For Laura Ingraham, the decline came well before the fall. The Parkland teens’ success in pressuring advertisers to flee her Fox News Channel show could cut her career down to tweet size. Ingraham made the mistake of mocking student leader David Hogg’s reaction to being turned down by several colleges.
Ingraham is great at dishing invective, less so at taking it. Often the case with bullies, the minute someone fights back in an effective way, they get scared. Now on “vacation” from the show, Ingraham has been on her belly begging forgiveness. The fall has begun.
The decline of Ingraham, however, started some time back. It was visible in the unenthusiastic response to a nasty speech she gave in February before a Louisiana business group. A handful of attendees jumped to their feet in appreciation, but the great majority sat on their hands. The business leaders afterward issued a disclaimer.
A question remains on the wisdom of boycotting companies that sponsor commentators one detests. Is that a quashing of free speech as a writer for The Hill suggested? It isn’t. No way.
If people have the right to spend their money on political activism, they certainly have the right to withhold it. That’s what shunning funders of toxic views amounts to.
But is it good for democracy? Let me say right off that I believe in a diversity of opinion. My left-leaning biases notwithstanding, I read The American Conservative for its thoughtful arguments. And I value the Wall Street Journal for its excellent reporting and bypass the right-wing boobery on its opinion pages. I subscribe to both publications, which means I support them financially.
But the excretions on Fox News have moved so beyond the bounds of civic decency that one must entertain the idea of snubbing the network’s bankrollers altogether. There’s all that crazy talk, without evidence, of an ongoing FBI “coup” against Donald Trump. One Fox News contributor brooded on an FBI plot to assassinate the president and didn’t get the boot.
This goes beyond slavish devotion to Trump. It’s a frontal assault on the civic culture. As Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer who recently quit as a Fox News analyst, wrote, the network’s “prime-time lineup preaches paranoia, attacking processes and institutions vital to our republic and challenging the rule of law.”
A bunch of advertisers rebelled against Sean Hannity for flogging the nutty conspiracy theory that the Clintons had Democratic Party staffer Seth Rich murdered. His program survived, but its ad revenues are down.
Whether on Fox News Channel or elsewhere, Ingraham remains free to continue vacuuming dollars from receptive audiences. If she truly believes what she says, she should be willing to persevere at a lower income level.
Advertisers undoubtedly would prefer not being squeezed. But if they are forced to choose customers, most big names are going to prefer the young, the educated and the affluent.
For all the right’s portrayal of the students as left-wing radicals, they come off as decidedly clean-cut products of the American middle class. Therein lies their power. They are so much better at hitting back than the Fox News dinosaurs and, for that matter, the hotheads on the far left.
Ingraham has a right to go after these students, even viciously, despite their age, despite the trauma of a massacre at their school. That’s what free speech is about. And children or not, the students are playing a grown-up game.
What really gets the goat of Ingraham and her defenders is that they play it so well. And should the kids decide to target the entire Fox News enterprise, they must already know this: They’re part of the way there.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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