... damning if somewhat uneven ... There's plenty of gossip ... But close observers of the news will be familiar with Stelter's larger points, and he doesn't offer much insight into why Fox News viewers are so devoted to the network. Still, this is a copious and alarming catalogue of the damage the 'Trump-Fox merger' has done to American journalism and politics.
While Stelter relies on insider accounts for some juicy details, much of the disturbing content in Hoax didn’t require any special access. He reported what has been said on the air and how it echoed or was echoed by Trump’s Twitter feed ... Stelter is particularly scathing about the response to the coronavirus epidemic.
This is the value of Hoax, the new book by the CNN journalist Brian Stelter. It provides a thorough and damning exploration of the incestuous relationship between Trump and his favorite channel — and of Fox’s democracy-decaying role as a White House propaganda organ masquerading as conservative journalism ... is not likely to change many readers’ minds is already conventional wisdom. (Also, let’s be honest, not many Fox fans are likely to read this book.) Even so, Stelter’s cataloging of the power and toxicity of Fox is an important addition to the growing library of books documenting this strange period in American history ... Stelter is at his best when he is explaining the underlying forces that led Fox to embrace propaganda ... Stelter is far from an impartial observer. He is the host of a CNN show about the media, and his regular criticisms of Fox have made him a popular punching bag for Hannity and others ... Early on in Hoax, Stelter acknowledges that he is 'shocked and angry' by what is going on at Fox, and his emotions sometimes seem to get the better of him. He resorts to name-calling and spreads gratuitous gossip about Fox personalities, at one point quoting an unnamed source’s assertion that a female anchor 'knew how to use sex to get ahead.' Coming from a victim of Fox’s smears, it feels a little retributive ... Stelter also glosses over the fact that CNN is guilty of its own, Fox-lite version of partisan pandering ... My biggest disappointment with Hoax is that Stelter doesn’t unpack the greatest mystery of Fox’s success: Why is the channel’s unbridled demagogy so enticing? Do viewers realize they’re getting played? Do they care? ... I would be curious to hear from and better understand those viewers. There is no sign that Stelter spoke to any. Readers are left to look down on Fox’s millions of loyalists as gullible members of an extremist cult. It is just the sort of easy-to-digest but unnuanced conclusion that would play well on cable news.
In March 2019, the New Yorker published a scathing story by Jane Mayer detailing the deepening connections between President Trump and Fox News, the most-watched cable news network...Hoax covers much the same ground and offers much the same argument, but in a catty, chatty tone that makes for an easy read, though a less substantive one ... the point of view is alarmist ... For a book that purports to document how a dereliction of journalistic duty can cost lives and damage institutions, Hoax too often relies on assertions, blind quotes and unverified accounts. In several instances, Stelter quotes an unnamed source making an accusation that ought to have been fact-checked or simply omitted. It would have strengthened his important argument, especially given his open feuds with Ailes (until he died in 2017) and Hannity ... I doubt Hoax will convince die-hard Fox fans of the error of their ways, but it should reach those unaware of the network’s dangerous, complicit slide into demagoguery. Stelter’s critique goes beyond salacious tidbits about extramarital affairs (though there are plenty of those) to expose a collusion that threatens the pillars of our democracy.