mroach / Flickr fox news...
mroach / Flickr

The last few weeks of Fox News’ inflamed rhetoric going into warp drive alleging assassination plots and speaking of coup d’etats now makes sense. In January the Fox News website is physically moving to the same location as Fox News television. Under the direction of Today Show veteran Noah Kotch, who took over Fox digital six months ago, the Breitbart-ization of the Fox News website, and apparently the network itself, is actively underway.  Politico:

A website that had been more closely identified with Shepard Smith’s brand of reporting has now moved closer to the mold of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, according to former staff members. “The approach has gone much more the way the prime-time programming works,” said one, “where it feels more agenda or opinion driven, or combative.”

In the process, the website has “gone a little Breitbart,” said Jonathan Albright, the research director at Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Albright studied and mapped out the online news ecosystem during the 2016 election, finding then that was a “traditional conservative” site. Since, he said, “they’ve gotten more on the Trump bandwagon.”

Harvard Law School Professor Jochai Benkler determined that Fox News’ only market is the right wing and they have to dominate there or perish.

Analyzing linking and sharing patterns of 1.25 million stories, his group found that Fox News and Breitbart formed the heart of “a relatively insular and self-referential” online news ecosystem. In other words, people reading, sharing and linking to Fox News and Breitbart were, for the most part interacting only with other right-wing news sites, and not mainstream outlets like The New York Times, Washington Post, or even Wall Street Journal. That means, Benkler said, that conservatives are Fox News’ only potential audience.

During the primary, when Fox News was more critical of Trump — and Breitbart turned against Fox, attacking it in several headlines — Benkler said the site’s influence decreased. “Fox News became less prominent, fewer Twitter shares, fewer Facebook shares,” he said. But that changed during the general election. “It’s only when they line up, after Trump essentially wins out, that they return to their position of prominence,” he said. “In many senses, it was a capitulation of Fox News to the Breitbart line.”

As of right now, from all appearances it would be safe to say that has abdicated normal news coverage, as that term was previously understood on that site, and is now dedicated to all propaganda all the time.

During the day on Monday, for instance, the website provided full coverage of the Amtrak derailment in Washington state, but by evening, while most other news outlets were still focused on the deadly crash, had flipped to a lead headline that read: “JUMPING THE GUN? Holder, liberal activists gear up for Mueller firing with protest plans.”

And last week, when Trump visited the FBI headquarters to deliver a speech, the lead headline on the site asked if he was entering, “ENEMY TERRITORY.”

Former staff members also described an ideological slant in the framing of stories that they don’t believe existed before Trump, or the hiring of Kotch in June.

One example came when House Republicans passed their tax bill on Wednesday. The site’s lead headline was openly celebratory, declaring, “RELIEF IN SIGHT.” Later in the day, the top story shifted to “anti-Trump bias allegations” against Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

One former editor was particularly upset over the headline of an October story about North Korean nuclear scientists, which referred to them as, “Rocket men.” The former editor was dismayed that the site would adopt one of Trump’s favorite insults as its own language.

Under Kotch’s direction the trend is very clear. One goal that he has in mind is to keep Hillary Clinton alive and well and serving as all purpose scapegoat. Headlines screaming “FUSION COLLUSION” are quite common.

As for Clinton, he said, “I don’t think we stand out in terms of the amount of coverage that’s being given to her.”

“She is the person who has continued to be in the media. She wants to be in the media. She just published a huge book. She’s doing a huge press tour of enormous interest. If you look at the Web traffic, if you look at what people are clicking on, they’re extremely interested in her. She is effectively at this point the shadow leader of her party, for want of anyone else. It’s a legitimate story that we’re going to cover,” he said.

Just when you thought Fox News couldn’t get any stranger, it proves you wrong. Now it’s dedicated to out-Breitbarting Breitbart. And you can be sure that Bannon and the boys won’t just be sitting idle. They were planning, in fact, to move on Fox News’ territory, via Sinclair Broadcasting taking over local news. Looks like Fox made the first move. This is going to be a very strange duel. May the First Amendment and democracy be strong enough to withstand the carnage.


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