But important to note, nonetheless. Over the weekend, Kevin Drum published a lengthy article worth reading about the roles Fox News and White Christian evangelicals have played in the polarization of the U.S. political system. Here’s a tiny bit from the article that sums up Drum’s thesis (boldface mine):
The answer to the increasing amount of hate in our politics, then—the only answer that fits the data—is almost certainly Fox News, along with the increasing despair and commitment of conservative evangelicals. We saw it in the Fox-led tea party eruption of 2009. It’s evident in the fact that white evangelicals are the most faithful viewers of Fox News. It was behind the monthslong Fox coverage of “fraud” following the 2020 election. And we’re seeing it right now in the endless Fox coverage of critical race theory and supposed anti-white bias in general…
The Fox pipeline is pretty simple. Fox News stokes a constant sense of outrage among its base of viewers, largely by highlighting narratives of white resentment and threats to Christianity. This in turn forces Republican politicians to follow suit. It’s a positive feedback loop that has no obvious braking system, and it’s already radicalized the conservative base so much that most Republicans literally believe that elections are being stolen and democracy is all but dead if they don’t take extreme action.
I understand that this is not an exciting conclusion. Liberals have been fighting Fox News for years with little to show for it. It’s more interesting to go after something new, like social media or lunatic conspiracy theories. But the evidence is pretty clear: Those things act as fuel on the fire—and they deserve our opposition—but it’s Fox News that’s set the country ablaze.
I think Drum’s explanation is correct but incomplete. He does correctly and accurately explain how Republicans became radicalized. But one part that is missing–and is essential–is the outsized role White Christian evangelicals play in the U.S. political system (boldface added):
One of the minor annoyances of the last four years (because we’ve had some very big annoyances recently) is the idea that Trump Changed Everything, when many of the same patterns just continued onward. As some asshole with a blog noted recently, fifteen percent of the country considers itself to be white evangelicals, but those same white evangelicals make up twenty eight percent of the electorate (and forty percent of the Republican electorate). That is, a white evangelical vote counts twice as much as everyone else’s. Put another way, everyone else’s vote only counts as 85% of a white evangelical’s (which I suppose is better than three-fifths).
The flip side of that observation is that Democratic voters–that is, the voters who either usually vote Democratic or else don’t vote at all–are underrepresented. That can’t be attributed to Fox News (or if so, very indirectly). That can be laid to a considerable extent at the feet of the Democratic Party, both in terms of communications and policy–people, especially Democratic-leaning people, have to like this crap. In Ohio, after the 2016 election, it was clear that Democrats lost votes because Democratic constituencies didn’t turn out because they didn’t believe Democrats delivered–the irony is that economic anxiety probably didn’t play a big role in motivating Republicans, but did demotivate likely Democrats.
In other words, the Fox News effect is larger than it should be because their target audience of White Christian evangelicals turns out at an extremely high rate (in no small part because of Fox News).
So how do we fight back against this? Leaving aside what Democrats can do to fix themselves, a topic that has been covered extensively (including on this shitty blog!), what can we do to stop Fox News? While boycotts are popular, the reality is Fox News earns more money from mandatory cable subscription fees that it does from all of its commercials. If you subscribe to almost any cable system (most include Fox News automatically–you don’t get a choice), you are subsidizing Fox News–and not insignificantly: Fox News receives an average monthly subsidy from people who never watch Fox News of $7.75. This is far higher than any other ‘standard’ news station, and those stations aren’t mainstreaming White Christian supremacy.
If we want to stop Fox News, we need to cut off its lifeblood, and that lifeblood is cable subscription money. Instead of boycotting advertisers, which doesn’t do much, we need to start boycotting cable systems that carry Fox News, as well as, pressure these companies to give ‘opt-out’ options for Fox News.