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Wed, Dec. 9th, 2009, 06:07 pm
Fox News's Blatant Sexism

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Gretchen Carlson Dumbs Down
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Hmm.

So, according to this video clip, it's clear that Gretchen Carlson dumbs down just about everything she says on Fox and Friends, which is a perennial critique of American media, particularly of Fox. That is, at least, the case Jon Stewart poignantly makes on the Daily Show. In Stewart's file footage, Carlson pretends she doesn't know what a "double-dip recession" is, and looks up "czar" in the dictionary and is just totally shocked that it means "king."

Then Stewart uncovers that Carlson was valedictorian of her high school class and graduated with honors from Stanford University after designing her own degree there. She spent time studying in Oxford. Getting into Stanford is no cake walk, so either she got to where she was by grit and merit (an analysis I'm always willing to give the benefit of the doubt on), or it was unearned privilege from having wealthy parents. Either way she's not the airhead she pretends to be on TV.

I see in this something deeper, and more insidious, than what Jon Stewart saw, which is just a dumbing-down of rhetoric so that Joe the Plumber can get what you're saying. Fox isn't across-the-board turned-off by intelligence; they have Karl Rove and Neil Cavuto to appear as informed experts making the case for conservatism. On Fox and Friends, Carlson often plays the coy and curious muse of her two colleagues, Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade, who tell her what's up on a regular basis. The difference between Gretchen Carlson and the "smarter" Fox figures is that she's a woman.

Come to think of it, isn't this exactly what every high school cheerleader in America is expected to do? You gotta play dumb so the boys want you. They don't want blonde girls around for their witty banter, they want a pretty face and tits.

What John Stewart didn't touch was the blatantly sexist element of Fox's programming. Gretchen Carlson could thoroughly outclass the other two dunces on that program, but has to dumb herself down and let the boys lead the conversation because this is what conservative Fox viewers want; an intellectually submissive girl.

It's totally insulting. Can anyone imagine Norah O'Donnel or Rachael Maddow playing dumb perennially on a news program?

Actually, the feminist critique seems like a good way to pry off the fairly robust rhetorical advantage Fox News has with exurban America. Perhaps the station "speaks their language" and taps into a deep-seated (and justifiable) resentment of academia, and the economic privilege that it is wrought with, often serving simply to ensure that people who grew up in wealth are set up to look smart and continue being wealthy. But Middle America is still at least 50% female, and Fox and Friends is clearly demoralizing to women.

Conservatives made feminism legitimate when they attacked criticism of Sarah Palin as "sexist," particularly when they lamented how the McCain campaign "controlled" her to her image's detriment. How can they now defend the message they are sending another message to women, that they must be the followers, not the leaders (even when they are smart enough to reverse that role) on their popular morning program?

Thu, Dec. 10th, 2009 08:19 pm (UTC)
firemaplesong

I think John Stewart's story was quite revealing. Anoka High School has an enrollment of over 2,000 students, and she was valedictorian? That can't be a cake walk. And Garrison Keillor graduated from there, too.
(although there were probably only ten students then) Go Tornadoes! I guess it comes down to the Fox script for individual shows, with each personality playing their respective parts.

I have a friend who actually watches the Fox news channel,and tells me it's merely for the entertainment factor. I find it wasteful time, much like pro wrestling. However, my friend did attend one of those tea parties, allegedly to see what was going on.

What I have noticed when I travel to Michigan to my old hometown is that the local FM talk radio programming changed in recent years from local talk to "Fair and balanced", "We report the news, you decide" Fox lineup of non-news. At least at night they go off the deep edge with 'Coast to Coast'. The problem there with Fox is that there are no counterpoint shows, no voice of truth, just one mentality. It's one way I see where Fox is gaining by investing in radio stations that are hurting for revenue.