By Philip Pearson
In his Thursday speech at the Capitol marking the one year anniversary of the January 6th 2021 attack on congress and the presidential certification, President Biden pulled no punches when it came to former President Donald Trump. He blisteringly attacked Trump again and again for spreading “a web of lies” about the outcome of the 2020 election and “holding a dagger at the throat of America” with his behavior leading up to the insurrection at the Capitol.
“For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election. He tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob reached the Capitol,” Biden said. “But they failed.”
“Go back to that day,” Biden continued, “What do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving, for the first time inside the Capitol, Confederate flags that symbolize the cause to destroy America – to rip us apart. Even during the Civil War, that never happened. But it happened here, in 2021. A mob, breaking windows, kicking in doors.”
“You can’t love your country only when you win,” Biden added, “You can’t obey the law only when it is convenient. You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies. Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited, and those who called on them to do so, held a dagger at the throat of America and American democracy.”
Biden’s speech was admirable. And it was a notable departure for a President who’s been criticized for doing and saying too little when it comes to former President Trump’s continued efforts to undermine confidence in American elections.
But it didn’t go far enough.
In a speech that even drew initial admiration from Fox News anchor Bret Baier for its forcefulness, Biden forgot to mention the primary culprit in dragging America down the path to autocracy. Fox News. OANN. Newsmax. Brietbart. The Conservative Media machine that enables politicians like Trump to spread lies and “alternative facts” unchecked. The same Right-Wing media empire that is embracing authoritarianism with alarming regularity, that works to keep nearly a quarter of Americans siloed from any dissenting views at all, and that symbiotically uses politicians (like South Dakota governor Krist Noem) to spread its divisive message (while at the same time claiming legitimacy for that very message of division by citing Republican lawmakers’ complicity). Because while it’s nice, and maybe even useful, for Biden to target Trump as public enemy number one in the fight against election meddling and right wing extremism, President Trump didn’t happen in a vacuum. The country is being prepared for a greater shift to authoritarianism, and the culprit is Fox, not Trump. And while a Trump run for president in 2024 is the worst nightmare of many, the web of lies that Fox spends programming hour after programming hour helping him advance has much farther reaching consequences than the next presidential cycle. The next generation of politicians to ascend American politics by appealing to the far-right’s fears and resentments will have had the path laid for them in advance, and they’ll have propaganda partners in Fox, OANN, and Newsmax with decades’ experience turning profits off division and hate.