Yes, Antiwar Democrats Should Appear on Fox

by | Dec 9, 2020 | Commentary

Ithaca College alum and former PCIM student Sean Reardon writes his thoughts on the double standards and poor journalism in the Twitter discourse surrounding California Representative Ro Khanna’s December 1 interview on Fox News. “I fail to see the downside to expanding an explicit anti-war platform that promotes cutting the pentagon’s budget on Fox News—a network that routinely ranks as the number one news network in the country.”

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) recently appeared on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show, The Ingraham Angle, to discuss and advocate for cutting the U.S. Defense budget. His presence on Fox generated an infuriating discourse concerning the responsibility of elected officials and others to go on or refuse the network.

Much of the talk stemmed from a tweet by Vox’s Aaron Rupar:

Rupar’s grounds to disqualify Khanna’s interview are based on the past digressions of Fox, and specifically Ingraham. Without a doubt, Fox and its band of personalities regularly exercise media malpractice and peddle violent, racist ideologies. But Rupar isn’t considering the substance of what Khanna was pitching, or how Ingraham conducted this particular segment—only the platform on which it aired.

I don’t want to give Rupar more credit for generating this discourse than he is due, as he was blatantly applying a double standard:

Fortunately, replies agreeing with Rupar’s take were matched by equal criticism and debunking, including from journalists such as Glenn Greenwald and Zach Carter.

Like it or not, Fox News is not going anywhere anytime soon, thanks to the corporate media monopoly. The sheer amount of viewers and advertising money corporate networks garner is stacked against the possibility to boycott Fox News to force more than a sudden vacation for Tucker Carlson—or for more than a handful of advertisers to run away for a few weeks until outrage dies down. 

Thinking it self-evident to write off a major network, which holds sway over much of the electorate, reinforces a culturally overrepresented view of a divided country. No matter how abhorrent Fox’s practices are, a wing of the Democratic Party emphasizing division and a referendum on Donald Trump will continue to polarize voters. This same philosophy would put nearly 75 million people who voted for Trump in a basket of deplorables, or tell a voter not to cast a ballot for a candidate if they have problems with their immigration record. This attitude is indicative of the corporate Democrats’ overarching strategy of securing a very small, specific coalition that barely holds onto ineffectual electoral power.

The most unfortunate byproduct of conclusions by Rupar and the corporate wing of the Democratic Party on this issue is that it buries the lede on the substance of Khanna’s pitch to cut the Pentagon’s budget. The irony is all the more rich given Rupar’s theatrical puzzlement at backlash to Tony Blinken’s appointment as Secretary of State:

Rupar’s reductive comment on Blinken’s critics unfortunately tracks with the Democratic Party line view of the military-industrial complex: begrudgingly accepting the inevitability of intervention and the banality of the inner workings of the State Department. Parades of former Bush and Obama administration intelligence officials echo and remix these sentiments on CNN and MSNBC.

I fail to see the downside to expanding an explicit anti-war platform that promotes cutting the pentagon’s budget on Fox News—a network that routinely ranks as the number one news network in the country. For all the pitches to end gridlock and restore bipartisanship, cultivating an anti-war movement from the right wing of the U.S. electorate should be welcomed. 

I doubt the executives at Fox would allow an anti-war narrative to go far, considering the country’s history of bipartisan coalescence behind pro-war policies. Fox News is not anti-war. The network peddled the same CIA and State Department talking points that paved the way for the invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and more, that the New York Times, NBC, ABC, and CNN did. And Fox is just as likely to paint Tony Blinken as a socialist dove who hates the troops next week. But for now, the vital conversation over pentagon spending is being allowed on Fox, which is more than can be said of other news networks.

The traditional role of journalism as the fourth estate in the system of checks and balances of this country has been out of equilibrium for quite some time. Using Rupar’s own purity test, isn’t Rep. Khanna’s questioning of the world’s largest and ever-increasing military budget one of the purest examples of speaking truth to power? If Aaron Rupar held himself to these standards, he would be asking the same questions of the incoming Biden administration as Rep. Khanna is, and pressing Khanna on the substance of his arguments. Rupar would ask why Khanna accepts justifications for invading Afghanistan at face value, or why he framed his pitch in the context of competition with China. 

The country’s clamoring for a familiar leader and its collective sigh of relief in the wake of Joe Biden’s victory has obscured a lot of the opportunities to reset our views on things like the country’s military-industrial complex, which will undoubtedly be upheld by the likes of Tony Blinken. This will continue to happen with the help of cheerleading news networks and journalists like Aaron Rupar, who welcome the re-establishment of “normalcy.” Restoring the status quo may help the Democratic Party maintain ineffectual power in the short term. But outlets attempting to police discourse on both the left and right, according to cultural signifiers they and the Democratic Party have put in place, will further remove them from the pulse of the electorate. 

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