Auē Tēnei Wiki: Fox News Coverage of the California Massacre

We’re back to the show I both love, but frequently gets me all riled up – Fox New’s The Five.

The Five

‘The Five’ Left to right: Kimberley Guilfoyle, Eric Bolling, Juan Williams, Dana Perino, Greg Gutfeld (Source: Fox News)

On Friday (Thursday US time) they discussed the horrific events in San Bernadino, California at length, insisting it was terrorism, and being angry with the FBI (and, by extension, the Obama administration) for not saying so. The FBI, of course, has a definition of what terrorism is, and until they have evidence that the events of the case fit that definition the control of the investigation remains in the hands of local law enforcement. Being angry at their country’s premier law enforcement agency for following the rules seems a bit stupid and petulant to me, and I can’t help wondering if it’s just an excuse to find a way to link the Democrats to the situation in a negative way.

Farook, Syed and Malik, Tashfeen ABC News

Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik (Source: ABC News)

The FBI at that stage had reason to be cautious. Farook had few (if any) friends, he’d had a dispute with a conservative Christian co-worker who mocked his beard and criticized his faith, and it was Farook’s workplace where the massacre occurred. We’ve seen plenty of examples from the United States of disgruntled former and current employees using the country’s freely available guns to purge their anger.

The Five‘s Kimberley Guilfoyle in particular knew better than the FBI though (as she always does – you think I’m opinionated – check her out!). She announced it was terrorism and stated even more firmly, in an argument with co-host Juan Williams, “It had nothing to do with guns, Juan!”

The denial that the United States has a gun problem by so many politicians and opinion leaders in that country is scary. They’ll blame anything for the number of murders except the prevalence of guns. Movies, video games, liberals, gun free zones, refugees, immigrants, gangs, anti-gun laws, attacks on Christianity, and not enough prayer in schools are just some of the excuses they’ve come up with. The problem is, all those things are either the same or more prevalent in every other Western democracy, and the rest of us do not have this problem. We watch the same movies, play the same video games, are mostly more liberal, we have no need to establish gun-free zones because people don’t carry hand guns – (in NZ not even the police do, except the diplomatic protection squad), we welcome refugees and immigrants, we have gangs too, our anti-gun laws are much stronger, we’re much less religious, and we don’t have prayer in schools. Most of us don’t even pledge allegiance to our flags. Shock, horror!

Gun Murders

It’s time to admit it – the problem isn’t the stricter gun control crowd, it’s the NRA and their power over politicians and their manipulation of public opinion. The problem is the easy availability of guns, and their prevalence. The problem is that opponents of stricter gun control frame its supporters as unpatriotic and opposing the constitution’s second amendment. And it’s time to recognize that more legal guns means more illegal guns. It’s also time to enforce the gun control laws already in place.

Just this morning (NZ time) we’re receiving news of a knife-wielding attacker in London yelling, “This is for Syria.” In the United States, the same man would have had a gun, and would have done multiple times more damage.

On Friday (Saturday morning NZT) the FBI advised they were now investigating the attack as terrorism, but that as yet they had no evidence that the killers were part of a larger group, or had any ties to a known terrorist organisation. The fact that they are investigating this as terrorism still doesn’t mean that it actually IS terrorism, though of course it makes it more likely. If it is confirmed as terrorism, it will be deadliest terror attack on US soil since 9/11. Tashfeen Malik (using a false name) had apparently pledged her allegiance to the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (the leader of DAESH) on Facebook just before she and her husband launched their attack. Since then the FBI has found that Syed Farook was in contact with both the Al-Nusra Front (an Al-Qaeda affiliate fighting the government in Syria) and Al-Shabaab (a terrorist group mainly in northern Nigeria that has pledged its support to DAESH).

So back to The Five. I watched Friday’s episode (5pm EST, 11am Saturday NZT) and naturally they’re still covering the situation. And so they should – it’s a serious and important story. It’s Kimberley Guilfoyle’s turn to open the show. Amongst her first words were:

We’ve gotten a look inside the home of the married terrorists where you can see there are tapestries with Arabic writing hung on the walls along with copies of the Qur’an.

The full news conference with the attorneys of Farook’s mother, brother, sisters, and brother-in-law was broadcast next. The attorneys stated the family knew nothing of their son’s/brother’s plans, and were completely shocked by what happened. They went to some lengths to downplay any link between the couple and Islamist terrorism, making the point that although the FBI was investigating the killings as terrorism, almost nothing had been found. (This is true – at that stage the only link was the Facebook account under another name but apparently belonging to Tashfeen Malik that expressed allegiance to the DAESH leader. That is hardly a slam dunk case.) Throughout the press conference, Fox had the attorneys in split screen with pictures of the killers and video from inside their home with the same images of their tapestries with Arabic writing and their Qur’an played over and over again. Sometimes these were interspersed with images of police and victims from just after the shootings, and pictures of the weapons used.

Gallup guns

The NRA propaganda works.

At the conclusion of the press conference, which was about forty minutes long, we returned to Guilfoyle and the rest of The Five team. She and co-host Eric Bolling were spitting with anger at the attorneys for saying things like as far as the family knew, Tashfeen Malik was just an ordinary housewife and mother. Another host, Greg Gutfeld, insisted that nobody is conflating the fact the perpetrators are Muslim with terrorism except the family’s attorneys – that they’re putting words in the mouths of everyone else. This completely flies in the face of Guilfoyle’s opening comment (above) and the constant replaying of video of the tapestries and Qur’an she mentioned. They clearly don’t even know what the Arabic words say at this point – they’re likely just inspirational quotes or verses from the Qur’an. How on earth does owning a Qur’an point to terrorism?

I watched parts of three of the four shows that follow The Five (Special Report, On the Record, and The Kelly File) and every one of them constantly showed stills of the murderers’ tapestries and Qur’an. The hosts of those shows (Bret Baier, Greta van Susteran, and Megyn Kelly) might not personally be conflating all Muslims with terrorism in their own minds, but it’s certainly the message the Fox News network is communicating to their viewers. Further, statistics show that the Fox’s viewers are more likely to be Republican voters and further that Republicans feel less warmly towards Muslims than the population in general. Fox News is therefore reinforcing a stereotype amongst their viewers and thus, in my opinion, encouraging negative feelings towards, and perhaps attacks on, Muslims. I’ve certainly heard nothing to disabuse me of that opinion in the several hours of that network I’ve watched since the murders.

Bible and gun

One of the scariest images I’ve ever seen.

If cameras had been allowed into the cabin belonging to the recent Planned Parenthood shooter, can anyone imagine us seeing constant images of his Bible or, if he had one, his tapestry of the 23rd Psalm? It’s completely ridiculous. Many conservative Christians are getting angry that what they call the “lame-stream media” are even mentioning that he was a Bible-reading conservative Christian, despite this being an accurate descritpion of him. They complained (correctly) that many assumed his motives before we knew what they were. Now they’re not only doing the same thing, they’re linking the actions of these killers to all Muslims.

Finally the show’s one liberal co-host, Juan Williams, was allowed to get a word in and we got a bit of sanity. He pointed out that the others were wanting the family’s lawyers to blame the family for what happened. While most of the others were saying what terrible lawyers these were, they were, he pointed out, doing their job for the family exactly as they should be. The lawyers were also correct in saying that just because these killers were Muslim, it doesn’t automatically taint all Muslims. That, of course, shouldn’t even have to be said, but Williams was criticized by at least one of his co-hosts for saying it.

Last week I wrote a post that included criticism of the Republican party’s attempts to pass a law blocking Syrian UNHCR refugees from coming to the United States. The law is, in my opinion, an uninformed knee-jerk reaction that is about fear-mongering and garnering votes from that fear. This week they voted down a law that would have meant people on the no-fly list wouldn’t be able to buy guns. If that doesn’t show what a stranglehold the NRA has on United States lawmakers, I don’t know what does. They want to stop people coming to the country that are the safest of all people doing that, but people who have actually been designated by law enforcement not to be safe enough to be allowed on planes are still allowed to buy guns.

I did see a Republican politician interviewed about this, and he was asked this very question. He mumbled something about people who’d accidentally been put on the no-fly list, and how their lives had been hell because they couldn’t fly for “sometimes months” until they were able to get their names removed. It would apparently be too onerous for those people to also not be able to buy any more guns during that “sometimes months.” Because of that, everyone on the no-fly list is therefore able to buy guns freely.

Now that the FBI is now investigating the San Bernadino massacre as terrorism, the conservatives on the show are announcing that it IS terrorism. It probably is, but they should say that – PROBABLY. When a white on black crime is investigated as a potential hate crime, they are very careful not to say it IS a hate crime. When someone killed and injured a whole lot of people at a Planned Parenthood office, they continually made the point that the man could have been going to the bank next door and just ended up on the Planned Parenthood premises, among other explanations. This says to me they have a double standard.

The Five co-host Eric Bolling raged against moderate Muslims who haven’t spoken out against this couple’s actions. In fact, Muslim leaders across the country have disavowed their actions – I’m not surprised Bolling hasn’t heard them though because I’m seen none on his network. Greta van Susteran, host of On the Record, thinks the United States shouldn’t be letting foreigners in to marry their citizens anymore because, after years of tens of thousands coming in every year, ONE has turned out to be a terrorist. She’s questioning what countries most of these spouses come from – to me it seems she’s thinking this is another terrorist pipeline. The truth is they’re probably the second safest immigrants after UNHCR refugees because of the the process, including background checks and out of country interviews, they have to go through.

I’m more tolerant of Fox News than most liberals. I enjoy watching some of its shows – The Five is a favourite because I enjoy intelligent, respectful debate even when I largely disagree with the debaters. As an advocate of free speech, I’m completely opposed to those who think Fox News should be shut down. People I disagree with have just as much right to express their opinion as I have, and those liberals who think otherwise are far more offensive to me than conservatives who at least support the principle of free speech.

However, I’m disgusted by the way this network has covered the San Bernadino massacre. They have constantly given the impression that all Muslims are potential terrorists, and are continuing the same fear-mongering that candidates to be the GOP’s presidential nominee have been. Unfortunately I can’t remember who it was, but yesterday the comment was made that the Democrats won’t do anything about this because Muslims are such an important electorate for them. The good side of this is that the GOP continues to alienate many demographics who are becoming a bigger and bigger part of the US electorate. My opinion is they’re just about at the tipping point where it’s no longer possible for them to win a presidential election, no matter who the Democrats nominate.


18 Responses to “Auē Tēnei Wiki: Fox News Coverage of the California Massacre”

  1. Night-Gaunt49 says:

    I hope you will intersperse it with say Democracy Now and MSNBC which have also covered it wall to wall. DN covers many other things like that all important meeting going on in France about the world doing something about AGW. Which so far we have not.

    • We don’t get DN and MSNBC in New Zealand. I also watch BBC World, CNN International, and Al Jazeera English of the international news channels I have access to.

      • Ken says:

        Good post, Heather. I don’t know of anyone arguing Fox should be shut down, but perhaps I’ve missed that. Btw, all of Democracy Now’s shows are available on the interwebs and many MSNBC shows too, like Rachel Maddow’s, who I believe you’ve mentioned before. I find Al Jazeera the best of what’s available on free to air tv in NZ.

      • Night-Gaunt49 says:

        Democracy Now is also on the internet. Whole shows. So are the Young Turks if you want a decidedly different view of the news of the world outside of the big corporate media consensus we have dominating here in the USA, land of manufactured consent. MSNBC especially Rachel Maddow is also on the internet should you wish to have a look. It is hard to watch Fox “News” for too long. it has been shown that if you watch it too much you actually lose information from it!

        One of the good aspects of the Internet is its global reach. But there is a matter of time. For me since I don’t have a life outside of here I have the time. Most don’t have the time or don’t care. So only a small fraction of any group actually follows news. Not just local, but national and international is few and far between.

        I wanted to thank you for your newsletter.

        • Thanks for your support. 🙂

          I used to watch TYT fairly regularly, but not so much now. I’m still subscribed to their YouTube channel though.

          I don’t think I’ve ever watched DN. I’ve a lost of respect for Rachel Maddow, although there are others on MSNBC I’, not so keen on. Every channel is a mixed bad though.

          The thing is, if those channels were on TV, I’d watch them regularly, and maybe I will if/when I get a Smart TV. I just don’t really like watching things on the computer much. A couple of my favourite TV shows are currently only available On Demand via the free-to-air networks in NZ, and I frequently put off watching them so long I end up missing episodes. When I only had a desktop PC, I wouldn’t watch clips more than a few minutes long, and it’s only because I have a laptop too now that I watch longer stuff.

          • Night-Gaunt49 says:

            May I ask what it was that hurt your confidence in Ms Maddow? I understand the problem of having capacity to run video. Without the help from my brothers I wouldn’t even have a PC to use.

            DN has been on radio for a long time. Only recently have they gotten an internet show with video on them. You can listen to them if it works better for you. They are right now in France during that important Climate Summit which most of the news shows barely cover.

            Thank you for your response to me.

          • Sorry I wasn’t clear – it’s not Rachel Maddow, it’s some others on MSNBC. I think she’s great!

            It’s not capacity that’s the problem – I’ve got plenty of that, and am on broadband, I just don’t like it. It’s not that easy for me to get physically comfortable in order to watch things. It’s harder on a computer.

            You don’t have to thank me for responding – I like it when people take the trouble to respond to my posts. 🙂

  2. AU says:

    The USA is a huge country that is already awash with guns. There is simply no way you can get most of the guns out of access of public. It is impossible.

    So the alternative we are left with is to have stricter controls over who and who cannot buy guns. The reality however is that those who want to do bad things will still be able to get guns on the black market.

    Instead of controlling access to guns, maybe the US can cut down on their defence budget and spend more on improving their society so that less people feel the need to commit violent crime.

    • I feel at a bit of a loss about what to do about the US’s gun problem too because, as you say, there are already so many guns there the situation is virtually beyond help.

      I like your suggestions – I think they’re good. One of the statistics gun nuts always point to though is that violent crime is actually decreasing in the US. They, of course, say that’s because of the increasing number of guns. It’s difficult proving they’re wrong in the US because the NRA has managed to make it illegal for a lot of statistics related to gun violence to even be collected. I find that absolutely unbelievable that they’ve managed to do that.

      • AU says:

        I’m glad that in the UK we have gun-control, which was tightened up even further after Dunblane. Not having a gun-culture and being a small country surely helps.

        I’m off, I hope you have a great 2016!

      • Ken says:

        That’s just how a coin-operated Congress works. It’s only one of many examples of those being regulated writing the laws and relates in a major way to the discussion in the other thread about what’s gone wrong with US democracy. In the 70’s, the Republicans complained about “special interest group demands”. That was their term for campaigns run on behalf of the public. Now we have real, mainly corporate special interests running the entire show. Sanders isn’t perfect, but this is what he is challenging and why his candidacy is important. Whether he is successful or torpedoed by the establishment (both Democrat and corporate though there’s not that much difference) will provide a good indication of whether the game will begin to change.

        As for guns, I don’t see why the US can’t do what they did in Oz and have a huge collection of firearms made under an amnesty. Certainly worked for them. Politics aside, the one admittedly large barrier is that it would have to be done at the federal level so would probably require another Constitutional amendment. I can’t see that trying this would make things any worse than they are now.

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