A collage of photos of Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch, Sean Hannity in front of a cross that says "Fox News" on it.

The Well Actually

Rupert Murdoch Has Created a Church of the Poisoned Mind

Fox News evangelicals like Roy Moore believe that the War on Christmas is never over, diversity and democracy is for losers, the white man leads, and … is there even a moral compass?

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After Moses met God at the summit of Mount Sinai for history’s most exclusive leadership retreat, he trudged back down to his people with the tablets that most folks think of as the moral guide and, in many ways, the foundational legal document forming the broad basis of the human social contract. The Ten Commandments are a good roadmap to not being an asshole to other people, but if that’s all they were, the Roy Moores of the world probably wouldn’t be so obsessed with installing them in, on and around presumably secular government buildings.

You knew this about Roy Moore, right? That before we found out he was a creep who got banned from malls for preying on teenage girls, he was the good-godliest judge in all of Alabama, a man whose homophobia and Islamophobia distinguished him in a field of fiercely hateful competitors? (The Daily podcast has a good primer on Moore’s pre-pedo fame.) Moore wielded the Ten Commandments as a bigoted bludgeon, pasting them up in his courtroom like an angry little boy with a cheap “NO GIRLS ALLOWED” placard on his bedroom door, building a career out of being precisely the kind of empty, public performer of Christianity that Christ Hisownself so despised.

Roy Moore may or may not care about stealing or honoring one’s parents. Obviously, his relationship to covetousness, particularly as it relates to the bodies of young girls, is deeply disturbing. And I don’t have any doubt about: What Roy Moore liked best about the Commandments was the first bit—“thou shalt have no other Gods”—because that’s the part that beats people over the head with the aforementioned Biblical bludgeon, and Roy Moore is the worst kind of theocrat, which is saying quite a bit, because theocracy is an awful idea.

Moore is a believer in what author Amy Sullivan brilliantly identified in last weekend’s New York Times opinion pages as “Fox evangelicalism.” In the church of Fox News, the War on Christmas never ends, and its prophets imbue “secular practices like shopping for gifts with religious significance and declare sacred something as worldly and profane as gun culture.” When you take communion in at the altar of Murdoch (or perhaps, Murdoch-Disney), you drink of Coke, The Real Thing™—and you never pay taxes on soda!—and eat of the body of Chyron, ever-scrolling with fear-mongering isolationism. Fox evangelicalism has no identifiable moral compass; it simply takes as fact that any attack on a true member or leader of the church—usually, an older white man who is tired of political correctness, a spawn of MSNBSatan if ever there was—is an attack on the church itself.

But above all else, Fox evangelicalism demands unquestioning obedience to the one true news, enforced through a doctrinal disparagement of alternative points of view through a thorough and essential dismissal of other networks, publications, magazines, reporters, mainstream journalists, or anyone outside the Fox fold, as “fake news.” Breitbart and the Daily Caller and the Federalist and the Neo-Nazi bloggers at the Daily Stormer and other conservative satellites may be allowed to operate as missionaries, but all leads back to the great godhead at Fox News HQ.

Accept No Substitutes! Enjoy The Real Thing! This is perhaps the sole pseudo-theological tenet of the church of Fox that echoes anything like the lessons of the text that Christians call the Old Testament, and it echoes nothing so much as the first two commandments: Worship no other Gods, and create no false idols or, in some interpretations, no images at all.

Folks who have never taken a media studies class may be surprised to learn that this section of Exodus is actually taught fairly frequently to aspiring journalists and media-makers because of the way in which God despises and discourages the creation of idols and images. Why might that be? Well, because idols and images are powerful. They can be used to teach and explain stories and phenomena that stem from the human imagination, from the human experience, from extra-canonical sources. Idols and images are bad for God’s brand, because God’s brand is being the one true God, the one true source of knowledge among many.

Those idols and images, God tells Moses, are fake news. One read of the text simply interprets this part of Exodus as a commentary on paganism, but taken as a piece of literature, I read this lesson as being about much more: It’s about socio-cultural control and enforcement, the dangers of closed-mindedness and authoritarian control. God doesn’t just suggest that his people steer clear of pesky lesser-gods. He leads his ten most important directives off with the assertion that only he can provide the truth, and that any attempt to challenge his authority—through the creation of what is, ultimately, media—is among the most grievous affronts. Monotheism demands complete control, and to this end, God must control his own message, and he has to demand unquestioning loyalty in order to keep his house in order.

This is the real threat of Fox evangelicalism; not that it’s bullying bullshit, but that the methodology—making people afraid and suspicious of diversity, experience, ingenuity and democracy—works not just for a new god trying to make a name for himself, but for any entity or person clawing to build and retain power. This is why Donald Trump is obsessed with loyalty; he is, ultimately, the supreme deity of the Fox evangelicals, and he knows that the barest scrutiny exposes his weaknesses, which are many and laden with lies.

And so we must go forth, and read widely. We must put many, many other gods before him. We must make for ourselves many graven images. Amen.

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