UC San Diego
Fox populism in the great recession
- Author(s): Peck, Brandon Reece
- et al.
Too often critics treat Fox News's populist brand and voice, its claim to stick up for the little guy as a gimmicky type of charlatanism that is used to convey simple and misleading news stories. However, in this dissertation, I demonstrate how Fox News's populist journalistic style is in fact a sophisticated and complex form of political communication, one that requires great performative skill to embody, a deep knowledge of traditional political discourses, and an astute awareness of the key social and cultural cleavages active in a given historical moment. To capture the complexity of Fox News's populist mode of address, in this study, I conduct a critical-textual analysis of Fox News's top three programs during the late-2000s Recession : Glenn Beck, Hannity, and The O'Reilly Factor. This involves a close reading of the "imagined community" Fox News's style is designed to address and how its style is crafted to create a political identity for viewers. While partisan identification with the Republican Party and political conservatism defines the broadest parameters of Fox's imagined community, the real power and ideological utility of Fox News's mode of address, I argue, derive from its cultural referents, particularly, how it aligns deep moral values and social archetypes from the American populist rhetorical tradition with the political right, marking populism as conservative. In the first half of this dissertation, I develop a theoretical model for interpreting Fox News's unique populist address, which includes an analysis of how Fox News's top programs attempt to draw symbolic linkages between political conservatism and the white working- class. In the second half of the dissertation, I demonstrate the power of this rhetorical approach by showing how Fox News's top programs framed news about the late-2000s Recession to fashion a conservative economic agenda