Fox News: “Don’t Worry, Be Anxious”
by Mark Andrejevic — University of Iowa
April 02, 2007 – 09:00
In keeping with the spirit of Flow, this video juxtaposes the soundtracks of several advertisements aired on the Fox News Channel with clips of Fox News alerts and crawl captions. The soundtrack, including the musical clip, is taken entirely from the commercials, the video from the news content and promos. The result is an attempt to capture a recurring theme in right wing commercial media from Talk Radio to Human Events to Fox News: a portrait of a world of proliferating risks for which viewers become responsible as consumers. I first noticed this pattern listening to right wing talk radio: get people fired up about privatizing Social Security, then attempt to prey on the financial anxiety associated with dismantling the social safety net by advertising get-rich-quick schemes. The anxiety and anger factor stoked by Fox News coverage tends to portray the multiplication of risks, random attacks, and catastrophes as irreducibly incomprehensible: events that can be reacted to, perhaps categorized actuarily, but which nevertheless remain inaccessible to narratives of social structure or collective action. Like the terrorist threat more generally, the threat can therefore only be reacted to, prepared for indefinitey. One thing that pops out when you listen to right wing radio or watch the Fox News Channel is how many ads are directly related to the types of anxieties exacerbated by neoliberal policies ("Dismantle public education stories" run next to ads for do-it-yourself educational products; "Escalate the war on terror" stories run next to a broad array of personal protection and security devices, and so on). I pulled this together quickly from about four hours of Fox News aired over four days…it could have gone on much longer (and does every morning). Despite our self-conscious deployment of the term "flow," there is a recurring tendency to consider programs in isolation from the commercial contexts in which they are so often embedded. The goal of this admittedly crude effort is to highlight the connections between the news content and the commercial context.