Do you speak Fox?

Political theorists, over the years, have looked for metaphors to describe the effects that Fox—particularly its widely watched opinion shows—has had on American politics and culture. They’ve talked about the network as an “information silo” and “a filter bubble” and an “echo chamber,” as an “alternate reality” constructed of “alternative facts,” as a virus on the body politic, as an organ of the state. The comparisons are all correct. But they don’t quite capture what the elegies for Fox-felled loved ones express so efficiently. Fox, for many of its fans, is an identity shaped by an ever-expanding lexicon: mob, PC police, Russiagate, deep state, MSM, MS-13, socialist agenda, Dems, libs, Benghazi, hordes, hoax, dirty, violent, invasion, open borders, anarchy, liberty, Donald Trump. Fox has two pronouns, you and they, and one tone: indignation. (You are under attack; they are the attackers.) Its grammar is grievance. Its effect is totalizing. Over time, if you watch enough Fox & Friends or The Five or Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham, you will come to understand, as a matter of synaptic impulse, that immigrants are invading and the mob is coming and the news is lying and Trump alone can fix it…

The leader and the news network speak, and enforce, the same language. Trump regularly lifts his tweets directly from Fox’s banners and banter. Last year, Media Matters for America’s Matt Gertz counted the times the president tweeted something in direct response to a Fox News or Fox Business program. Gertz found 657 such instances—in 2019 alone. Fox hosts and producers use that power to manipulate the president. “People think he’s calling up Fox & Friends and telling us what to say,” a former producer on the show tells Stelter. “Hell no. It’s the opposite. We tell him what to say.”