Last week, Vox released one of its “explainers” – a video in which it details how Fox News has come to dominate coverage to what it sees as an unhealthy degree.
It opens with Carlos Maza, the 31-year-old creator of its “Strikethrough” video series, looking hopefully upward and saying, “I’m finally done watching Fox News. It’s rotting my brain, and only boomers watch that crap anyway. From now on, I’m watching real news, stuff that actually matters. I’ll never have to worry about Fox News ever a-“
At that point, it abruptly cuts to Brian Williams saying on MSNBC, “Two of the headlines on Fox News tonight …” This leads to a series of journalists on left-leaning networks, such as CNN and MSNBC, introducing stories by saying they had been covered first by Fox News. It finishes with three speakers saying, “Thank God for Fox News.”
Then, Maza explains that, “In an ideal world, political journalism looks like this.” It cuts to three people sitting at a table. In front of one is a sign that reads “REPUBLICANS.” In front of the man in the middle, it says ‘JOURNALISTS.” On the other side is a woman with a sign that reads “DEMOCRATS.”
“On either side, you’ve got the parties, fighting for the attention of the press,” Maza says. “In the middle, you’ve got journalists sorting through what’s important and what’s just partisan bullsh*t. This is called gatekeeping, and it’s one of the most important things journalists do. Political operatives can spin whatever talking points they want, but ultimately, it’s the journalists who decide what’s newsworthy enough to pay attention to. But that is in an ideal world, and we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in Hell. And in Hell, there’s Fox News.
“Fox exists in this weird in-between space,” Maza says. “Because it claims to be a news organization, but it’s essentially a Republican front group.”
The video mentions three times Fox was started by a political operative; it never mentions that so was Vox.
Fox News has “turned partisan hackery into an art form,” Maza says. It produces stories that don’t matter then hammers these stories until people start to care. “They’re doing political communications,” Vox senior correspondent Matt Yglesias says via Skype.
Once Fox gets on a story, other networks are forced to follow, Maza said. “Political journalists are very sensitive to complaints about liberal bias,” Yglesias says via Skype again. “So one of the things they do is overcompensate by paying a lot of attention to conservative media.”
Maza then says the Benghazi coverup was a nothing story started by Fox but followed, out of necessity, by the other networks. Most journalists would’ve been inclined to ignore the Benghazi cover-up, Yglesias says. “It wasn’t nothing. But it wasn’t the biggest news story in the world.”
But the biggest problem is “There’s no equivalent to this on the left,” Maza finally says. “That creates what Matt calls a hack gap. Because conservatives can manufacture their own outrage cycles, mainstream outlets pay a lot more attention to their bullsh*t. Which means even minor slipups by Democrats can become career-defining scandals.”
He then points to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s remarks before a Muslim group that “some people did some things” – referring to 9/11 – “and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”
“Pretty non-controversial, right?” Maza says. “Wrong again.”
We then see several clips of reporters talking about it – first conservatives, then MSNBC and CNN. He then comes back on to say, “This is the kind of hacky nonsense that good gatekeeping is supposed to protect us from.”
Maza then turns to the Hillary email scandal of 2016, saying a number of journalists “realized the email scandal was not the national crisis Fox News was making it out to be.” He then brings in Yglesias again to say the email scandal fed a Fox-created narrative that she was not trustworthy.
“You can try to ignore Fox News all you want,” he concludes. “But as long as journalists are getting their story assignments from conservative media, you can’t escape it.”