I just got to spend about a half hour watching Anderson Cooper, Chris Hayes, and Bill O’Reilly. Actually, only Chris Hayes was on his show. It was that old white guy on CNN and one of the blond women on Fox News. But it was striking. I don’t mean the tone of the shows; I mean the content. Not surprisingly, MSNBC is doing blanket coverage of Ferguson, where things look almost celebratory now that law enforcement duties have been taken over by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. But CNN is doing the same thing, in their tired way.
So the liberal and centrist cable news networks are paying a lot of attention to the situation in Ferguson that has been getting international attention. But for Fox News, it is pretty much a non-story. Or rather, the murder of an unarmed teen was a non-story. The many peaceful protests was a non-story. Militarized police use of excessive force against protesters was a non-story. Pretty much everything about Ferguson was a non-story except for some looting that took place Sunday evening.
This is an interesting contrast with the Bundy ranch crisis where the story got blanket, hysterical coverage. But it also got pretty much blanket coverage on the other two stations. What I think we are seeing is that if a story can’t be molded to a conservative narrative, Fox News just isn’t interested. I’m sure that in their story meetings, executive producers have said, “Unless there are a bunch of black people breaking windows, none of our viewers will care!” And maybe they are right, but it seems to me that the basic narrative is of wide interest: police shooting a young man about to enter college when he had his hands raised above him.
It would have been different if it had been a white suburban boy killed by a black officer in a police force that was over 90% black with a history of harassing whites. Then they could rant about “black anger” and the “out of control” government, but also regular things like actual news sources are discussing about the Michael Brown murder. When it comes to a black or brown skinned person, however, it just isn’t interesting to Fox News. Their key demographic—The median age is 68 years old!—might be upset to hear any news that conflicted with their belief that racism was solved in 1865.
So what was Fox News offering up instead of details about the Michael Brown murder and the situation in Ferguson? Well, they had a sequence about the supposed fight that’s going on between Obama and Clinton. And there was speculation about Robin Williams. And I’m sure they had a segment on Ferguson earlier on; I didn’t get to a television until a bit into the hour. I mean, Fox News can’t be that bad. Well, maybe it can.