There’s a soullessness in our society that must be excised.
You may have thought Fox might turn things down on the racism dial after it had to pay $787.5 million in a settlement with Dominion Voting Systems to avoid further inquiry into its corrupt inner workings. But in the wake of the brutal murder of a Black, homeless man in New York this week, it’s continued right on course.
Daniel Penny killed Jordan Neely by putting him in a choke hold for 15 minutes. Then, he got up and walked away. He has still not been charged with a crime.
And yet, on a man killing a desperate and hungry homeless person, Fox anchors laugh:
They welcome jeering.
And they suggest, in fact, it’s actually not that “people kill people.” Jesse Watters said that had Neely been “institutionalized” or “incarcerated,” he wouldn’t be dead. No, Jesse. Had he not been murdered in broad daylight, he wouldn’t be dead.
“Maybe if the left had not defunded and demoralized the police, he wouldn’t be dead,” Watters continued, referring to a city in which police officers are getting a raise while other agencies are collectively taking $1 billion in annual cuts.
“They care about blaming somebody else,” Watters finished, blaming “the left” for an act of cold-blooded murder done by an individual who felt empowered enough in this society to choke-hold someone for 15 minutes.
There’s a tendency to ascribe the barbaric, almost libidinal hatred peddled by Fox to profit. That a formula that pulls out the worst instincts among us metastasizes them and leaves those instincts wanting more is a formula destined for dollars. And surely, that equation has been intrinsic to the construction and rise of Fox and right-wing media more broadly.
Yet there also comes a point where the numbers are too large, the bank accounts are too stuffed, to blame such viciousness on the lust for profit alone.
Sure, it’s not revelatory that people like Watters or Tucker Carlson or any other member of Fox’s roster are, in fact, racist. But there’s a deeper sickness, a gaping hole where once there may have been at least a sliver of humanity. They all have their own origin stories, their own paths of how they became the figureheads of an ideology that not only tolerates but encourages, salivates at, the murder of the worst-off among us. How they developed a mindset that cannot fathom the pain of another human being who was first brought to live on the streets, then strangled and killed for yearning for a better existence.
It’s difficult to conceptualize how someone can begin to think like this, be brought to the eye of a storm in which all they see is the stability of their claims, while knowing none of the violence that surrounds it. Congressman Jamaal Bowman, in the aftermath of the January 6 attacks on the Capitol, put forth one notion that at least offers a lens toward seeing these people even now as modes of potential:
What transpired on that New York City subway line is a cruelty so inexplicable it may be tempting to search for some justification for why it happened. But there is none. Only this sickness, these false identities of superiority, can lead someone to justify, joke about, jeer at—and indeed, commit—something so definitively inexplicable, so patently opposed to humanity.
Determining whether someone—even the likes of Carlson or Watters—is “too far gone” is a fool’s errand; but if this sickness is to be excised from our society, it at least begins by preventing its spread any further.