of collapse, experts warn: 'Turning on our own legacy'
That's the headline plugging "American Requiem," a three-part Fox Nation series that is, well, pretty unabashedly fascist in tone and content. This is no longer the race-baiting hysteria of Todd Starnes, who was finally fired from Fox in 2019 because reasons. This is a recitation of core fascist tenets pushed out to whichever of your relatives and neighbors are fool enough to click on it.
How bad is it? It's pretty bad.
One of fascism’s central conceits is the theme of national decay and renewal, and that the emergency is so dire that neither democracy nor the current rule of law can right the ship. The fascists blame immigrants, especially those that do not "share our values," socialists, intellectuals, artists, educators, sexual "deviants," especially citizens who do not conform to fascism's obsession over "masculinity," and those who belong to religions or sects other than the movement's own.
That those groups exist is bad enough, but a nation's tolerance for these "other" citizens hastens the decline. Democracy is inadequate to the task, the nation's lawmakers and citizens alike being seen as too weak or too foolish to rein in the deviant classes. Therefore, a rebirth is necessary that casts those "weak" things aside, puts the fascists squarely in command, and allows the extermination of the thoughts and groups responsible.
Let's give this a go, then, and see where we end up. This isn't even the "three part series," mind you, just the Fox News attempt to promote it.
Is America dying before our eyes?
All societies eventually collapse – from the classical civilizations of Ancient Rome and Greece to the ever-alarming decline of modern America, could the past be hinting at what's in store?
Yep. We're starting out with nods to a specific neo-Nazi obsession: the fall of the Roman empire.
With skyrocketing inflation, political division, social unrest and a relentless effort to wipe away the fundamental principles of the nation, historians and scholars in Fox Nation's "American Requiem" series offer an elegy for what the country used to be and warn of what it has become.
Already we have established that there is a "relentless effort to wipe away the fundamental principles of the nation" underway. What fundamental principles are being wiped away? It is left unsaid—but they are gone now.
"The America of the 1980s has pretty much vanished," Manhattan Institute senior fellow Chris Rufo said. "We're now entering a new period of unprecedented economic, social and cultural change."
We find ourselves immediately confronted with, once again, the same critical race theory hoax-promoting fabulist Christopher Rufo we saw bylined in one of those earlier headlines; how convenient. He says the 1980's that were the better time, but what about them? Rufo himself was born in 1984, and presumably remembers approximately jack-all about the decade. Was it the McDonald's toys? Was it glam rock, when bands of men in skin-tight outfits and women's makeup dominated stages and televisions? The seventies brought us Star Wars and a host of cultural classics; does Rufo rate The Empire Strikes Back so highly that he has named the pinnacle of American greatness to be the decade that produced it?
Somehow Rufo came out of the decade, at the age of six, both exposed to the rebellious experimentation of the 80s and with a hard-right fury over mentions of race and the mere existence of LGBT+ Americans. Perhaps there were some steps in between.
This is the point where we get the first related link of the FoxNews.com piece, by the way.
CAL THOMAS: AMERICA'S EXPIRATION DATE – WILL IT COLLAPSE IN 2026?
Hmm, it feels like a theme is emerging here. Let's quickly skim through the other promoted pieces sprinkled into the story.
OPINION: BIDEN'S CATASTROPHIC COLLAPSE OF AMERICAN LEADERSHIP
TUCKER CARLSON: THE HOMELESS CRISIS IS A SYMPTOM OF OUR SOCIETY COLLAPSING IN REAL TIME
Got it. The nation is currently collapsing, in real time. All of it. Leadership; society; the nation itself. The collapse is not just imminent, but has already happened; thus, the need for an "American Requiem" as "elegy" for what the nation "used to be."
"There's [sic] some days I wake up and read the news and look around me and say, ‘I don’t recognize this country anymore.'" Steven Hayward, a resident scholar at the University of California, Berkley added.
It takes some gumption to put that pedantic [sic] in there and follow it up by misspelling "Berkeley." Hayward, by the way, is an omnipresent scold whose contributions include multiple odes to Ronald Reagan, who was not in an 80's hair band, and a whole book smearing Jimmy Carter of all people. I mean, Lord. He's also a longtime climate crank who thinks the planet and future civilization both need to suck it up and stop whining.
The three-part series dissects America's cultural fabric and the tears that it has suffered, picking out the pivotal changes that signal the nation's exponential decline in the last 30 years that created the country we see today.
Among the devastating changes, the Fox Nation special explores, are unbearable living costs, anti-American "woke" sentimentality infiltrating the nation's public schools and universities, riots in the streets of major U.S. cities, and the emboldening of the nation's greatest adversaries, including Russia and China.
That's an odd list, to be sure. This is the first we have heard of conservatism itself giving a damn about "unbearable" living costs, after decades of rhetoric insisting that if Americans would just pull themselves up by the bootstraps these things would solve themselves. But equal to that problem is, of course, an academic infiltration that is corrupting our national youth. Riots make the list, but not violent assault on the seat of government.
And is Russia our adversary, or are they not? On one hand we keep hearing from conservative leaders that Russia has become a beacon of freedom, what with their oppression of LGBT citizens and the production of hyper-masculine recruiting videos for their ramshackle appliance-looting military. On other days they are our "greatest adversary" again, probably depending on whether the great thinker being interviewed has written multiple books humping Reaganism as the high point of American society.
"The gas prices, the housing crisis, the crisis with education, with healthcare… [it's] one crisis after another," retired Vanderbilt and Princeton professor Dr. Carol Swain said.
It's mostly the same crisis. A national pandemic has disrupted the entire world's economy, and the world's economy was intentionally built to be fragile to begin with.
Dr. Carol Swain, who is Black, is a retired Vanderbilt University professor who quit after a 2015 student petition calling Swain "synonymous with bigotry, intolerance, and unprofessionalism" and demanding she be required to take diversity training, quickly gathered 1,000 student signatures. She went on to co-chair Donald Trump's "1776 Commission," an arch-conservative group formed to rebut The New York Times' 1619 Project, which it did mostly by demanding students be given lessons on patriotism in order to offset the supposed "indoctrination" they were exposed to.
If you're wondering.
As for the conservative response to "the gas prices, the housing crisis, the crisis with education, with healthcare": There is none. There has been none. The entirety of the response by the party of Fox Newsisms has been a new insistence on banning books and isolating LGBT students; that, apparently, is meant to fix gas and housing prices by osmosis.
But we should note at this point that fascism is emphatically not known for solving problems. It is known for inventing problems, for exploiting them, for directing blame to identified scapegoats, and for ignoring problems by creating often-farcical hoax problems that are declared to be far more important. It does this relentlessly, and solely for the purposes of elevating fascist power and marginalizing citizens they have deemed to be their foes.
"[People] have lost the hope that the future for America will be brighter than its past," Heritage Foundation President Dr. Kevin Roberts lamented.
The theme of national collapse, again. (Dr. Kevin Roberts is most famous for rejecting Title IV funding as president of "Wyoming Catholic College," part of a trend in which hard-right conservative colleges, some with dubious or no accreditation, have rejected the funding rather than comply with anti-discrimination requirements. In Roberts case, he cited the need to bar LGBT students or those that support them so as to not "contraven[e] church teaching."
Evidently, then, at least part of the formula for ensuring America's future be brighter than its past is that institutions be allowed to rid themselves of the same supposed undesirables that hard-right movements always settle upon.
"The chain of civilization is only as strong as its weakest link, and all the values have to be passed on in their entirety from one generation to the other," said historian and Hoover Institution senior fellow Victor Davis Hanson.
There was not one damn chance we would get through this thing without a quote from Victor Davis Hanson. Not one. Hanson, a military historian who gets along rather badly with other historians because of reasons, went from fervently militaristic Iraq War supporter to Donald Trump booster by way of a bit of exquisitely hamfisted racism at the midpoint; as a more reliably exhausting version of John Bolton, his beliefs seem fairly malleable and most focused on convincing someone to put him in charge of which countries get bombed and how hard.
The voices culminate to warn that erasing America's past and the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that constructed its foundation could spell a devastating change in the near future.
Culminate isn't the word I'd choose here, but the message is quite explicit. America is in extreme danger, on the cusp of a "devastating change." The culmination is a series of slogans devoid of meaning. Erasing America's past—does that mean changing the name of military bases, or banning books about famous Black Americans?
And the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are in danger from what? From "woke" educators? From immigrants? From non-Christians? From children who tell their parents they are gay—or tell everyone but their parents?
Which of the classical, necessary enemies of fascism are responsible for this national collapse that requires urgent, nation-breaking new measures in response?
All of them?
Incidentally, another of fascism’s common markers is shallow patriotism. The people must be "educated" in patriotism, say the fascists, in order to offset the salacious ideas that have been "indoctrinated" into them by socialists, intellectuals, or the impure. That patriotism is to consist of loving the flag and being able to recite rote patriotic phrases; in this nation a fascist movement might seize upon historical flourishes such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or In God We Trust, or Come and Take It, each of them sliced neatly away from whatever knot of history created them in order to be used as new slogans meant instead to signify in-group or out-group status.
Patriotism is retooled to be, definitionally, support for the fascist group and opposition to its enemies. That is all. There is no need for more history than what can be painted on the signs; a dozen words is too many.
We can sum things up at this point: What we have here, in the immediate wake of an attempted far-right coup by a president, party, and public movement unwilling to abide democracy's choices, is a three-part series explicitly devoted to the theme of national crisis due to ideological enemies in our midst—a panic-stoking "elegy" for the nation that will be lost unless immediate, unspecified, but almost unimaginably dramatic action is taken. And it comes as a host of other FoxNews.com headlines blare out the same message. Collapse. Crisis. Panic. Not from external threat, but from internal enemies whose "woke" ideas have destroyed the nation's greatness.
It's an explicitly fascist message. It's the whole premise of fascism as a movement and historical phenomenon, and it's being drummed into Fox's forever-angry customers hard. This is beyond panic over supposed "migrant caravans" or theories about George Soros being behind most of the world's ills. The new message is that the nation as a whole is in crisis, urgent and unfixable crisis, because we have not put the other in their place. All of the others. All of them, one by one by one.
This corporate behemoth is in a dark, dark place, and it seems hellbent on dragging the nation into a crisis of its own rhetorical invention.
Sarah Longwell is a longtime Republican strategist and prominent never-Trumper. Her podcast, The Focus Group, is a peek at the thousands of hours of focus groups she has conducted all across the country. Sarah comes on to give her thoughts about the state of the current Republican Party and why its future remains bleak.