If you were wondering why the media is suddenly telling you that Americans care more about “crime” than they do their own right to live, we have the answer. If you guessed Republicans, Fox News, and a complicit mainstream media, you win this Lose Your Democracy Bingo game.
A new study by Matt Gertz at Media Matters showed that Fox hosts turned “crime into a political cudgel against Democrats” in recent weeks (my bold):
Fox News prime-time shows featured discussion of violent crime in more than 1 out of every 9 segments over the last few months, according to a Media Matters review. The network’s stars are telling their viewers that Democrats are to blame for rising crime as they seek to leverage the bogus narrative to help Republicans triumph in the midterm elections.
Fox star Tucker Carlson advised Republican politicians during an August 19 monologue to focus on “law and order” in order to create a “red wave” in the fall. He urged GOP candidates to run ads featuring viral footage of crimes and provided them with a political message: “Joe Biden’s DOJ has done nothing to stop the crime wave and so it is accelerating everywhere.” The GOP’s candidates and admakers listened; within weeks, the party turned crime into “a central message” of its TV advertisements.
We have seen those ads here in Pennsylvania running against John Fetterman. The ads are inaccurate, but that isn’t being factchecked by the media reporting this sudden uptick in “concern” over “crime”. (Nor is the fact that the Republican Party is literally led by a man accused of innumerable crimes, running the gamut from sexual assault to fraud to an attack against his own country).
The ads are so relentless because Fetterman is so popular and the Republican candidate is not even from Pennsylvania but worse yet, Trump Republicans do not trust Mehmet Oz. So Republicans needed a last minute Bogeyman, which has been their go-to for decades now, and it was “crime”. It’s working, if we are to believe recent polls (there are many reasons not to believe this latest hot take on how Americans really don’t care about if women can live, because “crime”).
But the pounding has eroded two-ish points off of Fetterman’s lead in what it seems likely was Republicans and Independents who were thinking Fetterman was a better choice than Oz and now maybe don’t want to vote for anyone or maybe will hold their nose and vote for Oz.
The Media Matters article details many reasons why this “crime” concern is “largely disconnected from the realities of American criminal justice policy,” including:
Murders rose roughly equally in cities run by Republicans and cities run by Democrats,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice, while “so-called ‘red’ states actually saw some of the highest murder rates of all.”
They went through the dishonesty of the “defund the police” attacks and the irony that it was Trump whose budgets defunded the police, while President Biden actually increased funding for police, and Republicans opposed that funding – because it was in the American Rescue Plan, which helped people.
OK, so Fox has been banging on about “crime” being the fault of Democrats for almost two months now, but how did it get into the mainstream media?
A Columbia Journalism Review Harvard study published in March of 2017 showed how effectively Right wing media influenced the broader media agenda: “This pro-Trump media sphere appears to have not only successfully set the agenda for the conservative media sphere, but also strongly influenced the broader media agenda, in particular coverage of Hillary Clinton.”
Furthermore, “While concerns about political and media polarization online are longstanding, our study suggests that polarization was asymmetric. Pro-Clinton audiences were highly attentive to traditional media outlets, which continued to be the most prominent outlets across the public sphere, alongside more left-oriented online sites. But pro-Trump audiences paid the majority of their attention to polarized outlets that have developed recently, many of them only since the 2008 election season.”
First of all, if you look at their graphic, you can see this site and that our readers regularly visit traditional media sources (this is a good thing, or at least it should be) – and second of all, you are probably wondering why if liberals tend to read legacy media and watch CNN more than conservatives, why are media companies chasing conservative eyeballs even more now? They want the money, and to get it, they are willing to be a part of the death of this democracy by doing more “Hillary emails” conspiracies that conservatives click on.
Here’s a good thread on this whole media thought process and where it’s going to land us:
And why? As I have been writing about for years now, conservatives live in an epistemic bubble to such a protected extent that when I speak casually with Trump supporters where I live, I often have no idea what they’re talking about, even though I pay attention to the news all day long. Because what they are talking about is often not even real.
So this is how we have a media bending over even MORE to accommodate known conspiracy theorists, liars, and people spreading hate as we face the biggest threat to our democracy since the Civil War.
(It should be noted that by “conservatives” we are referring to the conspiracy-oriented, pro 1/6 terrorism and anti-votes that don’t go their way Right, not your grandparents who felt strongly about a balanced budget.)
When the talking heads on TV mention “crime,” do they fact-check the notion that Republicans are automatically seen as “stronger” on crime? Do they mention that the Republican Party is operating like organized crime? Do they mention the attacks the Republican Party endorsed, encouraged, and defended on law enforcement at the U.S. Capitol? Do they mention who actually funded the police? Do they mention the actual crime rates in red areas?
For the most part, they do none of the above. Context is dropped in favor of following Fox’s lead, which then feeds the Republican agenda by leading people to think about crime and blame Democrats, and then the media can double down on the reporting by reporting that people now cite this as a top concern. Gee, wonder where that concern with the mischaracterized solution came from.
The “crime” is more important than “abortion” story is a lie that started at Fox News and mainstream media pushed without enough/any context. Fox did it deliberately to help Republicans. Our media outlets know that they got caught being led around by the nose by conservatives, which is partly how we got Trump – and what are they doing now?
Bending over even more for conservatives as conservatives push the United States further into democratic backsliding and take lessons on how to steal power from an autocrat.
Listen to Sarah on the PoliticusUSA Pod on The Daily newsletter podcast here.
Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump.
Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.
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