In the Fox Bubble, Body-Slamming a Journalist is Awesome.

CNN Don Lemon Panel (Photo: Screen capture by www.rawstory.com)

We’re not living in two different media worlds. More like one-and-a-half. One group watches bizarre “debates” that treat reason and BS as equals. The other is only hearing the BS.

On Wednesday, Greg Gianforte, the Republican running for Montanta’s single Congressional seat, threw journalist Ben Jacobs to the ground and punched him repeatedly. The attack is on audio tape and described clearly by a local Fox News crew. On Thursday, Gianforte won the special election by 7 points (vs. Trump’s 20-point margin in November).

This is a dire situation. One of the main things that separates democracy from autocracy is a strong and free press. That’s why our Founding Fathers made it the first Amendment. So you’d think everyone would be in agreement that physical aggression against journalists is a bad idea. Nope. I flipped around stations yesterday to get a sense of how people were talking about the situation, and it wasn’t pretty.

I watched Don Lemon’s panel on CNN, which included Jack Kingston, the former Republican Congressman from Georgia (2nd from right in the above picture). He found many ways to dismiss the (alleged) assault: the reporter was being snarky; running for office makes you tense; hey, people make mistakes, and so on.

A few hours earlier, on The Fox News Specialists, unity reigned. All five panelists expressed disgust…with the journalist and media figures like Don Lemon. How dare anyone, they railed, suggest that Donald Trump’s year-long attack on the media had any influence on Gianforte. It’s absurd, they said, to suggest that Gianforte might feel empowered to attack a journalist just because the president of the United States called the media “the enemy of the American people.”

The unity on Fox was a strange irony, since the eyewitness reports came from local Fox reporters. And yet, the national coverage on Fox News was not appalled by Gianforte’s actions. No, they cheered him on. The panelists praised his toughness in attacking that “snowflake reporter” who had it coming. They spoke with one, unified, twisted voice.

And that’s a big problem.

We’ve all heard a great deal about the bubble everyone supposedly lives in. The right has Fox, Breitbart, Limbaugh, and talk radio in general. The left has MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post…and apparently all other media.

But it’s a very big lie — one that the recently departed Roger Ailes carefully built at Fox.

On one side, we get false equivalence; on the other, just false.

Of course different outlets have different perspectives. But the supposed bubble on the left has gaping holes. A former GOP Republican congressman, Joe Scarborough, holds court for three hours every morning on MSNBC. The New York Times and other big print outlets give significant space to conservative columnists (including a newly hired climate denier, but that’s another story).

On cable news networks, all “sides” are well represented. The Trump apologists like Jeffrey Lord and Kingston get absurd air time and never break character, which can get infuriating (last week, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper memorably told Lord that if Trump “took a dump on his desk, you would defend him”). During the 2016 campaign, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski received payments from CNN and Trump at the same time.

So when something like this vile attack on a journalist happens, anyone watching CNN will definitely hear the GOP talking points defending the indefensible. But if you watch Fox, it’s unanimous.

On one side, we get false equivalence; on the other, just false.

The damage to our public discourse is real and dangerous. I don’t know the way out. Perhaps only close family and friends can reach people who are hearing only propaganda. If someone is not disgusted by a physical attack on a journalist — or worried about what it means for American democracy — I don’t know if that person is reachable. But we have to try.

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