A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
It appears the right-wing media universe supports the “occupy” movement after all.
For weeks, Fox, talk-radio, podcasters, and sites like Breitbart have fawned over the Canadian truckers who have crippled downtown Ottawa as they protest vaccine mandates. Canadian authorities have declared a state of emergency and pleaded for help addressing the situation, which has spurred commerce concerns. But the coverage in right-wing media circles has portrayed the truckers as heroes and patriots and lauded their actions.
“Look at this crowd!” Fox’s Sean Hannity said cheerfully Wednesday night as he looked at a live shot of the “freedom convoy” which he described as looking like a “block party.” Hannity’s chyron read: “‘FREEDOM CONVOY’ CAPTIVATES THE WORLD.” Other top hosts, such as Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, have all framed the story in the same positive light. The network, which demonized demonstrations such as the “CHOP” zone in Seattle, has suddenly found a strong love for occupy-style protests.
Such glowing coverage has been the theme on Fox for weeks now as the right-wing talk channel saturates its airwaves with the story. According to the progressive watchdog Media Matters, Fox devoted a whopping seven hours and 59 minutes to the story, from its first mention, which occurred on January 18, to noon Wednesday. “And Fox’s coverage is escalating, with more than 3 hours of trucker coverage coming on Monday and Tuesday this week combined,” the watchdog said.
DHS warns of US protests
While Fox has been commending the truckers up north for protesting, some of its top personalities have also been suggesting that those against vaccine mandates in the US should stage a similar demonstration here at home – similar to how the network helped fuel the Tea Party protests in 2009. And there are signs that such a protest is being planned.
NYT’s Sheera Frenkel and Alan Feuer report that “plans for a demonstration by truckers in the United States similar to the one in Canada appear to be gaining momentum, aided by online supporters.” According to the duo’s reporting, “Anti-vaccine activists have formed dozens of Telegram chat groups in each state, with many dedicated to specific counties. Members of those groups are trying to build local support and gather supplies for the truckers as they pass through.”
The Department of Homeland Security is now warning authorities that such protests could soon begin in the US and potentially impact the Super Bowl and State of the Union address. In a bulletin, which was first reported by Yahoo and confirmed by CNN, the DHS said it has “received reports of truck drivers planning to potentially block roads in major metropolitan cities in the United States in protest of, among other things, vaccine mandates for truck drivers.”
The bulletin added, “While there are currently no indications of planned violence, if hundreds of trucks converge in a major metropolitan city, the potential exists to severely disrupt transportation, federal government operations, commercial facilities, and emergency services through gridlock and potential counterprotests.”
“A 21st century protest”
Reporting from Ottawa, Donie O’Sullivan said that “this is very much a 21st century protest, playing out on the internet as it is on the street.” O’Sullivan said that “viral memes and some false highly offensive comparisons that circulate online are being repeated verbatim” at the protest.
In his package that aired Wednesday night, O’Sullivan asked one protester what he cannot do in the country without a vaccine. “Basically if you want to compare Canada to anything it’s like Hilter’s Germany and we’re like the Jews,” the protester replied. O’Sullivan also noted that there are “a lot of people here streaming live online” and “documenting every moment on social media…”
– Alex Sherphard argues Fox’s motivation is simple: “To bring a trucker convoy to the US that Fox News can then spend months crowing about endlessly…” (New Republic)
– Philip Bump writes that the American right is using truckers “to import right-wing fury into Canada…” (WaPo)
– Daniel Dale debunks false claims. His story includes this line: When [Theo] Fleury was asked for comment about how he had repeated the false ’50,000 truckers’ claim on Fox, he emailed a reply in which he attacked CNN and the Trudeau government and said, ‘Ever heard of a little thing called marketing??? It worked…’” (CNN)