There have been many, many Dominion/Fox cartoons since we looked at the immediate reactions. Here are some of the most thought-provoking from the second wave:
Jack Ohman starts us off with an extremely important factor to bear in mind, which is that, while the lawsuit and its revelations were major news on most networks, Fox barely covered it.
In a democracy, it’s critical that people have full information in order to make intelligent, responsible decisions at the ballot box. As JD Crowe points out, Murdoch’s settlement, though expensive, allowed him to hide the outrageous lies his network was purposefully spreading among its viewers.
Steve Breen (Creators) notes that it cost a substantial amount. Had the matter gone to trial, it’s quite possible that the damages awarded would have been considerably less, given that Dominion had mostly theoretical totals rather than actual, specific losses to claim. And, with appeals, Fox might have delayed payment for years.
Fox’s agreeing to pay a large amount without appeal was, for Dominion, a very good outcome, and, though more expensive than might have been necessary, it worked out well for Fox as well. Expensive, but worth it.
And, while expensive, it wasn’t nearly the disaster for Fox that Ed Hall suggests. It’s the most Murdoch has ever paid someone to make a problem go away, but Business Insider suggests that the total cost when his British reporters were caught hacking royal phones was close to Dominion’s original number, making a clean payoff a bargain. Murdoch has also paid to settle other lawsuits and there’s no reason for him to worry over the cost.
Jim Geraghty, a senior writer for the National Review, wrote a column for the Washington Post (no paywall) in which he argued that we should “Watch for cable-news outfits to decommission their loose-cannon hosts — not to squelch free speech but to avoid wrecking revenue.”
I highly doubt it, and Geraghty offers only weak arguments to back his opinion: The firing of Lou Dobbs and the network’s failure to come to a renewal agreement with Dan Bongino were, in the words of Sal Tessio, only business, while the top-rated loose cannons remain on the air, and, if they’ve been told to focus their fire, it’s not obvious yet.
And why should it be? Geraghty is right that Murdoch would likely want his hosts to avoid actual defamation in future, but, like others who overestimate the impact of the settlement, he doesn’t understand Fox’s economics:
The important factor is that it has been over a year since Fox sold any major number of spots on Carlson’s show, with the largest “advertiser” being Fox’s own promotional ads, and My Pillow being the next leading sponsor.
We’ll have to see how much advertising Lindell does after paying the loss of his $5 million bet and dealing with his own Dominion and Smartmatic lawsuits. Before that bet came due, Newsweek reported that he’d already borrowed $10 million to deal with his legal problems.
But Fox’s money isn’t coming from ads on Carlson or any other Fox News show. It comes from carriage fees paid by cable companies for the privilege of carrying Fox and its associated products among their offerings.
And with the massive ratings it generates, those carriers can hardly afford to drop the network.
Adam Zyglis sees that massive Fox audience as obedient, programmed bots, and there’s reason to agree that the constant drumbeat of fear, distrust and hate will do that, as seen in the depressing, enraging documentary memoir, The Brainwashing of My Dad.
But even without citing “Animal Farm” or “Brave New World,” RJ Matson depicts the plain fact of viewer loyalty and Fox’s intention of feeding that devotion. It’s too bad they aren’t using their influence, for instance, to persuade their fans to adopt abandoned dogs, but, if they did, that fellow would be awash in orphaned puppies.
As it is, Mike Luckovich says, he’s a loyal voter for the causes being pitched on Fox, and the settlement isn’t going to stop that. Hannity and others can continue to tell the Big Lie, as long as they don’t tie it to bizarre theories about voting machines or the purported activities of specific people with access to major law firms.
The restrictions on hosts are unlikely to be quite as direct as seen in Brendan Loper’s cartoon, though there will no doubt, be pressure to keep ratings at a level that makes it good business. But that’s nothing new.
While Cathy Wilcox suggests that, at worst, it’s a matter of circular economics in which the lies pay for themselves.
In any case, as David Pope says, the costs (those are Australian dollars) make sense for Fox, whether they do for individuals or for the nation being another question and one that Murdoch has never pondered, not in his native Australia, not in the UK and not here in the US.
Best of all, Kirk Walters (KFS) says, it’s tax deductible, which includes not just the payment but the legal fees as well.
Though, at the other end of that stick, Dominion will have to count it as taxable income.
As Rod Emmerson puts it, it’s money well spent. Even without the testimony reaching his core audience, it would have still badly damaged the brand and might even have stirred up issues among elected officials, which would have cost even more money to tamp down.
Lalo Alcaraz (AMS) takes the whole thing more personally, counting up the cost not in dollars but in damage to the nation.
Is anyone else dwelling on this aspect of the whole thing? Or have we all come to a point where we look into our wallets when we ought to be looking into our hearts?
Luckovich again, but, though he’s been red hot the past several weeks, his history is a little off in this one, because proponents of the Lost Cause did a fine job of promoting their own Big Lie without the benefit of broadcasters, getting it into the local and state governments in the form of Jim Crow laws, launching terrorist campaigns not only against freedmen but in the form of romanticized outlaws like the James, Younger and Dalton brothers.
And then, finally, inserting it as history into our nation’s textbooks, lying not about the outcome so much as the causes.
But ever with the Big Lie as the founding falsehood that motivated and energized their efforts.
Big Lies are good for that sort of thing. They were then, and they still are today.
The past is never dead. It’s not even past. — Wm. Faulkner
One thought on “CSotD: On Further Review”
Ironically, Matson depicts Tucker actually telling the the truth, for perhaps the first time in his Fox career.
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