I managed to involve myself this weekend in a tiny eddy in the storm around the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. As you can see below, early yesterday evening I happened upon this interview on Lou Dobbs’ Fox Business News show in which a guest, Chris Farrell, claimed the migrant caravan in southern Mexico was being funded and directed by the “Soros-occupied State Department.” This is, as I explained, straight out of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the foundational anti-Semitic tract, first circulated and perhaps authored by the Czarist secret police in the first years of the 20th century.
If you’re not familiar with this world, “ZOG” is a staple of white supremacist and neo-Nazi literature and websites. It stands for “Zionist Occupied Government” and is a shorthand for the belief that Jews secretly control the US government. Chris Farrell’s phrasing was no accident. All of this is straight out of the most rancid anti-Semitic propaganda. Rob Bowers, the shooter in the Pittsburgh massacre, appears to have been specifically inspired by this conspiracy theory. Indeed, Bowers had also reposted references to “ZOG” on his social media accounts.
A basic review of Bowers’ social media trail leaves no doubt that he was a hardened anti-Semite of longstanding. But what drove him to attack the Tree of Life synagogue was his belief that Soros and other Jews were funding and directing the migrant caravan. Moments before he stormed the synagogue he posted this reference to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) on Gab, a Twitter-like site for white nationalists and anti-Semites: “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
Literally a few minutes later he opened fire.
Let’s go back to the video.
Straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Just moments ago, Lou Dobbs guest Chris Farrell (head of Judicial Watch) says Caravan is being funded/directed by the "Soros-occupied State Department". pic.twitter.com/QBSong7uk1
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) October 27, 2018
I grabbed the video of this interview on the Dobbs’ show and it quickly caught fire, was shared widely and then shared even more widely after it was picked up by others with far larger Twitter followings. It spread widely enough in media circles that this afternoon Fox Business News issued an apology, took the episode off the air and said Chris Farrell would no longer be booked on Fox Business News or Fox News.
This repulsive and dangerous filth is bring spewed courtesy of a publicly owned corporation. Will no one on the board, in management, or in a position of influence at Fox speak up? Will no one act? Or is Fox perfectly happy to give bigotry sanction and violence its assistance? https://t.co/XAWOBRdYFK
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) October 28, 2018
An apology is better than nothing, sincere or not. At least it confirms the fact that this kind of hate filth has no business on the air. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice plays to virtue, as the saying goes. But anyone who watches either Fox network with any regularity knows that stuff like this is pervasive across both networks. Indeed, CNN’s Oliver Darcy quickly founded another Farrell appearance on Dobbs’ show where he used the exact same phrase. It’s hardly surprising. Since Farrell is a frequent guest, I assume Darcy and or his colleagues did searches for variants of this specific phrase. I have little doubt a more methodical review of his appearance across the Foxosphere would produce many comparable examples.
Here’s some important background.
I didn’t find this clip as part of some monitoring of Fox News content or extensive research. I still watch President Trump’s speeches whenever I can. Last night I was hunting around cable to see whether anyone was carrying it live. I checked in on FBN just in time to see this Farrell interview. To a degree this is fortuitous. But again, stuff like this is pervasive on Fox News and Fox Business News. This literally just happened to be the first thing I happened upon when turning on this network. Indeed, it may be even more commonplace on Fox Business News because it has a much smaller audience and can fly, to a degree, under the radar.
Another detail. I clipped this piece of video when I was watching the show live just after 7 PM last night. What I didn’t know then was that it was a repeat of a show that originally aired Thursday night – two days earlier. In other words, this anti-Semitic conspiracy theory was so unremarkable that no one seemed to notice. It was replayed multiple times before I happened to see it.
It seems clear that had I not happened to see it and share it to my relatively large following on Twitter and TPM with a bit of explanation of the rhetoric, it would have gone entirely unnoticed and be just another example of the torrent of anti-Semitic and racist conspiracy theories that routinely flow over the Fox networks.
A final detail. Chris Farrell, the guest who is now reportedly banned from both Fox networks, is not some fringe figure who happened to get booked on a slow night. Farrell is Director of Investigations and Research at Judicial Watch. He’s both an officer and a member of the organization’s board of directors. (He also teaches journalism law at George Mason University.) Judicial Watch is not only a major player pushing various “deep state” conspiracy theories, it is a big time player in right-wing legal circles. As Adam Jentleson, former top aide to retired Sen. Harry Reid, put it, “Judicial Watch is a central pillar of the right-wing judicial ecosphere that groomed and promoted Kavanaugh and continues to funnel extremists into lifetime appointments.”
The point is simple. What is remarkable is not that this happened on a major national cable network owned by a major media conglomerate and watched by millions of people. What is remarkable is that stuff like this happens all the time and it mainly goes unnoticed and un-cared about. It is another part of the story of the growing convergence verging on indistinguishability between the country’s nominally center-right party, the GOP, and the revanchist nationalist right, with all its racism, anti-Semitism and conspiratorial mindset.