Like many people, I like to spend time on twitter. I don’t tweet much. Or any, really. Mainly, I follow a number of people who tend to say smart things. One of them is Kevin M. Kruse, a historian by trade. Yesterday, Kruse offered a burning summary of Fox News’ attempts to assuage concerned staffers that the network really will still do news. “Fox News: Part of What We Do is Journalism,” he summarized.
"Fox News: Part of What We Do is Journalism" https://t.co/gYrUQE4Xb8
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) October 14, 2019
“For *most* of that hour,” he added. “MAYBE.”
Kruse’s point is fairly clear—no news network should have to assure its staff that it will spend the 3pm hour covering news. If you’re a news network, covering the news is simply what you’re supposed to do. I wouldn’t have blogged about this—I would have just nodded along, and maybe shared the tweet with a friend, and then left it at that—if I hadn’t also noticed a tweet Kruse retweeted.
Donald Trump tweeted 10-minute video excerpt from Fox News’ Mark Levin Show, which he summarized as “The Democrat Party has hijacked the House of Representatives.” Corruption watchdog Robert Maguire responded to Trump’s tweet, writing: “Sure, if by ‘hijacked’ you mean they won resounding victories in the 2018 midterms and took back control of the House.” Kruse then retweeted Maguire’s tweet.
But what hit me was the video, which autoplayed. The first 13 seconds of the video consists of the standard video intro to Levin’s show. I don’t have a TV and I don’t watch Fox. I had never seen this opening before.
Sure, if by "hijacked" you mean they won resounding victories in the 2018 midterms and took back control of the House https://t.co/VXteAe3KwE
— Robert Maguire (@RobertMaguire_) October 14, 2019
My first reaction was what the blazes was that. It’s like watching a propaganda video. It’s like watching a Stephen Colbert parody of how a right-wing show would open. What the heck did I just see? I looked up the show. It turns out Life, Liberty, & Levin is a weekly hour-low show in which Mark Levin, a lawyer and conservative commentator, interviews guests he brings onto the show. I have questions.
To start with, the show is titled Life, Liberty, … and Levin. Say what now? When I titled my blog “Love, Joy, Feminism,” I knew I was being edgy. I was doing it on purpose. The whole point was to parody the fruit of the spirit. The fruit of the spirit is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” and I turned it into love, joy, feminism. The whole point was to get Christians to ask who does she think she is? And, of course, for progressives already familiar with the passage to nod at the subversion.
What the heck kind of parody is Life, Liberty, & Levin? Is he making fun of the opening of the Declaration of Independence? I guessing not? Or at least, he thinks he isn’t. But really, the whole opening sequence looks like a parody of patriotism. Patriotic imagery, patriotic word, patriotic imagery, patriotic word, patriotic imagery … and then abruptly sub in “Levin” for “Pursuit of Happiness.” Funny, right? But it’s not a parody.
With that out of the way, let’s take the Levin intro screen by screen, shall we?
What box of patriotic bingo does this intro sequence not check? Let’s see, it’s got Abraham Lincoln, multiple war monuments, the Statue of Liberty, a bald eagle, a marine with his weapon, Ronald Reagan, the Blue Angels, and lots and lots of American flag imagery and vague script from the Constitution. That seems pretty comprehensive to me. Wait. It doesn’t have amber waves of grain.
Remember how the Colbert Report originally opened?
It looks rather tame now, doesn’t it?
Parody is dead.
I think I figured out why this bothers me so much. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with patriotic imagery. There isn’t. The problem is that the Right has taken this imagery and laid claim to it in a way that suggests that they and they alone are the inheritors of the founders’ vision and wisdom. And they’ve done this on purpose.
The truth is that the founders left a very complicated legacy that was followed by generations of newcomers laying claim to out founding documents’ unrealized promises. From women’s rights to civil rights to unions and workers’s rights, the Left has deep roots in these same documents, and in the movements that sought to expand the rights these documents guaranteed to an ever wider swath of the population.
The Right takes all this and flattens it and claims right to it while doing utterly no work, based only on things like shittily constructed propaganda videos. And then there’s the fact that fascism always comes wrapped in a flag like this. This is literally how fascist propaganda works—with unfettered, one-dimensional patriotism.
Curious how this plays out on the Left, I looked up the Rachel Maddow show’s opening sequence.
Nope, this is definitely a one-sided problem. Fox “News” my foot.
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