From a brief look at the US cable news media following the Tucson shootings, it might look as if little has changed: the screaming rhetoric has continued, although the subject of those sounding off is now different. Those on the right are protesting, accusing anyone and everyone on the left of blaming them for the alleged actions of Jared Lee Loughner.
Moreover, the right are desperately characterising Loughner as a “leftist”: typical are the false rumours claiming that the alleged shooter was a registered Democrat, which he was not (he was registered as Independent). Those taking a liberal stance, having tried to suggest that the violent rhetoric be turned down, are now making the point that there have been a succession of these shootings over the years, and asking what will happen next time.
But in among all of the noise, one hopeful sign has emerged: Roger Ailes, President of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) claims to have instructed his hosts to tone down their rhetoric. Ailes, in conversation with Russell Simmons, asserted that “I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don’t have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that”.
It sounds promising, but does not stand up well when compared to last night’s ranting from his top rating host Bill O’Reilly: Bill-O denounced the New York Times, the National Organization for Women, and MSNBC, the last being described as “far left”. He recited the so far standard right wing talking point that the left are using the shootings for political ends.
So Ailes’ words don’t seem to cut much ice with Bill-O. Neither does it appear to have had any effect on America Live host Megyn Kelly, who used her characteristic “question as conclusion and judgment” approach to go after Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik during a special Sunday edition of the show.
And, unless Fox actually does turn down both vitriol and volume, Ailes’ words will be just that, and no more.