Rupert Murdoch's all-news channel didn't debut in America until October 1996, but it's chilling to consider the what-ifs of how today's Fox News lineup of doomsday, anti-government prophets would have reacted to controversial and defining news events in the early 1990s -- like Waco.
Last week, I wrote about the inherent dangers and irresponsibility of Fox News consciously shaping itself into a kind of militia news outlet and how it's impossible to ignore the anti-government message some viewers such as Richard Poplawski, the man accused of shooting and killing three Pittsburgh police officers, might be taking from Fox News.
But let's take a step back and see just how extraordinary Fox News' latest lurch to the revolutionary right really is. And let's clearly understand how Fox News is actively trying to mainstream fringe allegations, how Murdoch's outlet functions as a crucial bridge -- a transmitter -- between the radical and the everyday.
What Fox News, and specifically Beck, is doing in early 2009 is giving a voice -- a national platform -- to the same deranged, hard-core haters who hounded the new, young Democratic president in the early 1990s in the wake of Waco (i.e. the Clinton Chronicles crowd). What Fox News is doing today is embracing the same kind of hate rhetoric and doomsday conspiratorial talk that flourished during the '90s, and Fox News is now dumping all that rancid stuff into the mainstream. It's legitimizing accusatory hate speech in a way no other television outlet in America ever has before.
Read the full Media Matters column here.