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Fox News: A Crackpot Network That Doesn’t Recognize America. By Joan Walsh

Megyn Kelly and Howard Kurtz are mad at me. Or at least, people like me. They’re angry at the “liberal media,” [2] which they claim turned the sad story of the Duggar family sex abuse scandal [3] into a “red-blue” issue, in the words of Kelly.

That’s hilarious. First of all, the Duggars made themselves a political issue when they became political activists, endorsing [4] ever more right-wing candidates, [5] crusading to deny LGBT people their rights, and accusing transgender folks of being “child predators.”  [6]The Duggars’ rights weren’t being infringed. No one tried to stop them from having 19 kids and counting.

I might make the case, now, that they had too many kids to care for properly, given the repeat abuse by son Josh of four of his sisters, including a five-year-old. I might make the case that their fundamentalist patriarchal view of family pathologizes normal sexual urges while making young women the property of their parents and then their husbands. But no one in authority judged them, or tried to stop them, or suggested parenting classes, or made sure their sons were being supervised and their daughters protected.

Now it’s Fox that’s trying to make the Duggars’ troubles a political issue, and it’s more evidence of how badly Roger Ailes has gotten off his own game. Increasingly, Ailes is trying to turn crackpot, fringe figures — Cliven Bundy, the Duggars – into sympathetic stand-ins for the so-called “silent majority” he targeted, to great political success, in the late 60s and early 70s.  And it’s not working.

At their best/smartest, Ailes and his client Richard Nixon tapped into genuine angst felt by large numbers of Americans in the 1960s. They were never a majority — although they probably were a majority of older white people, sadly — nor were they entirely silent.  But this grumpy plurality believed that their values were being challenged and their lives were being changed. That was key to the white backlash that restored Republicans to power after Lyndon Johnson trounced them in 1964.

Leaving out whether it was fair, or overly animated by racism, millions of white people resented busing; believed removing prayer from schools was wrong; and worried about rising crime rates, the prevalence of divorce, and growing drug use. Ailes helped Nixon channel their worries into politics, and they took the white working class away from the Democratic Party, perhaps permanently.

The old magic doesn’t work as well any more politically. Since Ailes launched Fox in October 1996, Republicans have lost the White House in three of five elections (and lost the popular vote in a fourth.) Still, his grumpy plurality is large enough to make big profits for Rupert Murdoch, and trouble for Democrats.

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