As he spoke, images of violence and vandalism appeared next to him. People smashing windows. Burning buildings. Looters scampering through a ravaged big-box store. A statue being decapitated.
What viewers might have noticed about some of the footage, though, was that the violent acts being depicted weren’t actually occurring “right now,” as Carlson presented. Some were labeled with the dates on which they occurred: May 30 in New York, nearly two weeks prior. Others were identified only by a source but could be traced back to when they were filmed. Those looters were at work even earlier, on May 27 and 28 in Minneapolis.
Over the past week and through Monday, Fox News’s prime-time shows have repeatedly shown clips of violence from the end of May — often the same clips, over and over — to depict chaos and terror gripping the streets of the country. As protesters in Seattle took control of a few blocks in that city, it was blended with the scenes of violence from last month to continue the same narrative. Cities are collapsing — and the left is to blame.
“Protests continuing across the country,” host Sean Hannity said on “Hannity” Monday evening, describing new developments in the case of George Floyd who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. “Anarchy, lawlessness reign supreme in Seattle. The police precinct there has been abandoned by city officials. Another precinct in Minneapolis was burned to the ground just a few weeks ago in riots that had nothing to do with the honor or memory of George Floyd.”
All of it was blended together — and not subtly. From June 8 through June 15, the three Fox prime-time shows showed video clips from violence in late May nearly two dozen times during the hosts’ opening monologues alone — including as Hannity spoke about Minneapolis on Monday.
“The Democrats who tolerated and indeed fomented this violence?” host Laura Ingraham said during “The Ingraham Angle” last week. “We need to teach them a lesson so vivid that they will finally gain the courage to take back their party from the radicals who now dominate it.”
This idea that the nation is under direct and immediate threat as a function of Democratic inaction has obvious appeal to Fox News’s heavily Republican audience and to the network’s most enthusiastic fan, President Trump.
On Tuesday, when unveiling an executive order proposing modest changes to police practices, Trump himself invoked the specter of rampant violence as a rationalization for disparaging his opponents.
“Despite our very good record on crime, law and order must be further restored nationwide, and your federal government is ready, willing and able to help,” Trump said. “As we did in Minneapolis, after it got out of control for four days. We sent in representatives — commonly known as the National Guard — and it was all put down very quickly. We’re willing to help. We’re willing to help in Seattle. We’re willing to help."
That is a neat distillation of Trump’s approach to the situation. Things are out of control — though his administration has been hugely successful in addressing crime. He could solve the problem of things being out of control — but no one has asked.
No one has asked because, save the unique situation in Seattle, the protests haven’t devolved into the sort of vandalism and looting that were seen in some places last month.
“There will be no more looting or arson, and the penalty will be very grave for those who get caught,” Trump added a bit later. “Violence and destruction will not be tolerated.”
It’s useful for Trump and Fox News to claim the existence of an ongoing crisis that’s solely within the control of Democratic officials. If that crisis demands talking about things that happened two weeks ago as thought they are part of an ongoing situation, so be it.
“Huge parts of our urban landscape have been destroyed in the past month,” Carlson said Monday, greatly exaggerating the scale of what happened. “Almost no one has been held to account for it. Just the opposite: You’re encouraged to pretend it never happened.”
If you’re a Fox News host or the president, you’re encouraged to pretend it never ended.