It was the perfect Fox News story: chock-full of grievance, providing cover for a partisan failure, and owning the libs.
And, crucially, it was far from true.
On Tuesday night, the entire prime-time lineup of the increasingly ratings-deficient cable news powerhouse embraced a false narrative around the rolling blackouts in Texas during this week’s intense cold snap, which have left at least four million Texans without heat or electricity. Everyone from Swanson heir and champion of the little guy Tucker Carlson to Parkland survivor-antagonist Laura Ingraham blamed an overreliance on green energy sources for the growing disaster. Sean Hannity even welcomed Texas governor Greg Abbott on his show to further push the objective lie that wind turbines and Green New Deal policies are to blame.
look at this liar pic.twitter.com/WgdelNGsxT
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) February 17, 2021
It almost seems beside the point to explain why this narrative is completely false. While people such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington have been pushing for a Green New Deal for the past couple of years, it obviously did not come to fruition under former president and legendary climate change skeptic Donald Trump. And while many green energy policies have been implemented across the country, including in Texas, they are not the dominant mode, especially in Texas. As The Texas Tribune points out, about 80% of the state’s power grid is fueled by natural gas, coal, and (to a lesser degree) nuclear energy. Frozen wind turbines are hardly to blame—and even if they were, the freezing could be prevented with winterization. As MMFA news director John Whitehouse points out, wind turbines have worked in Antarctica for over a decade. If Antarctica can handle them, a Texas winter probably can as well.
The narrative Fox News is pushing crumples under the slightest scrutiny, and it is dangerous in its potential to influence millions of viewers.
If only there were a very recent example of far-right news organizations pushing a partisan, conspiratorial falsehood to cataclysmic effect!
The majority of the blame for the deadly insurrection on January 6 of course lies at Donald Trump’s feet, but the siege was clearly aided and abetted by cable news misinformation. The fact that so many Republicans believed in the media-pushed Big Lie of a stolen election was supposed to be some kind of inflection point on the danger of flagrant dishonesty from hyperpartisan media. If now truly is a moment for a divided nation to heal itself, Fox News is off to a pretty lousy start for doing its part.
Nobody expects the news organization to work toward uniting the country. Carlson segments speculating that the Biden marriage is a sham seem like par for the course and are too dumb to provoke any real offense. Carlson can and will keep doing these kinds of stories to his heart’s content. Fox News should also feel free to attack the Biden administration for not fulfilling its stimulus check promise fast enough—perhaps if all news outlets do so, it will actually help spur them into action.
The entire Fox News prime-time lineup falsely blaming the Texas blackouts on faulty wind turbines, though, isn’t adversarial journalism; it’s weaponized fake news. It’s a way to get tens of millions of Republicans to distrust and vote against planet-saving green initiatives in the future and help culpable politicians avoid accountability.
Incredibly, the only thing that seems to have any power to prevent Fox News from further spreading malicious falsehoods is threatened legal action. A lawsuit from Seth Rich’s family made Sean Hannity retract his conspiratorial rants around the deceased Hillary Clinton staffer, while a lawsuit from Smartmatic made Fox retract Lou Dobbs, uh, entirely?
How are lawsuits seemingly the only force that can stop Fox News and its rising competitors in far-right media from pushing demonstrably false hyperpartisan narratives?
After the insurrection on January 6, one would think there were other forces with which they’d want to avoid a reckoning.