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Donald Trump during a commercial break at the Republican presidential debate hosted by Fox News in Detroit, March 3, 2016. (RICHARD PERRY/NYT)
Donald Trump during a commercial break at the Republican presidential debate hosted by Fox News in Detroit, March 3, 2016. (RICHARD PERRY/NYT)

John Doyle: The necessary education in Fox News Add to ...

One night last week, after watching a few minutes of some people on CNN droning on in a despairing manner about the U.S. economy doing well but President Barack Obama failing to get credit, I turned over to Fox News. It was idle curiosity.

There was no droning or despair on Fox. Hell no! The blissful, zippy zest was off the charts. This was before Megyn Kelly announced she was leaving for NBC and, maybe, the blissful tone was one reason why she's jumping ship.

It being the week between Christmas and New Year’s, many of the usual hosts were missing. Kimberly Guilfoyle had stepped in for Sean Hannity.

The topic was the U.S. economy. What a coincidence. Guilfoyle was talking to a chap, one Anthony Scaramucci, of the Trump transition team. Scaramucci was taking the view that Donald Trump would be a Reagan-like president, boosting the U.S economy in a major way. “You bring up such a good point!” Guilfoyle gushed. “Because during that time when Reagan was president, you saw people, households had more confidence.

There was consumer purchasing was up more, every family to have two TVs, two VCRs, to be able to do that, that’s really something that can move the numbers forward. We’ve seen already the markets buoyed by the fact that president-elect Donald Trump is coming in. In Wall Street, you’ve seen that reflected in the index.”

The gushing was breathtaking. But there were far more terrifying words to come. The next topic was the possible closing of Guantanamo Bay. Guilfoyle introduced the segment with a clip of Trump on the campaign trail saying this: “This morning I watched President Obama talking about Gitmo, right, Guantanamo Bay, which by the way, which by the way, we are keeping open. Which we are keeping open …”

As the clip ended, Guilfoyle exclaimed, “Fill it up!” in a crazily cheery tone. She added: “President-elect Trump promised voters he’ll keep Gitmo open, but President Obama is now reportedly rushing to free detainees before he leaves office.”

Then there was an interview with an alleged expert on terrorism, Dr. Sebastian Gorka.

I watched for a while, but all I could hear was that cheerful holler of “Fill it up!” It reminded me, naturally, of the “Lock her up!” chants during the campaign.

But what was unnerving was the cheerleading attitude, the total absence of any objectivity and the lack of any questioning of what the guests on the show were saying. It was total, all-cylinders adulation of Trump.

Now, a lot of people think watching Fox News is an upsetting experience. The nastiness, the vicious swipes at anyone who isn’t hard-right. That has been unfolding on Fox News forever. It’s the triumph of obnoxiousness, a triumph embodied in the Trump victory. These days, however, watching Fox News is a necessary education.

It’s a must-see on a regular basis precisely because it now acts as a mouthpiece for Trump and his team. Gone are the days when some gullible person could be lured into appearing on Fox News to debate some issue. There is no more debate.

It’s straightforward Trump propaganda. And, if you want to know what matters to the Trump team and on what issues it seeks validation, just watch Fox News.

The suggestion that the online Breitbart News Network is Trump’s mouthpiece has been widely accepted since the U.S. election, but Breitbart is a pipsqueak when compared with the heft of Fox News.

Year-end ratings figures show that all three major cable news channels – Fox, CNN and MSNBC – had remarkable increases in viewer numbers during 2016. The circus-like atmosphere of the election year accounts for that, of course, but it remains notable that during the era of cord-cutting and the rise of social media, cable news channels are thriving.

And Fox News is No. 1. While CNN’s ratings have declined since election night, Fox has not seen any dip. It’s the champ.

As it exists now, Fox News is a formidably focused Trump support system. Watching the channel is an illumination of the Trump agenda and, even more sharply, an illustration of the Trump narrative.

You don’t understand the story and arc of that narrative if you’re don’t watch it on a regular basis.

Yes, it’s unnerving. Days later, I can still hear Kimberly Guilfoyle’s whoop of “Fill it up!” As if she was pitching herself for Trump Organization Employee of the Month. An award for which everyone at Fox News is eligible, obviously.

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Follow on Twitter: @MisterJohnDoyle

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