Welp, the Fox News talking heads have screwed up big-time. Newsmax and “OAN” too. Fox News leadership is fine with Lou Dobbs and clan demanding the toppling of this nation’s democracy, and Tucker Carlson is three shows away from burning a cross in his studio, but do something that is going to cost the network a big wad of money and suddenly, in swoop the lawyers.
The Fox News audience might have noticed something peculiar this weekend: A new three-minute segment appearing during multiple hosted shows that slapped down, hard, each host’s previous conspiracy theories revolving around voting machine company Smartmatic. Similarly, conspiracy network Newsmax aired its own supposed “clarification” of previous conspiracy claims about the company.
The message from both networks: All those things we said to work our viewers into a possibly violent froth targeting a private company, the claims about Smartmatic and rival Dominion being in cahoots to overthrow ‘Merica because reasons? Um, please ignore those. We now realize that the companies have a good shot at suing us all into oblivion.
Given that the hosts of each network sow conspiracy theories targeting innocent persons, companies, advocacy groups and you-name-it on a daily basis, you might have been curious as to what led to this one specific semi-retraction of falsehoods smearing one pair of companies. Yeah, no surprises here. It quickly turned out that it was indeed because Smartmatic and Dominion informed those networks that they were preparing to sue them into oblivion, and because it turns out they have an uncommonly solid case for doing so. News networks are shielded by a host of First Amendment protections, but turning two companies into targets for right-wing froth and potential violence based on purely fictional claims intended to boost Dear Leader’s own propaganda efforts is quite likely not protected.
These segments distancing the networks from their own false claims are not likely to buffer the conspiracy producers from an upcoming lawsuit, because there is almost no chance that any of the hosts involved, whether on Fox News or its propaganda-premised competitors, can keep their lying gobs shut from here on in. The Trump premise is that Trump actually won the election but was denied victory by those meddling [insert conspiracy targets here]; you cannot sell that conspiracy without naming a target, and Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo, and the Newsmax/OAN stable of deplorables do not have the collective brains between them to remember that they are not allowed to slander two particular companies. They’ll return to the conspiracy claims before the week is out.
Fox News will survive no matter what. The Murdoch family is filthy rich, everyone else involved is filthy rich, and they will shake the green room couch cushions until enough cash falls out to make the two companies go away and move on to slander new targets. For Newsmax and OAN, the lawsuit may be more existential. Both companies can claim damages well in excess of both “news” outlets’ total invested cash, and the conservative vultures circling both as potential buyout targets—so as to gain access to the advertiser’s dream: audiences pre-selected for maximum gullibility—are going to be less eager to buy into companies that come with giant legal bills attached.
So by all means, Smartmatic and Dominion, sue the ever-loving crap out of all three. Do it for the money. Do it for America. Do it because squeezing these professional liars for every dime they’re worth will do more to tamp down on fascism’s burping spread than any other possible act. Squish them.