Fox and Friends host Brian Kilmeade has saluted the EDL's Tommy Robinson with that ultimate New York assurance: "We've got your back".
This is obviously the latest in Fox News' attempt to bring the hottest international newsmakers to its 3million or so American viewers. Fox News, now that one of its own journalists has been the subject of scrutiny by various government agencies and whose cause has even been taken up by the esteemed New York Times, is on a kind of roll. So why not show its bona fides by spreading its tentacles to embrace those folks "overseas" who can provide a "fair and balanced" assessment of foreign goings on. And what better person to do that than the leader of the English Defence League? Being the head of something with the name "English" in it means that he can speak... well, English... a prime requisite for Fox News viewers who insist on Americans speaking nothing else. And with the word "defence" included in the title too, hey, what's not to like?
I first literally stumbled on Fox News in about 2007, when after frantically attempting to see if my Sky Box functioned after I'd dropped it, the first thing that worked on it was what I thought was a comedy show.
The Stars and Stripes waved gently in an imaginary breeze on the lower right hand corner of the screen, as a very funny woman ranted on about "Lefties". I thought that Ann Coulter - for it was she - was a comedian. Being a native of Chicago and used to 'Second City' routines, I sat amazed: How did she manage to combine this incredible comedy act with what looked like news comment. Fox News - what brilliance was this?
My American news memories are largely those of my long ago childhood and adolescence. Then very straight-laced men, in stentorian tones, told you the events of the day. And what they said was authoritative. There was no levity. No one shouted. No one HAD A POINT OF VIEW. Not on the news. The news was neutral. Or so I thought. Fox taught me that there is no neutral news. To Fox News and its viewers, all the news is slanted, all the news is Left-leaning.
As I realised later on the day that I discovered Fox News, I was not looking at a parody. This was real. I became fascinated by this entity, this anomaly, this concoction of comment, rant, bits and pieces of news, and something utterly toxic that was all its very own.
From that day until very recently, I was a Fox devotee. My devotion went through several stages. Because I'm a playwright, I was first thoroughly intrigued by the theatre of it. The women newsreaders all dressed like cool PR ladies for the Grand Ole Opre: full-glam makeup, lots of hair, shortish dresses, and - as they took pains to point out them - they all, to a woman, had law degrees.
The guys looked like every other news guy on the American TV that I remember except that they, talked in high, excitable tones. Every word seemed to have an exclamation point at the end.
Fox's breakfast programme, the one on which the EDL leader was assured that his back would be watched, is a kind of "wake-up-to-how-horrible-it-all-is" fiesta. To get Fox viewers ready for the day ahead. But it is the evening East Coast time, (1am and beyond here) slots where Fox News comes into its own, makes its money, creates its headlines. When I started watching the evening lineup there was Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes, the resident liberal, with their battle every night over the news of the day. Then came Bill O'Reilly, resident Big Thinker and creator of loads and loads of books, an Independent who tolerated "no spin". One black man, Juan Williams, completed the mix. And so that first phase of Fox watching for me was one of wonder and astonishment.
The next phase was the Age of Glenn Beck. How can I explain the rightwing awesomeness of him to anyone not American? Because every American knows him: Beck is the guy next door in the baseball cap who constantly stocks up on guns, canned goods, water, and binges on cookies while waiting for the Feds to come. And here he was: exhibiting this mentality live five days a week on TV. In time, his show became more and more whacked, the highlight being his interpretation of what he implied were the Illuminati-like origins of the Art Deco adornments on Rockefeller Centre. That was truly a performance I will never, ever forget. It was Glenn Beck who brought Tom Paine's monumental tome on liberty Common Sense to Fox viewers and with it yet another notion of an embattled America. This Beck-encouraged phenomenon came to be known under the generic term: the Tea Party.
Before I go any further, let me remind you that this blog is about a cable NEWS station, not a televisual right-wing talk radio. Which by the way, is what Fox News is. This is why it is the revolution. And why it has scattered everything else to the four winds. In asserting that news has a bias, a point of view, it simply dragged these assertions out into the light and clothed itself in them. Fox News recreated MSNBC, changed CNN, and scared the hell out of ABC, NBC, CBS - the warhorses I grew up with. Fox is conservative to right-wing, and slants the news that way. In doing so, Fox has played a huge part in creating the toxic political atmosphere that exists in America right now. It unabashedly aims to unseat the President of the United States; give unborn human beings citizenship; and wrap a big fat fence around the whole of the United States. That's just for starters.
Maybe Fox and Friends will give Tommy Robinson a slot as their UK correspondent, turn him into a benign guy, a kind of male Katie Couric. He can report, clad in a cutting-edge Savile Row suit, Handel soundtrack in the background, (no balaclavas allowed, even if they are branded), on the happenings in what most Americans think of as safe, funny, and kinda weird "Merrie Olde England."
With luck, and vigilance, neither Fox News nor its ilk will find its way over here.
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