Open thread for night owls: Sean Hannity plays a dangerous rhetorical game

Open thread for night owls: Sean Hannity plays a dangerous rhetorical game

As evidence continues to mount that members of the last Republican presidential campaign may have both sought to collude with Russian government espionage efforts against their campaign’s opponent and took identifiable actions afterwards to reward the Putin government, the efforts of Fox News, in particular, to delegitimize federal investigations into those acts continues to turn darker. Matt Gertz:

On Monday, ABC News reported Flynn’s lawyer had met with members of Mueller’s team, potentially to discuss a plea deal. That night, Hannity encouraged the Fox audience to disbelieve anything Flynn might say following such an agreement, and instead direct their fire at Mueller’s team.

According to Hannity, the investigation was turning the United States into “a banana republic,” and he warned that Mueller’s goal is to get Trump at any cost. Fox judicial analyst Gregg Jarrett, a Hannity regular, described Mueller’s team as a “cartel, the equivalent of the Mob,” an “illegal syndicate that’s acting under the guise of the law,” and a “renegade rogue deep state that operates under their own rules.”

Hannity warned that any Flynn testimony could not be believed because he would say anything to prevent Mueller from indicting Flynn’s son, while Jarrett suggested that the special counsel would likely try to “suborn perjury” from the former national security adviser.

On its face, the rhetoric is delusional. By supposing the Russian espionage and propaganda investigations to be themselves criminal enterprises backed by unseen, powerful conspirators, Hannity and his invited guests are operating in a “news” space populated by overseas-based hoax sites and the emailed conspiracy theories of the far-far-right.

But the rhetoric Sean Hannity is unleashing to delegitimize federal investigators by comparing them to a criminal “cartel” or other “illegal syndicate” of a “rogue deep state” is not merely delusional and incendiary: it is dangerous to the public. Hannity would not be the first Fox host whose intentionally dishonest invective against named individuals opposing conservative values could prod a violence-minded member of his audience to rid the nation of the newly invented danger by attempting to murder the Fox-identified conspirators outright; campaigns by both Bill O’Reilly and then-host Glenn Beck to demonize specific, named ideological opponents using the language of conspiracy have previously led to violence or attempted violence against their targets. Nor is Fox News the only conservative outlet to have promoted conspiracy theories that spurred violence against their targets.

Hannity and his guests are playing a dangerous game—and are in a position to know full well the danger of such extraordinary rhetoric.

As Gertz notes, these warnings of a conspiracy against Trump are aimed not merely at the conservative base, however, but likely at Trump himself: “The more Trump hears that the Mueller investigation is illegitimate and a conspiracy against him, the more likely he is to take action against it, either with a flurry of pardons or by ordering Mueller’s firing.” In either event, Hannity appears to be goading either his audience or his president to take extreme acts to preserve Trump administration power—even if that requires characterizing investigations into potential unethical or illegal acts by Trump’s allies as an “illegal syndicate” representing an existential danger to the nation and its interests.

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As a lawyer, I can confirm that I frequently compose tweets confessing to crimes and send them from my clients’ twitter accounts. It’s the first thing you learn at law school.

— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) December 3, 2017

BLAST FROM THE PAST

On this date at Daily Kos in 2010—Obama makes surprise visit to Afghanistan:

The fact that 2014 is our goal for ending the war [in Afghanistan] is a pretty stark reminder of just how much of a disaster the conflict has been for our country. By 2014, the war will have been dragging on for thirteen years. Thirteen! If it ends up lasting that long, there will be American soldiers fighting in it who were five years old when the war began.

Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at Stitcher.com), and find a live stream there, by searching for “Netroots Radio.”

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