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Trump has effectively been laughed out of court some 39 times and counting, with recounts turning up 87 extra votes for Biden in Wisconsin at the cost of $3 million.

It’s all terribly embarrassing.

The real lawyers knew there wasn’t a case to be had, they ran off, and so we were left with clowns.

As the legal opinion in the Third Circuit in Trump’s Emergency Appeal in the Pennsylvania case stated when they rejected the case unanimously:

…Nor does the Campaign deserve an injunction to undo Pennsylvania’s certification of its votes. The Campaign’s claims have no merit. The number of ballots it specifically challenges is far smaller than the roughly 81,000-vote margin of victory. And it never claims fraud or that any votes were cast by illegal voters. Plus, tossing out millions of mail-in ballots would be drastic and unprecedented, disenfranchising a huge swath of the electorate and upsetting all down-ballot races too. That remedy would be grossly disproportionate to the procedural challenges raised. So we deny the motion for an injunction pending appeal.

The opinion concludes:

Voters, not lawyers, choose the President. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections…

Seeking to turn those state-law claims into federal ones, the Campaign claims discrimination. But its alchemy cannot transmute lead into gold. The Campaign never alleges that any ballot was fraudulent or cast by an illegal voter. It never alleges that any defendant treated the Trump campaign or its votes worse than it treated the Biden campaign or its votes. Calling something discrimination does not make it so. The Second Amended Complaint still suffers from these core defects, so granting leave to amend would have been futile.

And there is no basis to grant the unprecedented injunction sought here. First, for the reasons already given, the Campaign is unlikely to succeed on the merits. Second, it shows no irreparable harm, offering specific challenges to many fewer ballots than the roughly 81,000-vote margin of victory. Third, the Campaign is responsible for its delay and repetitive litigation. Finally, the public interest strongly favors finality, counting every lawful voter’s vote, and not disenfranchising millions of Pennsylvania voters who voted by mail. Plus, discarding those votes could disrupt every other election on the ballot.

Ouch. But that rather “drop mic” legal response to the joke that is Trump’s legal team is not what I am here to discuss.

The monster I am going to talk about is the one that FOX News has spent decades researching, understanding, piecing together, building up, and nurturing: their audience.

I am in two completely different minds about the present demise of FOX News. First of all, it gives me great pleasure to see viewers flock away from the organisation that they have encouraged, fanning the flames of disinformation in a masochistic feedback loop. There is something deeply satisfying about seeing people turn away from FOX News. However, what is worse than seeing people turn away from one evil is seeing a movement towards a worse evil.

OAN (or OANN – One America “News” Network) and Newsmax are low-level street corner crack dealers that have profited hugely from a depressed neighbourhood of scum and villainy, misinformation and disinformation, despair and scapegoating. They have risen through the ranks and are presently trying to take down the drug lord that is the Murdoch empire.

This was all FOX’s own doing by point of fact that they became the official media arm, the state news broadcaster, for the dictator-in-chief Donald Trump, who phoned into the station whenever he wanted and spoke for as long as he wanted. The platform he was given, together with Twitter, has allowed him to spread his disinformation far and wide. But as soon as FOX wanted to rein in some of the more ridiculous claims (an arbitrary delineation at best), the genie was already out of the bottle. And Trump was too addicted to the FOX crack. When they put the price up and tried to stifle supply, Trump moved on, too high to see the hurt, to some smaller dealers that had been growing in power.

Trump admitted he was the golden goose of the FOX network. As Business Insider state:

If Trump “and cable had achieved the singularity, a meshing of man and machine into a symbiotic consciousness, the perturbation of each amplifying the other,” as the New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik writes in his book “Audience of One,” then a breakup was bound to be messy.

As they say, better the devil you know. That said, deep inside the rotten organisational body of FOX is some nugget of journalistic responsibility, particularly when it comes to their actual news shows rather than the far more popular opinion shows that they have, such as Hannity and Tucker Carlson.

There are two interesting things to consider here. Firstly, what is the Murdoch  family (though Rupert has somewhat stepped  back) and FOX’s next move? This reminds me somewhat of the predicament that the Conservative Party had at the rise of UKIP, the intolerant, anti-EU party of Nigel Farage that arose to its greatest prominence in the mid-2010s.

The Conservative Party had two options: either fight against this growing extremism to present a more respectable moderate position (appealing to more sensible moderates) or incorporate what was something of a growing fringe into their Conservative church. They chose the latter and are now in a position where half of the Tory MPs are froth-at-the-mouth right-wingers.

Similarly, FOX can either adopt a more moderate route and have at least some respectability and minimum levels of decency, or they can play to this growing rabid audience and fully endorse right-wing conspiracy theories, losing the moderates. This is playing out with the actions and reactions of differing staff members, journalists, news anchors and opinionists on the FOX News roster.

Thankfully, there is some evidence that not all Murdoch family members are mentally imbalanced, as James Mudorch shunned and slammed FOX/the Murdoch empire for their position on climate change in light of the Australian wildfires.

There seems to be little doubt that Donald Trump will venture into the media world after he is finally ousted from the White House property. And some people think that he will make a move on either OAN or Newsmax.

But it’s perhaps not as bad as people think:

Fox News is still killing it in the ratings

Fox News has traditionally seen a decent bump in ratings when Democrats retake power, most notably when they jumped as President Barack Obama took office.

They’ve also had a banner year in 2020.

Carlson’s show became the most viewed in cable-news history. The latest Nielsen ratings showed Fox News had an average of 2.3 million viewers in daytime programming and 4.7 million in prime time.

Newsmax has made headlines for Trump voters “flocking” to it. But though CEO Christopher Ruddy bragged about hitting 1.1 million viewers in prime time, those numbers would be unacceptable at Fox.

Sometimes Fox News shows double up on MSNBC’s and CNN’s ratings in the same hour.

So even if there is some sort defection afoot that suggests a lost opportunity among Trump’s hardcore MAGA set, it has a long way to go before it remotely becomes a problem for Fox News executives.

Newsmax and OAN face two other significant hurdles to competing with Fox.

Those two hurdles are the basic quality and production values of the other two organisations, and the lack of distribution that they have across America.

I’m not so sure. The recent surge has been, percentage-wise, very healthy for the two other organisations. The question is whether they can sustain this growth or continue in an upward trajectory. It is not about where they are right now and the production values that they have right  this instance, it’s about where we think they might be in three or four years’ time. If you are an investor, these two organisations look like pretty good options. There is a very healthy market for right-wing infotainment, worryingly so. I think FOX are in an interesting position and I am going to be watching what they do quite closely.

Yes, it may cost OAN and Newsmax a massive amount of money, but the appetite is there and only regulation can really get in the way by combating the ridiculous claims that these organisations make.

The simple truth is that these two upstart crows are not going anywhere. They will only increase in viewership, in my opinion. Therefore, FOX have to either try and crush them, or accept them and lose some market share. By crushing them, do they assimilate them by appeasing those viewers, or do they chart a different course and use other market tactics to completely undermine OAN and Newsmax whilst navigating more traditional, moderate conservative waters?

When you teach your audience that facts don’t matter, you unleash the beast. And when the beast comes back to bite you, don’t be surprised. Your monster is out, Frankenstein, and now we are watching very closely to see what your next move is.


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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...