Discover more from New Means
Fox Fear-Mongering Shut Down
Seattle residents reject the idea that their city is crime-infested. We can learn from them.
Last night, something beautiful and unexpected happened – Fox News produced great content on their primetime show. For those who haven’t seen the fantastic clip, the conservative TV channel sent someone to Seattle to do a “man on the street” segment about crime. But, despite the so-called reporter asking one leading question after another, the people interviewed rebuked every comment and question and mocked the idea that Seattle was dangerous. One woman, when prompted with the statement that people are being robbed all the time as they walk around, laughed and asked where the guy was getting his facts from. And that wasn’t even the best part.
Another person interviewed gave what was, to me, a stunning and incredible response to see on the nation’s leading conservative TV station. They immediately and calmly replied, “Crime is a social issue that could be solved by giving people their basic needs.” And, for some reason, Fox aired all of this. Despite their best efforts to get people ranting and raving about crime in Seattle, they got one person after another not only talking about how safe the city is, but openly mocking the man they sent out to drum up fear around crime.
This clip, uploaded to Twitter by Kat Abughazaleh of Media Matters for America, has already gotten millions of views in less than 24 hours. And I think its significance goes far beyond Fox being roasted and beaten at its own game. For one thing, a lot of people in cities across America are tired of being fed endless fear-mongering about the cities we live in. In 2020, pundits and conservatives repeatedly spread lies about Portland burning, New York being dead, and cities across America generally being unlivable violent crime zones. I have fond memories of people dancing and partying in NYC’s Washington Square Park as summer turned to fall that year, with some people taking videos of the thriving and exuberance and uploading them to social media with captions like “Who says New York is dead?” or “New York is back, baby.” Similarly, friends in Portland would take peaceful snapshots of their parks and lush city and post them with captions like “Apparently Portland is burning.”
Now our cities aren’t perfect, and no one knows that better than the people who live here. But they aren’t one big violent crime spree either, they’re beautiful and imperfect and filled with tons of people trying to tackle the real problems we face. But in the eyes of conservative media our cities are nightmares, hellholes to be avoided at all costs. And a lot of us are tired of hearing that rhetoric. We’re tired of the guys who loudly label themselves alpha-males talking on their podcasts about how scared they are to enter the big scary city of Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, wherever it might be. But it goes beyond just the resentment of city dwellers. More and more of us are also seeing that this rhetoric is a weapon.
If you find my writing helpful, please consider a paid subscription to make more of it possible. Thank you!
Lying about crime rates, and more broadly fear-mongering about crime in a deliberate and relentless propaganda wave is a powerful tool to build support for police and imprisonment without actually addressing the underlying root causes of crime. When media outlets and politicians work together to stoke unwarranted fear of violence around every corner, they are trying to build consensus for a “law and order” approach to safety that has been proven to not work. This is the reason the United States has 5% of the world population, but 25% of its prisoners. This is why the U.S. system of policing and incarceration takes $180 billion every year, which would give these forces the third largest military budget on Earth if they were their own army.
This is why I was so thrilled to see one of the people interviewed on the streets of Seattle respond swiftly that the real solution to crime is meeting people’s basic needs. It’s one thing to resist the fear-mongering around crime by disputing the data, but it’s another to argue that the goals of this propaganda are fundamentally wrong and propose an alternative. It’s not just that our cities are not in fact constantly in the throes of a violent Armageddon, it’s that even if they were, the answer wouldn’t be locking everyone up. We’ve tried that, this country has already done that on a massive, massive scale. And that approach has decimated communities without actually addressing the underlying causes of poverty, lack of opportunity, lack of education funding, lack of housing, and so on and so forth.
So when confronted with a coordinated campaign to make people scared of cities, and to drum up fear around crime, we must respond by being radical – that is by going to the root. At the root is the knowledge that capitalists don’t want a society where everyone has their needs met, even if it would reduce crime, because a society where we’re all taken care of would make them obsolete. If we had a truly communal and caring society where everyone’s basic needs like shelter and food and education were collectively provided for, the incentive to sell our labor to them at a low price, in other words to work jobs we don’t like that make them lots of money, would decline considerably. So when they see countless studies showing that meeting basic needs like housing helps prevent crime, billionaires don’t jump to provide more housing. Instead, they invest in opportunities to profit off prisons. They invest in prison labor, in for-profit prisons, and in police. And, they buy media outlets to promote crime scares like the one we’re talking about right now.
What I’m trying to say is that the super-rich know. They know that making us scared of violence around every corner hurts poor people and people of color, creates an opportunity to profit off their suffering and keeps a lot of the general population in line with their conservative and harmful agenda. And we need to know that too. The interviews on the streets of Seattle show that more and more people are seeing through these lies. But that’s just the first step. In the same breath as we reject fear-mongering we must present an alternative. We have to clearly say what was said to Fox News: meet people’s basic needs. This country has tried, and is still trying, mass incarceration. Now, let’s try caring for people. Let’s try investing in our communities. Let’s organize our asses off to make that happen, and see what changes. I have a feeling well-funded schools and job opportunities and beautiful parks and stable housing and good healthcare might produce better results than an endless line of cops on patrol and the school-to-prison pipeline. So let’s give it a go.
Thank you for reading! If you find my writing valuable, please consider becoming a paid subscriber so I can write more. Thank you! - Josh