Today’s post on FOX News is inspired by Rene Girard’s “Mimetic” theory and an Aesop’s fable. First the fable.
“THE FOX AND THE CROW”
A Fox (read FOX) saw a Crow (the American people) fly off with a piece of cheese (real information) in its beak and settle on a branch in a tree.
“That’s for me, as I am a Fox,” said Master Reynard, and he walked up to the foot of the tree.
“Good day, Mistress Crow,” he cried. “How well you are looking today: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds (parties, races, countries), just as your figure does; let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of all Birds.”
The Crow lifted up her head and began to caw her best, but the moment she opened her mouth, the piece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by Master Fox.
“That will do,” said he. “That was all I wanted. In exchange for your cheese, I will give you a piece of advice for the future: ‘Do not trust flatterers.'”
THE SCAPEGOAT MECHANISM AND SOCIAL CONTROL
Rene Girard’s theory of “mimetic” desire, mimetic rivalry, and the scapegoat mechanism explains the secret of the appeal and success of FOX News. The Fox takes the cheese it extols by flattering its viewers as the true patriots, the lovers of goodness and truth.
FOX News is the 21st Century voice of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI). Joe McCarthy and what came to be known as “McCarthyism” scared the American public in a search for neighbors who might be closeted communists or communist sympathizers until news anchor Edward R. Murrow ended McCarthy’s witch-hunt with a single newscast.
As in that sordid history of the Salem Witch Trials in which the Puritans were summoned by their magistrates and clergy to rid themselves of evil (see Kai Erickson’s The Wayward Puritans: a Study in the Sociology of Deviance), McCarthy’s hunt was a convention of social control to maintain the old fraying religious, political, cultural consensus. FOX resurrects those shameful chapters of the American experience.
There is no quicker way to rally people than to create a scapegoat (a shared enemy, the embodiment of evil). All it takes is a FOX to flatter the “Queen of all Birds” into dropping the Cheese.