So much for the idea of right-wing media reform.
In the wake of the Mitt Romney's loss last week, conservative voices raised concerns about the state of right-wing press and how the “conservative entertainment complex,” as writer David Frum dubbed it, had “fleeced” and “exploited” its followers by chronically, and purposefully, misinforming them about the issues of the day.
John McCain's former campaign manger, Steve Schmidt, lamented how much “power and the influence” the GOP Noise Machine has over Republican leadership. Today's commentators, he said, have given conservatism a “repellant” “snarl,” said Schmidt.
Now, just ten days after Romney's drubbing, and just ten days after Republicans sounded alarms about chronic and paranoid misinformation on their side of the media aisle, Fox News is applying contorted pretzel logic as it desperately tries to turn the General David Petraeus extramarital affair story into a “Watergate”-like chapter in the supposed mega-scandal surrounding the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Benghazi represents the would-be bonfire that Fox News has tried to light time and again in order to fan the ugly flames of Obama hatred. Fox has now formed an impenetrable wall of noise on the topic. Since Novemeber 1, “Benghazi” has been mentioned far more often on Fox News than it has on CNN and MSNBC combined, according to TVeyes.com
Keep in mind there's nothing about the Petraeus story that connects his extramarital affair to how the government responded to the Benghazi attack, or how it explained the attack.
Yet that now forms virtually the entire basis for Fox's coverage of the story. Fox has simply concocted a story it wants to cover (Petraeus + Benghazi = scandal) and focuses on it relentlessly.
So, Fox regular Jay Sekulow suggests impeachment may be on the table “if the president lied” about Benghazi. And in a question typical of the network's over-the-top tone, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy pondered whether Petraeus was “being blackmailed by the White House to toe the company line” regarding his previous testimony about Benghazi.
From conservative blogger Ann Althouse:
The cancer on the Presidency is lying exposed -- grisly and repulsive -- on the surgical tray that is the media.
It's painfully obvious that despite concerns about the long-term effects of a misinformation echo chamber, Fox is not willing to change. It's not willing to turn off the fake outrage machine (Benghazi's worse than Watergate!) because that's what fuels Fox News. Without phony outrages constructed from conjecture and lies, there's no there there at Fox News. There's no programming. There's no content. And there's certainly no hook to keep viewers tuned in.
The absolutely sorry display now being put on by Fox and the rest of the right-wing media bubble with regards to Benghazi only confirms that the practitioners have no interest in mending their dishonest ways. Any conservatives who were hoping their media entertainment complex would be willing to engage in some post-election introspection are surely disappointed. (Unless they think hyping calls for secession qualifies as introspection.)
Then again, what's the incentive for well-paid commentators to change their ways?
Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Roger Ailes are all drawing seven and eight-figure salaries this year. You think they're going to change Fox News and moderate the message so the GOP can better communicate with independent voters and maybe pick up a couple senate seats in 2014?
Think again. Fox News doesn't answer to the Republican Party. Fox News answers to Nielsen. And Obama's presidency has been very, very good to the GOP Noise Machine's bottom line.
It's possible conservatives last week were only angry because they were the ones who were suckered by the relentless “Obama's doomed” narrative pushed by the conservative press; because Fox had kept its viewers “wrapped in a gauzy bubble of conservative notions about a country that had lost regard for its president,” as the New York Times' David Carr put it.
Or, in the words of an immortal headline on Rush Limbaugh's website the day before the election, “Everything -- Except The Polls -- Points To a Romney Landslide.”
But if there's genuine concern about the right-wing media not telling the truth to its followers about a wide array of topics, and if conservative activists think being chronically misinformed about the world around them is a bad thing, that having Fox News and Rush Limbaugh be the paranoid face and voice of the Republican Party hurts them come election time, then the Noise Machine's machinations this week must come as a disappointment.
But nobody should be surprised.
Nobody should be surprised, for instance, that right-wing talkers have been denouncing Obama for allegedly having known about the Petraeus investigation prior to Election Day (he did not), while at the same time denouncing him for having not known about the investigation. In other words, it's a conspiracy if Obama did know and it's a conspiracy if he didn't.
That's faux outrage defined.
And isn't it clear that if Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder, had picked up the phone in August or September and tipped off the president about the ongoing Petraeus investigation that the Fox News team today would be demanding Holder resign, while spinning a wild tale about how the White House had interfered with law enforcement?
But undeterred, Fox has pivoted and programmed its days and nights around the much less compelling question of why Obma wasn't informed about the CIA director's extra-marital affair earlier. (Here is why.)
Meanwhile, the fact that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was notified about the Petraeus investigation prior to Election Day and did not inform his colleagues hasn't been given much attention at Fox News. That fact ruins all the fun of pretending there's a sinister Democratic conspiracy of silence in play.
So yes conservatives, good luck trying to make Fox News accountable. Good luck trying to divorce yourselves from the abrasive, fact-free name-calling that now doubles as the face of the Republican Party in America. Fox News has no interest in change.