A recent Fox News clip on street harassment shows the perverse incentives in the conservative media at work.
Over at Vox Kelsey McKinney highlighted the latest addition to the “worst of the worst” Fox News reel. Fox News host Eric Bolling and some guests were wading into the current discussion over the prevalence of street harassment in American life. He was responding to a viral video of a woman walking around New York City for 10 hours and all the street harassment she encountered. And so Bolling reacted by denying that anything was wrong while one of his guests issued a cat call of his own. That’s not an exaggeration:
“I’m not gonna condone it, but I will tell you nothing was disrespectful there,” Eric Bolling begins, “She may not have wanted it, but I find it very hard to believe there was verbal harassment going on. Am I wrong?”
Yes, Eric. You are wrong. To knowingly say things to a woman on the street and assert your dominance is, in fact, harassment. But that’s not even the offensive part of this clip.
Bob Beckel then adds, “She got one hundred catcalls, let me add one hundred and one. Damn, baby, you’re a piece of woman.” He later adds, “You should wear a jacket,” apparently blaming her for the harassment.
What’s really going on here? At first glance it looks like some old fat white men behaving badly, and maybe it is just that. But I’d argue that this could just be another example of a lot of the perverse incentives built into a lot of conservative media.
Consider for a moment Eric Bolling’s position not as a man or a conservative, but simply as a professional media figure. He’s already done pretty well cashing in on the goldmine that is conservative media and politics but he’s still no Bill O’Reilly (let alone Sarah Palin.) So if he wants to make a name for himself he needs to do things like say outrageous things that will get turned into viral online clips that in turn get covered by news organizations. Ideally along the way liberals (and especially feminists) will get mad and denounce him which will heighten his stature as “the guy who makes liberals (and feminists) really mad.” All of which could lead to a better TV slot or a lucrative book deal or whatever.
There’s some of this on the liberals side of things, parts of the career of Michael Moore for example. But there really isn’t nearly as much money involved which is why while liberal media figures may say things that infuriate conservatives, they don’t seem to go out of their way to do it. And if they do make people mad, liberal media figures often bend over backwards to try and make amends.
I don’t see Bolling (or Rupert Murdoch) apologizing like that anytime soon.
In short, there are strong monetary incentives to say outrageous things for conservative media figures and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they often say outrageous things. This of course doesn’t make it acceptable, but it does show why it happens so much and unfortunately why it will continue to happen until conservatives themselves refuse to tolerate it.
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Photo by Kathy Willens/AP