Fox News Up To Its Usual Tricks

The GOP’s McConnell-Rove establishment — to which Donald Trump normally clings when it’s decision-making time, rather than brand-selling time — judged Roy Moore an enemy of its uniparty state long before any allegations of dating relationships with young women, and in one case an underage girl, came to light. (That, recall, was why Trump supported McConnell’s lackey Luther Strange against Moore in the Republican run-off.)

Hence, it is no surprise that McConnell and his stealth progressive faction of the Republican Party leapt at the chance to play the morality card and oppose Moore’s candidacy over those allegations — almost, though not quite, to the point of literally endorsing the Democrat, Doug Jones.

It was therefore also no surprise that on the day before Alabama’s special election for the U.S. Senate, when all the other late-stage polls were ranging between a neck-and-neck race and a close Moore victory, Fox News released a poll showing Jones trouncing Moore by ten points

People who believe in the pseudoscience of political statistics-manipulation, aka election polling, like to use the suitably pseudoscientific word “outlier” to explain poll results that appear inconsistent with the majority of other polls conducted during the same period. An “outlier” is a poll that shows a similar result to many other polls, but by a noticeably wider margin, or that shows a close race tipping slightly one way while other polls show the same race tipping slightly the other way.

That Fox News result, on the other hand, seemed to stretch the meaning of “outlier” beyond the point of conceptual usefulness. And given the obvious and longstanding affiliation — unity, in fact — between the GOP’s stealth progressive establishment and the powers that be at Fox News, the real surprise would have been a late Fox poll showing Moore winning. As is obvious to anyone who thinks — sorry for the ad hominem, but some points hardly warrant logical argument — political polls are easily and commonly used as propaganda tools, by way of the power of suggestion. Once you have created a social climate in which most people make political decisions on the follow-the-bandwagon principle, it is relatively simple, and obviously effective, to create a narrative of “momentum” gained or lost, through artificially-produced optics — such as poll results or enthusiasm-draining interpretations of events. Fox News has used this methodology consistently and obnoxiously for many years.

Consider their desperate attempt to skew Ted Cruz’s primary upset in Iowa into a loss, by creating the absurd interpretation that Marco Rubio’s third-place finish was the “real” victory of the night. Donald Trump’s primary juggernaut was massively fuelled by Fox’s propaganda campaign against Cruz, using Rubio as their dark horse wedge candidate, exactly as they had used Newt Gingrich against Tea Party candidates in 2011-12, in order to prop up Mitt Romney. (I’ve written about all of these machinations several times, and many of those writings are archived here in Limbo, so feel free to look around.)

This time it was Moore — who had repeatedly promised to fight hard against McConnell and the establishment, and whose GOP primary victory was itself a slap in the face to McConnell — on the chopping block. 

I have no idea whether any of the allegations against Moore are true, though I believe only two of them represent serious ethical concerns (fourteen-year-old and “yearbook lady”), since there is no law against a man in his early thirties simply dating anyone over the age of consent, which almost all of the so-called “accusers” claimed to be. In fact, I’ve tried to avoid following the details of the case as much as possible, since I find all this explicit kiss-and-tell talk to be just so much crassifying media exploitation, of the “sex sells” sort.

My concern is not about Moore’s character, which I can neither vouch for nor condemn — though I admit to a certain morbid fascination with how many on the so-called “right” have been quick to join the “virtue-signalling,” as the saying goes, seemingly without knowing anything more about Moore’s heart than I do.

My concern is with the leading voice in the so-called conservative media, which produced and chose to release a poll in the waning hours of the campaign that looked wildly out of whack with all the other polls, and which was sure to have the most significant effect on Alabama’s Republican voters, a plurality (if not majority) of whom undoubtedly relied on Fox above all other media sources for their election coverage. And the likeliest effect of such a poll, of course, would be to dampen enthusiasm for Moore, by creating the impression that he had massively lost favor with Alabamians, including, most importantly, Alabama’s Republican voters. How many people have the independence of conscience to stick with a cause, against a strong outcry based on moral questions, when they are suddenly informed that most of their cohorts have abandoned that cause? How many voters, faced with the optics of a sudden massive bailout by their fellow conservatives, would have the nerve to keep up the fight for a candidate who appeared to be leaking moral support by the tens of thousands?

(As for the counterargument, sure to be raised by someone, that Fox had a responsibility to release this poll result, as it was news, I can only smile. Why is a poll, created by a media source itself, news? Polls are not news — although, insofar as they are treated as political events in and of themselves, they have taken on the popular force of real news. This is exactly the problem I am talking about, and have been for years: Polls are the ultimate instantiation of “fake news.” They were invented by American newspapers in the good old days as pure advertising; their purpose was to get attention for the newspaper by producing a campaign story that invited readers to feel like participants in the campaign. No newspaper would report another newspaper’s opinion poll, since they all new this was just a rival’s clever advertising ploy. Nothing has changed, except the successful effort to persuade the public that today’s polls are hard science, rather than advertising, though in fact they remain what they always were.)

If you don’t think Fox News knew what they were doing with that poll, and its likely effect on Moore support — particularly among people susceptible to fearing the moral reprobation of their peers — then either you are living in an alternative political universe, or I am.

In my political universe, the corporate media, the corporate donors, and the Washington political establishment are engaged in a ménage à trois that makes anything Roy Moore — or even Harvey Weinstein — is alleged to have done look like innocent flirtation. If your political universe looks benign, sincere, and above such manipulations, I want some of whatever you’re drinking.

Actually, I don’t. I prefer the truth, although I also agree with Aristotle that there are some things it is better not think than to think.

In the end, I think this Alabama Senate Election, which Jones has just won, will make little difference to anything. If Moore, a deeply flawed candidate (apart from the allegations) had won, he would have been marginalized in the Senate anyway, and therefore ineffective even when his positions might have been good. With or without one more Democrat, the GOP will still be Mitch McConnell’s slow-seep-to-progressivism machine.

So for the time being, and likely the long-term, McConnell, Fox News, and the GOP establishment are the winners; Alabama is brought to heel. Plus ça change….

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