I stopped into a McDonalds in central Texas yesterday and Fox News was on. They were lamenting the fact that the Democrats only mentioned ISIS 25 or 26 times in their convention…while Donald and the Trumpians raised the ISIS specter over 500 times in their scare mongering campaign, which of course is an object of praise and promotion. A little too cheerily, one commentator noted that “that the first to be crucified, or I mean beheaded, (this self-correction so as to, apparently, not allow for a sort of Christian jihadi martyrdom) will be the liberals and homosexuals.” The conversation went on with a series of polemical ideologues pretending to be guest commentators, including, unhelpfully, a black sheriff from Milwaukee who denounced the protesters outside the Democratic convention ostensibly representing the Black Lives Matter movement chanted, among other things “Fuck the Police” (as could implausibly be heard in the fuzzy 2-second audio clip they played). This was matched with a shout out from the audience within the convention during a moment of silence for fallen police officers of “Black Lives Matter.” The Milwaukee sheriff then extemporated for some minutes on the “slime” (and other such foul adjectives) of the Black Lives Matter movement.
FoxNews, in the context of a society with robust free speech, has set itself up as the most creative model of a propaganda machine of fake news, all for the sake of mere profits. They did this because it worked for them, but despite all their cheerleading for Republican causes, I don’t know that they ever really cared about that party. They just knew that the partisans of a party entranced by their own fantasies (and most of whom happen to be good middle class consumers), would be sure viewers of their incestuous ideological dream. They fed fantasy after fantasy of spite and scorn to the delight of viewers who apparently loved the idea of internal enemies, who loved the idea that nothing was their fault, that they were the true Americans and the diverse democrats were, in actual fox-fact (faux-fact?), a dangerous disease upon the nation’s sick body. That all these other black and brown bodies were signs of that disease. Day after day and night after night. And it was not just the racism, but the war-mongering over non-existent WMD and the dangers of science, and everything else that Jon Stewart so energetically and tirelessly pointed out about the lies of “bullshit mountain.”
A generation came of age on this police state poison. I’ve watched Chinese and Iranian news on Tanzanian TV. The Chinese are definitely more fair and balanced than Fox, while the Iranians could only aspire to Fox sophistication and self-assuredness in their total mastery of the “big lie.” A generation came of age amidst these spite-filled fantasies, and it is no surprise at all that Donald Trump was nominated, and I have no doubt that Roger Ailes’s resignation at this particular point in time, after a lifetime of harassing women who worked for him, had little to do with sexual harassment and everything to do with a realization among the major Republican ideologues that they had poisoned their own well. That they had created a minority electorate who believed the lies so thoroughly that they could not see that this was all only a political ploy, a mere rhetorical strategy. Their viewers, and the majority of the Republican primary voters, believe it is real…. much to the horror of the hypocritical Republican establishment who are only now (after all the disasters of the Bush era and fake candidacy of Mitt Romney) becoming aware that unlike the boy who cried wolf so many times that no one believed him, in the case of the Fox, the cry became a permanent paranoia.
The academic in me knows full well that they failed to appreciate the power of discourse, the power of language to form a cocoon of perception that appears to the viewer as reality. We all live in such cocoons, but some are woven with more diverse strands that allow a texture much closer to the reality beyond the cocoon. Faux-news reality is a homogenous silk, iron-strong, and impermeable, like the chains of a despondent slave.
Donald Trump emodies the faux-reality they promoted. And in his almost-certain defeat (or in his unlikely but certainly disastrous victory) he will bring down the Republican party with him, so weighted down by belligerent lies, spite, and prejudice, never to rise again. There is no doubt that Trump’s barely veiled (veiled as in the dance of the seven translucent veils that reveal more than they hide) racism is very real, as in he is really a racist. He believes that non-whites are bad for the American genetic pool. His love for Putin is like the love of the European extreme right. He sees Putin as the white-knight strongman of a powerful white nation, ready to go to war with the world. The American racist right realized this a long time ago, and they have been some of Trump’s strongest supporters, even as he half-heartedly sloughs off their endorsements.
This racist fantasy is at the core of Trump and the core of Fox and the core of the new Republican party. Its greatest danger to them is not the racism (they can work with that) it is that racism is part of a bigger fantasy world that makes them ill-equiped to actually deal with the world as it is. And they are on the verge of a complete melt-down because of it.
For those who would like to be Republicans of the old ideal (never really existing) type of small-but-reasonable government, national-interest driven foreign policy etc, the only choice is the creation of a new party. It will take some years for this fact to sink in. But that is the reality. New parties arise only rarely in American history, so this will be a historic moment. Hard to say whether any of the old ideal-type Republican ideology can be revived from this. That ideology will be inherited mostly by the Clintonite Democrats. The Libertarians will inherit a large chunk of disaffected Republicans a not a few Democrats.
The Democrats downfall is yet to come. At some point the heady sense of victory will revive the dream of socialism and that fantasy ideology will weave its own cocoon of fantasy.