The revolution will not be televised – but it will be tweeted. That much was clear from Tuesday night’s coverage of the U.S. midterm elections, where conventional TV struggled to keep pace with so many fascinating stories breaking across the United States.
While Fox News was giving Sean Spicer a horrendous amount of airtime to demonstrate that it’s not just when he’s saying the words “Holocaust Centers” that he’s a total schmuck, Twitter was informing the world about Sharice Davids being elected the first Native American woman to serve in Congress; Colorado making history by electing America’s first openly gay governor, Jared Polis; and Michigan legalizing recreational marijuana.
>> Analysis: The era of total Trump control is over ■ An election night of firsts: From Colorado’s gay and Jewish governor, to Native American and Muslim women heading to Congress ■ Benjamin Netanyahu just lost the U.S. midterms ■ Thank you, America's women. You may yet save the world – from Trump
I should start this review with a confession: Tuesday was the first time I have ever watched Fox News. If nothing else, I proved to myself that when you’re in your fifties and doing something for the first time, it will only ever be an unpleasant experience. And yes, my next pain-in-the-ass fifties experience will no doubt be a colonoscopy or a World Music festival.
I’m actually quite proud of the fact that of all the viewing hours I’ve wasted over the past 22 years – and there have been many, especially thanks to you all four seasons of “Fear the Walking Dead” – not a single one has been on Roger Ailes’ propaganda machine.
Sure, I’ve seen numerous clips online of the channel’s blowhards doing their “Jail Bill/Hillary” routines. But it was instantly apparent that it is only possible to watch the likes of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro if their views are first filtered through an intelligent, reasoned person like Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert.
As the owner of a very highly-strung rescue dog, I obviously made sure she wasn’t in the room when I turned Fox News on for that fateful first time. After all, it would be cruel to subject her to all of those dog-whistles.
This also meant she was spared the sight of Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs enjoying a spell on the mothership and wading into former House Speaker Paul Ryan when the, ahem, “Fox Decision Desk” called the House for the Democratic Party.
Is it just me that thinks Dobbs could make a good career as a Recep Tayyip Erdogan impersonator if he just grew a thin mustache? There’s definitely more chance of that than as an impartial television host, for sure. As a Fox News employee, his vitriolic, partisan turn on Election Night seemed especially strange coming just hours after the network had publicly rebuked Hannity and Pirro for taking part in President Donald Trump’s Nuremberg, sorry, Missouri rally on Monday evening.
To be honest, other than loony Lou, I was a little disappointed by the balanced nature of the broadcast. I came expecting to finally get an answer to the question “What would North Korean state television look like if it were broadcast in English?” But instead I got a cordial host, Neil Cavuto, who treated people on both sides of the political aisle as if they were human beings.
One could even go so far as to say this was an almost “fair and balanced” representation of events (unless the discussion was about Nancy Pelosi) – which means the host should probably monitor his mail more carefully in the days and weeks to come.
Sure, the talking heads all leaned right rather than in, but Dobbs and Spicer were the only ones who really made you want to scream “Fuck you, Fox News!” at the screen. (And I would just like to take this opportunity to apologize to my elderly neighbors for any disturbances on Tuesday evening.)
Still, Spicer did induce a rare moment of laughter when he singularly refused to say the name “Beto” when discussing Ted Cruz’s vanquished Senate opponent in Texas, Robert Francis O’Rourke. You suspect he’s going to have to get used to saying it pretty regularly when the Democratic primary process begins next year – although, given his track record, don’t count against him saying “kapo” by mistake instead.
Before I started watching the coverage, I scrawled a few words on my notepad in order to monitor the number of times someone mentioned the word “caravan” menacingly, “blue wave” mockingly, “Donald Trump” manically and “Jared Kushner” mistakenly. I stopped counting the sneering references to a “blue wave” when it hit double figures, but was surprised that the immigrant issue was rarely mentioned. Or maybe that’s just because Trump himself wasn’t in the studio.
The Fox coverage focused almost extensively on Congress, overlooking the fact that the Democrats were enjoying a good night at the state level, with a predicted gain of five governorships. It did take an interest in the Florida gubernatorial race won by Ron DeSantis, yet while all of the pundits marvelled at the Sunshine State’s historically tight races, they all somehow forgot to mention that Floridians had just given the state’s 1.5 million former prisoners their voting rights back – which could make things very interesting in 2020.
With the Democrats predicted to win back the House and the GOP extending its Senate majority, the best instant analysis anyone could offer was, “It’s an odd night for politics.” Try posting that and seeing how many retweets you get.
There was also consensus among the ever-changing panel that if you were going to lose one race, the House of Representatives was the one to go for. They would say that, of course – but the fact is, I had to turn the contrast down on my television set to counteract the gleam in those conservatives’ eyes every time they referred to getting another Supreme Court justice pick in the next two years.
As I followed the election on Twitter during one of the interminable ad breaks (in Israel, we’re spared the ads and instead get filler Fox content on such riveting subjects as the dangers of E-cigarettes and the origins of beer foam – by the end of which you’re desperate for someone to sell you anything), I came across a story about Collins Dictionary’s new word of the year, which just happens to perfectly sum up my experience watching Fox News: single-use.
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