Out of the Blue: Once upon a time in Sweden… (opinion)
Out of the Blue
Donald Trump watches a lot of Fox News. As one of the many Americans he ostensibly governs, until this week, I had very little opinion about the network.
As an avowed lefty, I have been aware of its right-leaning tendencies for years, but I have to admit that aside from noticing ticker-tape headlines on monitors tuned to it at the gym, I’ve never paid all that much attention to Fox News.
But Worst Supporting Actor Razzie Winner (for Ghosts Can’t Do It (1990)) changed my mind about that when his talking points at a weekend rally in Florida turned to Sweden, of all places.
Choosing to leave the challenges and setbacks of the Washington system behind him for a few days, DJT elected to go back a state he wasn’t supposed to win to do what he really likes: ranting and raving about whatever he wants while a crowd of people cheers and hollers at him like he’s Elvis.
Trump’s base loves getting especially fired up about the guy’s stances on immigration, and after his disastrous first attempt to get a travel ban instigated, it came as no surprise that the folks in Melbourne, Fla., holding “Women For Trump” and “Trump 2020” signs were ready for inspiration when the guy got around to the topic.
But he didn’t exploit the same illogical bullet points he’s been slow-cooking since 2015, instead dropping something new: “You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden.”
Working under the assumption that the leader of the free world speaks truthfully, I immediately thought I’d missed a news cycle, that something horrible had happened in Scandinavia, that a shooting or act of terrorism had taken place and I had been too unengaged to notice.
A quick check online revealed nothing atrocious, thank goodness. For once I was grateful that DJT had told another lie.
After a few hours, though, my intrigue was redoubled when the former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt commented about what was clearly a gaffe on the president’s part: “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.”
DJT clarified later that his comments were in reference to a story he saw on Fox News. A filmmaker named Ami Horowitz had presented a piece about Sweden’s evolving perspectives on immigration, and what is fueling said attitude shifts. Desperate to get to the bottom of this, I tracked down the news segment and watched it.
Perhaps because of my lack of familiarity with the network, I had trouble adapting to what I found to be an oddly aggressive syntax, but holy cow — the program was so insane to me that I was compelled to dutifully research some of the filmmaker’s points that I found difficult to believe. Under even my moderate armchair vetting, I learned that the validity of many of the show’s bedrock points were either grossly overstated or downright false.
To be fair, I have to offer up a hypothesis that news segments on other (bluer) networks might dissolve under a similar scrutiny, but I started working up a sweat realizing that our president turns to Fox News as though it’s a member of his inner circle, a cabinet member.
Sweden is definitely wrestling with the issue of immigration — as every nation in the world is — but the numbers Horowitz’s piece asserts (160,000 asylum seekers accepted into the country in 2016) are false (around 67,000 actual approved immigrants).
I know, I know — I’m naive to be surprised that television has lied to me, but I remain in disbelief that Fox News is so willing to play so fast and loose with facts and figures.
I understand that many brand-name shows on cable news networks are more about commentary and analysis than the simple and straightforward act of presenting journalistic facts, but Fox News’ take on that seemed more outlandish and disheartening than I’d predicted.
I gave up trying to forge a relationship with Fox News after discovering that DJT loves in particular a series called Fox & Friends, in which a handful of folks on a couch discuss the issues of the day.
In fact, Trump has been known to tweet his affinities with the show, blasting fake news outlets while congratulating Fox & Friends as being a shining news resource.
Alas, in 2012, the executive vice president for programming at Fox News, Bill Shine, admitted that “the show falls under the network’s entertainment umbrella and does not pretend to be straight news.”
So, yeah. The guy who spends a lot of time hating on ‘fake news’ gets his news from “fake news.”
What could possibly go wrong?
Mike Restaino is a writer and filmmaker based out of Incline Village. He is also a founding member of the North Tahoe Democrats. He can be reached at email@example.com.