Racism, homophobia, immigrant bashing, misogyny and a general tone of violent rhetoric is almost commonplace at Fox. Their motto of “Fair and Balance” seems apt at this point where they are fairly balance with comments of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia. The saturation has produced an almost normalizing effect whereupon progressives and society at large don’t even notice at this point, simply dismissing as Fox being Fox. Yet, the consequence, the pollution of the public discourse, the assault on the epistemology of truth, and an overall souring of the public airwaves with daily morsels of disgusting, vile, and reprehensible rhetoric, illustrates that “Fox being Fox” poses a serious threat to Democracy, not too mention justice and equality.
Eric Bolling brought today’s daily dose of Fox bigotry to us. In a recent speech, Rep Maxine Waters referred to Reps John Boehner and Eric Cantor as “demons,” because in her eyes “they are bringing down this country, destroying this country, because they’d rather do whatever they can do [to] destroy this president rather than for the good of this country.” In response, Bolling took to the air to once again to reveal his own racial politics, and the level of discourse coming from Fox. Telling her to “step away from the crack pipe,” he warned Waters of the consequences by referencing Whitney Houston: “Congresswoman, you saw what happened to Whitney Houston. Step away from the crack pipe, step away from the Xanax, step away from the lorazepam because it’s going to get you in trouble.” Claiming it was a joke, Bolling didn’t even offer the proverbial “I am sorry if you were offended.”
None of this should be of surprise given Bolling’s history on Fox. Referencing a visit from Gabon President Ali Bongo Odimba to the White House, Bolling once asked: “Guess who’s coming to dinner? A dictator. And “It’s not the first time he’s had a hoodlum in the hizzouse.” This is the same guy who lamented “Obama chugging 40’s in IRE while tornadoes ravage MO” and recently in a conversation compared Obama to a drug dealer who opened “Barry’s Pot And Coke Emporium.”
Bolling’s comments about Maxine Waters come on the heals of Liz Trotta warned of the potential harm that would come in allowing women “to work closer to the frontlines.” Blaming feminists, Trotta argued that efforts to integrate women onto the frontlines was part of a feminist plan and that these efforts have led to increased sexual violence, an unavoidable consequence in her estimation:
It seems they have actually discovered there is a difference between men and women. And the sexual abuse report says that there has been, since 2006, a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults. Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact, the whole airing of this issue has never been done by Congress, it’s strictly been a question of pressure from the feminists.
Not done, she went on to argue:
We have women once more, the feminist, going, wanting to be warriors and victims at the same time” and later added that feminists “have also directed them, really, to spend a lot of money. They have sexual counselors all over the place, victims’ advocates, sexual response coordinators. … you have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much.
Her comments represent a disgusting normalizing of sexual violence, an effort to blame women for rape, and to otherwise put the burden on women to avoid situations where there are potential predators. Steve Benan described her comments in this way (Jon Stewart also offered a response): “To hear this Fox News contributor tell it, American women in the armed forces should expect sexual assaults; American men in the armed forces are likely to become sexual predators; and the American military shouldn’t bother to take any of this seriously. That anyone would find such attitudes acceptable is just stunning.”
None of this should be surprising. This is the same Liz Trotta, who once joked about “joking about killing Obama,” noting “now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama, um, Obama. Well, both if we could.” Her recent comments are, thus, business as usual.
In a recent column about the XXL and Too $hort, Mark Anthony Neal offered insight about strategies of resistance regarding the saturated airwaves: “Fact is that few, who are regular subscribers of XXL or regular consumers of their content will feel compelled to reject the publication, no more than those offended by statements, by say Misters Whitlock or Martin (as examples of two recent controversies) will stop watching Fox Sports or CNN (or listen to Tom Joyner).” Yet, these strategies are not enough or sufficient in combating a cultural norm of sexism, racism, homophobia and xenophobia. When the rhetoric reveals itself each and every day, in different spaces, by different people, we can see how systemic the problem has become throughout our media culture (and society at large).
Fox, however, is at the center of this destructive cultural influence; because of their continued efforts to promote these ideologies, new strategies are needed. Denouncing, exposing, and demanding accountability will only take us so far. As Dr. Neal notes, “We need some new strategies—this protest, petition, and wait for the apology, suspension, removal is getting old.” It is especially getting old when Fox skips the suspension or removal phase (sometimes even the half-hearted apologies), instead allowing for these same people to pollute the airwaves each and every day.
David J. Leonard is Associate Professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies at Washington State University, Pullman. He is author of After Artest: Race and the War on Hoop (SUNY Press, spring 2012).