Amid the Fair and Balanced lunacy of Fox News there are moments of stark lucidity that serve to underscore who is in on the joke and who is not. When Megyn Kelly sardonically asked Karl Rove if the endless stream of meaningless numerical babble coming out of his mouth was, “just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better,” she was admitting that the reality of the election had strayed too far for them to manipulate anymore. During the GOP primary this spring, Fox News anchor Shep Smith read some prepared remarks from the Romney campaign that warmly congratulated Newt Gingrich on his efforts after he had withdrawn from the race, noting that he and Ann consider Newt and his wife Calista to be good friends. Upon finishing Romney’s statement, Smith provided what might be my favorite journalistic moment of 2012 when he commented; “politics is weird…and creepy…and now I know lacks even the loosest attachment to anything like reality.” Shep Smith has also advocated for gay rights on the air and condemned America’s use of torture in interrogations, so we at least know there is some cogent thought going on at the house that Rupert built.
Of course, there are also those who are so punch-drunk on the conservative kool aid that they are no longer capable of validating Descartes’ basic argument for man’s existence: they do not think, yet they still are. A perfect example of a steward of particularly vacuous brand of propagandizing is Stuart Varney. For those of you who aren’t sick enough to be familiar with Fox News’ entire stable of anchors, Varney is the smug and supercilious British voice of unreason who might qualify as the UK’s first major land offensive on American soil since The War of 1812. Varney is to journalism what a week-old ham ‘n cheese lean pocket is to haute cuisine. Whenever he interviews an executive from a Fortune 500 company, he immediately begins acting like Gaston’s chubby, sycophantic sidekick in Beauty and the Beast, hyperventilating with pathetic glee at his proximity to all of that delicious money.1 If Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite were still alive they’d take him out back to an abandoned parking garage and beat him unconscious with their Peabodys.
So, naturally, it was Varney who recently conducted an interview so horrific that it obliterated every cardinal rule of investigative journalism and set a new standard for propagandistic reporting that would have made Josef Goebbels proud. In a segment on today’s broadcast of the Fox program Your World, Varney interviewed David Tovar, the Vice President of Communications for Walmart, and proceeded to act like an 11-year old girl who had just been let backstage at a One Direction concert. The bulk of the interview centered around the recent plans for Walmart employees to boycott the company on Black Friday in protest against the company’s decision to open stores at 8:00pm on Thanksgiving night and their general dislike of paying their employees a living wage or giving them benefits of any sort.
Given the nature of the labor dispute and Fox’s ideological leanings, it stands to reason that Varney would not so much as mention why the workers were striking or discuss any if the workers’ demands and points of contention with Walmart policies. Instead, through an unhealthy amount of cognitive dissonance, Varney managed to paint Walmart as the undeserving victim in the situation. Not once was Walmart’s miserly pay scale and promotion system, which is designed to limit employee advancement, brought up. Varney never asked any questions about a system where pay grades are capped and raises are limited to a maximum of $0.60/hr per year for perfect performance. There was no discussion of the fact that Walmart’s hiring practices emphasize the use of part time staff in order to limit the amount the company pays in benefits to its employees.
No, what viewers were treated to was a systematic demonization of the workers of Walmart and the deification of a multi-billion dollar corporation that treats its stores like fiefdoms and its employees like serfs. Varney could give two shits about the American worker. What he wanted know was if the stores were still going to be open on 8:00pm Thanksgiving night so that our nation can give thanks for our abundance of blessings by trampling each other to death over duvet covers and power tools. Varney asked the important questions, like, can Walmart sue those greedy little piggy workers for all the money they lost the company during the strike? He told the Walmart communications VP that they had a fight on their hands and wanted to know “how sharp-edged” they’ll be in squashing these protests. Varney even mentioned, completely unprovoked, that Walmart had spent time recently handing out money and in-kind benefits to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The man did everything short of asking his guest if he could give him a hand job to repay him for his kindness. And the crazy thing is, we haven’t gotten to the really bad part of it yet.
In order to find the the atrophied heart of this journalistic nightmare, you have to wait for the interview to end. After Varney has profusely thanked his guest for appearing on the show, he gives some doom and gloom teaser about the effect of the fighting Gaza on gas prices or some such truck and then throws it to commercial. But, before the commercials begin, there is a announcement from Fox News saying that the program you have just watched was brought to you by Walmart and encouraging viewers to take advantage of their great Black Friday deals. This then bleeds seamlessly into a 30-second ad for Walmart.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what bottom looks like.
1Also, it’s patently obvious that in BDSM terminology, Varney’s a natural submissive. I know it’s a disgusting image, but I can all but guarantee that if a sex scandal breaks involving that crusty Brit, the phrases “sex dungeon” and “self-flagellation” will be used very frequently.
Copy and Paste to see the interview on Media Matters’ website: http://mediamatters.org/embed/static/clips/2012/11/19/27810/fnc-yourworld-20121119-walmart