Ouch. In a scathing criticism of Fox News and other pro-Trump media outlets, The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan speaks to the past five years of conservative reporting that preceded and instigated the outburst of rioting at the capitol last week. Columbia journalism professor William Grueskin labeled the events as the logical conclusion of the past five years of reporting from Fox News. From birtherism in the Obama era to Covid denial and claims of election fraud, Fox News and other right-wing media have played a huge role in the radicalization of the right wing.
The public wanted to hear about the riots happening at the Capitol. The rioters had been trained not to trust the media. The combination of these two volatile elements led to journalists becoming a target during the January 6 events in Washington. Reporters Hsu and Robertson of the New York Times reported that during the insurrection, protesters were trying to suppress the media, carving “Murder the media” into a door of the capitol and fashioning a camera cord to a noose and hanging it from a tree. This clash between the radicals and the journalists increased the chaos of an already chaotic display of violence and rage.
Following the display at the Capitol last week, some conservative media organizations have taken action to counteract escalating anger from right-wing radicals. Cumulus Media, which specializes in conservative radio shows, has directed its talk-show hosts to stop espousing claims of election fraud.
Executive vice president Brian Philips ordered his hosts to “help induce national calm NOW.” It’s still unclear as to whether or not the hosts will actually stop their inflammatory rhetoric and tell their listeners what they don’t want to hear: that Trump lost the 2020 election and the results must be accepted.
After Trump called Georgia election officials to attempt to change election results last week, journalists grappled with how to label the phone call. Some news organizations like New York Magazine called it a coup attempt, while others were more hesitant to label it as such. Poynter’s Kelly McBride weighs the pros and cons of calling it a coup. The anti-coup argument is that there was no military involvement, no arrests, and using the word “coup” is too harsh of a term, especially when the use of the term is not explained in the piece in which it is used. However, other journalists argue that the phone call fits the definition of a coup and is not too strong. Either way, the choice to use or not to use the term is one that carries a lot of weight, and it’s important that readers are given the ability to make their own decision and distinction.
In his weekly column, Ben Smith follows the career history of one of his previous colleagues at Buzzfeed, Anthime Joseph Gionet, who livestreamed his involvement in last week’s insurrection at the capitol. Gionet participated in the siege, but Smith described his interests as “aesthetic” rather than “journalistic,” explaining that Gionet was not motivated by ideology but rather fame and internet attention. That this man was driven to extremism by his own desperate need for a memorable online presence showcases the fact that the role of the internet and social media in these riots must not be underestimated. Furthermore, it proves that there is real danger in social media’s ability to foster extremism, Smith argued.