Where Were the Gatekeepers? – The New York Times
On Monday, I was talking with Pavitra Suryanarayan, a political scientist at the London School of Economics, about what is fueling far-right populism.
She had just seen a breaking news report, she told me: TV host Tucker Carlson has been fired from Fox News.
That moment was an object lesson in the larger points she emphasized in our conversation.
Much of Suryanaryan’s research has focused on why the expansion of democratic rights often provokes political backlash from groups fearing they will lose their status and privileges in a more equal society. . (For example, southern white American reactions during the civil rights era, and members of the Brahmin caste in India after the government initiated affirmative action in the 1990s). Suryanarayan gave some examples of the right wing in recent years. Carlson and Donald Trump in the United States, Narendra Modi in India and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.
But Surya Narayan said that political supply and demand alone is not enough, and another key factor is whether institutions are willing to allow extreme dissident candidates or exclude them. Ordinarily, mainstream parties “look out for the middle class who can win,” she said. That means avoiding candidates who might alienate voters. So when populists break through, it’s often a sign of institutional weakness as much as the candidate’s strength.
“There should have been a strong party machine to keep these impulses at bay,” she said. “They weren’t doing one job of keeping extremists out of the system.”
Sometimes it happens because political crises have weakened or discredited mainstream political parties. In Brazil, for example, the Operation Carwash corruption scandal ensnared much of the country’s political elite, shattered public trust in politicians, and helped pave the way for Bolsonaro’s rise to power.
But sometimes weakness manifests itself more gradually. In the United States, the Republican Party was seriously undermined by her 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United ruling. political scientist saysThe court’s ruling that the government cannot ban corporate political spending had the effect of directing money to the PAC rather than the party itself. And the legacy of the Iraq war and the party’s losses in the 2008 and 2012 general elections led to the collapse of the leadership.
In a 2016 interview, Vanessa Williamson, a political scientist at the Brookings Institution who co-authored a book on the Tea Party, said, “When Bush resigned, there was an intellectual void. It was partially filled by Fox News, which became the top agenda setter.
And while strong parties can persuade weaker candidates to drop out, in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, multiple candidates stuck to the campaign, dividing voters and leaving Trump in the minority. enabled them to win early election campaigns. And when Trump surged in the primary, the Communist Party had few voices in power against Trump, Williamson said in his 2016 announcement, “You can choose how many Fox newscasters he has.” Either way, Mitt has Romney.
But while Fox News was able to reach a large audience, the television newscasters and personalities were not, and are not, party officials. I was there.
As such, the network has used its institutional power to retain Carlson’s audience, defended the January 6th Capitol riot, employed rhetorical tropes of white supremacists, and tolerated broadcasts borrowing from speciesist conspiracy theories. A network that gave him a platform, paid him a salary, and enjoyed the profits he generated.
At this point, it’s not clear why Fox fired him this week, but the sudden decision serves as a reminder that the network could have done it sooner and didn’t.
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