At the end of an emotional and very peaceful march in Dallas to protest the recent police shootings of two black men, the spirit of the moment was shattered when a well-planned, terrifying ambush on Dallas police began with sniper fire. By all accounts, the protesters were sent scrambling and the police acted heroically to protect the civilians around them.
The details of what was happening and who was doing it would not be known for nearly 12 hours – and even then only roughly. At times of intense tragedy and crisis, news organizations might be expected to pause for a moment, ensure what they are telling their audience is factual, and urge calm. Fox News did none of that.
Rather than let facts get in the way of a narrative they had pre-baked for just such an occasion, the right-wing news outlet went into fear-mongering overdrive – spreading a toxic mix of racism, misinformation and tasteless sensationalism to their audience. Their behavior in the frantic moments during one of the worst attacks on law enforcement in United States history was nothing short of appalling. And sadly unsurprising.
While other networks scrambled to get information, Fox seized the opportunity to create their own. In doing so, they also felt it necessary to play clips of extremely disturbing, highly graphic violence to further emotionally-charge the crisis. In one instance, Fox aired footage of two grievously injured police officers while they allowed one of their guest contributors to make the case that people of color are inherently more violent.
At a moment when the entire country was scared and shocked, Fox News cranked their racism up to 11.
Talking about police officers and why those police officers are reacting or overreacting, or reacting in a ridiculous manner looking at it in hindsight, is that because people of color for whatever reasons are the ones who have the higher percentage of violence in their background, I think that’s statistically a fact.
In a telling moment that could only happen on live television, the conversation is abruptly ended when someone in the studio audibly yells “Oh shit!” as it slowly dawns on them that they are playing footage of dying police officers over rhetoric that wouldn’t be out of place in the Jim Crow-era South.
Warning: Footage is deeply disturbing – on many levels.
Later that night, Fox upped the ante again by linking this crime with ISIS and President Obama’s leadership – because of course they did.
I don’t think is gonna be the end of it,” Wheeler warned. “I think we’re gonna continue to see bloodshed on the streets of America over the summer––this is gonna be a long hot bloody summer––until we get some leadership in this country.”
He concluded that groups like ISIS love to “take advantage” when America is divided.
Meanwhile, Fox’s Twitter account was active as well. Not just with streaming video of police officers being shot, but also with a curiously timed tweet floating the idea that President Obama is a Muslim.
— Craig Harrington (@Craigipedia) July 8, 2016
And this “Obama is not one of us” rhetoric was clearly working. Around the same time, former Republican lawmaker and friend of Fox Joe Walsh tweeted a death threat directed at President Obama which claimed “real Americans” were coming for him.
By morning, Fox was – again, without evidence – linking the killer or killers to “leftist” Democrats and the Black Lives Matter movement.
There were a few things that Fox didn’t talk about during their hysterical coverage. They didn’t, for instance, mention guns or the fact that Texas is one of the most gun-friendly states in the country.
They also didn’t mention that Dallas police officers had been targeted before just last year. They made no mention of James Boulware, a guy who drove an armored van in front of the Dallas Police Department headquarters and riddled the building with rounds from a semi-automatic rifle, before planting several explosives and leading officers on a rolling gun battle in the streets of Dallas. But then why would they? Boulware was white.
Watching displays of sheer fear-mongering and ineptitude coming from Fox News is especially troubling because there are literally millions of Americans who have been convinced that Fox News and only Fox News tells them the truth. Sealed off from reality and watching an “expert” explain why black people are violent will only encourage more distrust and violence between Americans that need to use times like these to come together.
Instead, Fox did what Fox always does: Exploit a tragedy to push an agenda and score ratings. It would be sad if it weren’t so dangerous.
Featured image via Fox News