The Foxification of American Democracy, Part 1

Shadia B. Drury

There is something captivating about watching Fox News. It makes one feel privy to a forbidden and muzzled voice of reason and truth. It projects the thrill of revelation—uncovering a reality that stands in marked contrast to the homogeneity of a world governed by self-censorship and “political correctness.” Unfiltered and uncensored, Fox unflinchingly delivers what is suppressed or mocked by the “liberal media” and the ruling liberal elite. There is no doubt that it has set the stage for the rise of Donald Trump and his conspiracy theories.

So, what is the covert reality that Fox is determined to expose? Day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, for the last eight years Fox News has been telling its audience that Barack Obama is the worst president that the United States has ever had in its history—barring none. One after another, self-styled “experts” repeat this “fact.” They blame him for the violence in Iraq, the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the civil war in Syria, the proliferation of terrorist organizations around the world—as if these problems had nothing to do with the previous president, whom they championed. No, the chaos belongs to Obama. Why? Supposedly, it is because Obama withdrew troops too precipitously from Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, ISIS has emerged in the vacuum. Failing to project strength through military might, he has exhibited weakness, emboldening America’s enemies. Now America and the world must contend with an existential threat to Western civilization.

What remains somewhat murky is whether the shortcomings of the Obama administration are a result of incompetence or something much worse—treason. The latter has been perpetually insinuated ever since Trump led the “Birther Move­ment,” which figured prominently on Fox. It was an effort to delegitimize Obama’s presidency before it began. Against all evidence to the contrary, Fox seems convinced that the president is not an American born in Hawaii but a Muslim born in Kenya.

It follows that the enemy has infiltrated the American government at the highest level—what a terrifying specter of treachery and sedition! It explains why the administration has signed a treaty with the Islamic state of Iran that is win-win for Iran, which has received billions of dollars (destined for terrorists bent on attacking the homeland) in exchange for making no concessions worth noting. It also explains why Obama and his administration refuse to call the biggest threat facing the nation by name—“radical Islamic terror”!

With nothing less than the authority of Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, Fox reminds its audience that Hillary Clinton and the rest of the liberal elite want to allow even more Muslim refugees from Syria to enter the United States. There is no way of knowing how many of them might be terrorists. Nor do we have any idea if these Muslims intend to integrate and become Americans or are bent on instituting Sharia law throughout the country. The Islamicization of Europe has already happened; there are “no-go zones” in London and Paris where women without head scarves do not dare venture. The United States is about to suffer the same fate.

Even though Fox News is almost fact-free, it cannot be dismissed out of hand, because it asks important questions, makes some valid criticisms, and contains disturbing half-truths. Did the Obama administration give Iran billions of dollars as a reward for agreeing to stop its nuclear program? No. Iran was allowed access to billions of its own assets, which had been frozen by U.S. sanctions.

Is Obama’s reluctance to use the phrase radical Islamic terror an indication that he is in cahoots with the terrorists? No. He explained that he is reluctant to use the term because he thinks that Islam is a religion of peace that is being hijacked by violent and deranged individuals. He has also explained that most Muslim Americans are upstanding citizens who fight in the armed forces, sacrifice their lives for their country, and cooperate with law enforcement to identify potential threats from radicalized individuals. Is this a good explanation? Not really.

Fox makes a legitimate criticism: Obama should call a spade a spade. To say that Islam is a religion of peace that has nothing to do with terrorism is like saying that Christianity is a religion of love that had nothing to do with the Crusades or the Inquisition. Muslims must admit that even though their religion was historically more tolerant than Christianity and its adherents had a history of living peacefully with Jews (something Christians cannot boast), it is going through a very regressive period during the twenty-first century. Being in denial will not help Muslims save their religion from opprobrium by standing up to radical imams and expelling them from their midst—not just in North America and Europe but around the world. However, to claim that radical Islamic terror is an existential threat is a gross exaggeration. Although repugnant, Islamic extremists have so far killed an insignificant number of Americans in comparison to those killed by rampant gun violence. Yet Fox is a vociferous opponent of any gun control.

Is Fox right in thinking that Muslim immigrants threaten American liberty? That depends on another question: Do Muslims come to America for the freedom it affords, including religious freedom, or do they come to spread Sharia law? The same question can equally well be asked about the radical Christians (such as the Puritans) who were the earliest settlers. The answer in both cases is the same. Some came for religious freedom, while others hoped to impose their religion on the new world. Some of these radical Christians are still trying to make the United States into a “Christian nation.”

Bent on seeing Muslims as the “other,” Fox fails to recognize the similarity between radical Muslims and radical Christians. Both threaten the liberties enshrined in the Constitution. Both need to be sent a clear message: The United States is a melting pot; people who want to live there must respect the values enshrined in the Constitution—no matter when their ancestors came to the country. However, religious radicals are not the only problem.

Fox is right in thinking that American liberalism is also part of the problem. Unhappily, American liberals have lost their nerve. They have foolishly embraced Canadian ideas of multiculturalism. They think that telling newcomers that they must assimilate is some sort of cultural colonialism. But it is not. It is cultural colonialism to invade foreign countries and impose on them American-style governments and values. It is not colonialism to defend these values at home, where they belong. A free country does not have to be suicidal.

Is Fox right in criticizing Obama for weakness? No. Is Fox right in assuming that military might is the best way to subdue enemies? No. Fox never mentions Obama’s robust drone program in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and elsewhere. It is an unrelenting display of military might. Yet, far from intimidating enemies, it emboldens, enrages, and inspires them. Is it incomprehensible for people to be incensed at the specter of little children mowed down by drones while playing outside or when walking to school? Is it incomprehensible for people to be furious enough at the random terror of U.S. drones that some are willing to don a suicide vest in order to inflict the same random terror in the Western societies that support U.S. terrorism? In the world of Fox, only weakness emboldens enemies. In the world of Fox, the evil of the enemy is incomprehensible and totally gratuitous—like the Devil’s revolt against God. It is no wonder that Fox resonates so profoundly with a Christian audience.

Shadia B. Drury

Shadia B. Drury is professor emerita at the University of Regina in Canada. Her most recent book is The Bleak Political Implications of Socratic Religion (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).