Fox News does great ratings, but most of it isn’t great television. The audience comes with the territory as the only major cable news network with an overtly conservative slant. The network’s personalities are divisive and break into the online news cycle by saying extremely dumb or disingenuous or flat out racist things. In fact, the louder and dumber things are, the better.
Dan Bongino and Geraldo Rivera appeared on Sean Hannity’s show Wednesday night. The segment about policing and Daunte Wright’s killing in Minneapolis quickly devolved into a shouting match. Rivera tried explaining Black people are more likely to get killed by police, which Bongino refuted by saying Rivera doesn’t know anything, sounding like he wanted to take things even further. Rivera told Bongino he knows more than him because Bongino spent “10 minutes as a cop.” The exchange ended with Bongino saying Rivera “wants the country to burn” and Rivera shouting into the commercial break calling him a son of a bitch.
[Insert "Let them fight" meme] pic.twitter.com/1kdtDFiXhM
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) April 15, 2021
Hannity and his producers knew exactly what they were doing, since this exact thing happened just two nights ago. Rivera and Bongino got into it on the same topic when the former tried downplaying the latter’s experiences with law enforcement. Apparently it was a big enough hit with the audience to run it back, same talking points and all.
An argument this stupid hardly deserves analysis beyond the requisite “check this out, it’s dumb as hell.” If anyone is “right” it’s Rivera, who repeats accurate points about police disproportionately killing Black people. But Rivera is no saint in this regard. He regularly talks about the hip hop and the Black community’s supposed villainization of law enforcement—just ask Kendrick Lamar. Rivera’s best moments were clowning Bongino about being a fake cop and acting like he’s constantly running for office. Those kinds of insult really hit with the youth. But he wound up angrily sputtering so much by the end of the segment that conservative Twitter clowned him for getting owned, which is fair.
Bongino is the “winner” here despite being demonstrably dumber. His tough guy cop shtick only goes so far when you’re yelling against someone who’s willing to yell louder. Bongino claimed Geraldo made everything about race, which is pretty run-of-the-mill coming from a Fox News contributing ex-cop. He’s already a winner in Hannity and the audience’s eyes. But his “bet you wouldn’t say that to my face” to close the segment made the host almost audibly chuckle. It doesn’t matter how stupid his points were. It doesn’t matter that he almost lost his temper and destroyed his home studio. Bongino got the dub for simply being more epic.
Is there a lesson to learn here? Definitely not. Just that our current hellscape involves cable news networks purposely stoking arguments on air while ignoring actual facts and news. CNN’s being doing it for years, just slightly more politely. It’s extremely dumb, but network execs and producers know that people yelling at each other does better numbers. It’s extremely dumb, and reason enough not to watch any cable news ever for any reason. But it’s also the next step in American political media consumption. Everyone’s angry and arguing anyway—why not turn it into content and air it live in prime time? Fox News is willing to ask that question daily, and further into the void we go.