The Left, even the Obama Administration, has vilified Fox News as an extreme right wing shill; they see Fox as dedicated to their destruction. Until recently the better understanding of Fox is that of a brilliant business plan to tap an unserved niche in the news marketplace. While obvious to anyone who lives in a town smaller than a million people, prior to Fox nobody was providing news without a strong leftward bent. Fox stepped in like a blast of fresh air and eventually dominated the cable news marketplace. The real ideologues were MSNBC and CNN, who held to competing only for left leaning viewers, and who left an untouched market for Fox. Fox was just a smart business, delivering opinions and reporting that its viewers found comforting. That is until Fox’s latest round of programming that challenges the traditional conservative mind – Fox is now a force for positive libertarian change, and its success is both unprecedented and thrilling.
The pinnacle of the old Fox conservative programming was the O’Reilly Factor, which shoveled sometimes conservative and often populist tripe to millions. Bill O’Reilly is a master of self-aggrandizement, claiming to look out for “the people” and being the only line of defense against all sorts of overblown threats. O’Reilly is clearly in it for himself, as his positions are merely a weathervane to the populist shibboleths of the hour. O’Reilly rarely moves the debate, he only fans the flames.
Likewise Fox’s other popular conservative, Sean Hannity, is a political tactician. While sometimes insightful, Hannity merely reads polls and dishes on left wing misdeeds. Considering the recent GOP reign of corruption, Hannity’s sneering rings hollow to all but the most hardened partisans. While the so called politics of destruction are practiced on all sides, Hannity is nonetheless engaged in fruitless trench warfare.
Fox was amusing and refreshing, but it offered nothing new. Stoking the GOP vs. Dem brushfire does nothing to solve the Washington train wreck. GOP vs. Dem does not solve Social Security, Medicare, pork, overregulation, or any other Washington corruption. Sure the GOP is better on some of these issues, but by not nearly enough to make a meaningful difference. By placating its base and limiting itself to tactical raids on its enemies, Fox remained part of the long term political problem.
Over the past two years Fox has introduced a new slate of game changers: Glenn Beck, John Stossel, and Andrew Napolitano (honorable mention to Greg Gutfeld). These men (honorable mention to Greg Gutfeld) are true libertarians who are not pushing a partisan agenda, but are working to change perceptions within the center-right.
Beck uses chalk boards and tears to preach the libertarian mantra of personal responsibility placed ahead of government interference. Stossel hammers away at government impediments to prosperity, innovation, and growth. Napolitano exposes extra-constitutional incursions into individual rights. Gutfeld uses an hour in the middle of the night to deflate leftist pop culture conceits; he is the libertarian mirror image of John Stewart, except funny. No sensible programmer would expect these ponderous topics to drive Fox’s ratings to the top, but they have. Contrary to all conventional wisdom, Fox is advocating for long moribund libertarian ideals and winning.
The masses of the center-right have always been skeptical of big government but have been forced to choose the smaller of two big government policies. Fox understood the message of the Tea Parties before any other news outlet, and it has tapped into this common angst with its new libertarian programming. Rather than agitate and make tactical incursions against the left, the new Fox is moving ideas sharply toward the libertarian. Fox is by far the most powerful outlet for these ideas since the old time media was first taken over by the left. No doubt Fox does it for ratings, but the result is the same – libertarianism is on the rise with a powerful mass media wind at its back.