Fox News aims to reach conservative viewers, and it is successful- Fox News is the most popular cable channel in America. As conservative voters tend to skew older than democratic voters, the average age of the Fox News viewer is 68, compared to CNN’s 59 (Epstein). 92% of Fox’s primetime viewers are white, and only 1% of viewers are black (Wilstein). Fox is also considered the least trusted news source for liberals. Fox News may be billed as a conservative news source, but in reality the programs are for entertainment purposes due to the fact that they frequently contain false or purposely misleading statements (Carroll & Sharockman). Fox aims to reach the brand of conservative who is tired of political correctness, hates President Obama, is anti-immigrant and pro-military, and thinks social justice movements like Black Lives Matter are unnecessary and pointless.
Here is an example of the type of picture Fox News puts on their Facebook page. “We send our young adults to college and they send us back toddlers”. The most-liked comment on the post reads, “That’s what we get when Liberals take control of our children, generations of wimps, whiners, and entitled pathetic liberals.” Scrolling through other posts on the page, there are hundreds of comments calling left-leaning people “idiots”, “losers”, and “crybabies”. It is important to note that these types of comments are not in response to argumentative liberals who are also commenting on the posts, but just as general statements about what liberals are supposedly like. It is a fact that the more formal education a person receives, the more likely they are to be a liberal as opposed to a conservative (Pew Research Center). This would mean that viewers of Fox News are probably less educated than viewers of CNN or MSNBC. Fox plays on the fact that many of their viewers are less educated and may hold resentment towards higher education, despite the fact that some of their most popular pundits are extremely highly educated. A quick Google search shows that Megyn Kelly went to law school, Bill O’Reilly has two master’s degrees, and Kevin Jackson has a bachelor’s degree.
Fox News’ most popular program is “The O’Reilly Factor”, hosted by conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly (Flood). “The O’Reilly Factor” came under fire recently for an episode of its short segment “Watter’s World”, where contributor Jesse Waters visited NYC’s Chinatown to mock non-English-speaking elderly residents (who could not consent to being filmed and put on TV, since they could not speak English), ask interviewees offensive questions based on stereotypes of Chinese people, and equate Japan, Korea, and China as all the same country. Just a few months ago, O’Reilly made the statement that “slaves that worked there [the White House] were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802” (Ocasio). Bill O’Reilly’s twitter feed consists mainly of tweets slamming CNN, calling democratic politicians “repulsive” and “despicable”, and accusing them of slander. This is the face of Fox News, and this type of programming is what keeps Fox New going- it is a network not created or supported by moderates, or even slightly right-leaning people, but people who are extremely conservative and hold a very specific type of idea about what their America should look like. As previously stated, these people are mostly white, and Fox uses racial tension and white fragility to convince their viewers that they should be concerned about the intentions of the races, religions, and ethnic groups besides their own.
Sarah Banet-Weiser discusses how Nickelodeon’s branding strategy includes creating a “divisive generational warfare” (74), and that the network even uses the slogan “Us versus Them” to separate the “us” of the Nickelodeon viewer and the “them” of their parents. Fox News uses a similar “us versus them” strategy towards their viewers, although in this case the “them” is not parents but viewers of liberal news networks. “Them” is also immigrants and Muslims, especially with the political climate of the last year and a half since Donald Trump announced his run for the presidency. Although Trump has had a beef with one of Fox’s most popular anchors, Megyn Kelly, the commenters on the Fox News facebook page still flood all of the page’s posts with overwhelming support for Trump, and an overwhelming anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-liberalism sentiment. In a post about the recent attacks at Ohio State University, carried out by a Somalian Muslim student, the most-liked comment on the post read “The Middle Eastern migrants really like the indoor plumbing and refrigeration but have no desire at all to assimilate. They want to bring their Dark Ages culture with them and reject ours because we are infidels. After all, it is right in their Koran that other cultures will convert or be decimated”. Another highly-liked comment reads, “Tired of refugees coming to our country and trying to turn it into the place they just left and then killing us for disagreeing with their views”.
Banet-Weiser asserts that advertisers often try to “present a utopian world for its audience, often by referencing and highlighting social and cultural divisions” (78). What can be gleaned from the comments on their Facebook posts is this: a Utopian America for many avid Fox News watchers is an America that is devoutly patriotic to their country, but not the president, unless it’s Donald Trump. It is an America that is white and Christian, an America that rejects liberal elitism and political correctness, an America that embraces the flag and the military and holds a disdain for protests and social justice movements. With the fact that Fox News is the highest rated cable news in the country, maybe we’re already on our way there.
Banet-Weiser, S. (2007). The Nickelodeon brand: Buying and selling the audience. In Kids Rule!: Nickelodeon and Consumer Citizenship. (pp. 69-103). Duke University Press.
Carroll, L., & Sharockman, A. (2016, February 26). The fact-checks behind ‘The Daily Show’s’ 50 Fox news ‘lies’ Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2015/feb/26/fact-checks-behind-daily-shows-50-fox-news-lies/
Epstein, A. (2016, July 21). Fox News’s biggest problem isn’t the Ailes ouster, it’s that its average viewer is a dinosaur. Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://qz.com/738346/fox-newss-biggest-problem-isnt-the-ailes-ouster-its-that-its-average-viewer-is-a-dinosaur/
Flood, B. (2016, April 21). Fox News Shows, Ranked: Who Is Highest-Rated Between Megyn Kelly, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.thewrap.com/fox-news-13-top-rated-shows-how-megyn-kelly-measures-up-photos/18/
Ocasio, B. P. (2016, July 26). Bill O’Reilly: Slaves who built White House were ‘well-fed and had decent lodgings’ Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.politico.com/story/2016/07/bill-oreilly-slaves-white-house-226257
Pew Research Center. (2016, April 26). A Wider Ideological Gap Between More and Less Educated Adults. Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.people-press.org/2016/04/26/a-wider-ideological-gap-between-more-and-less-educated-adults/
Wilstein, M. (2014, December 15). Only 1% of Fox News Viewers Are Black. Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.mediaite.com/tv/only-1-of-fox-news-viewers-are-black/