Are we not surprised?

No, we are not. Megyn Kelly left Fox News for good reason — no one of any political stripe deserves sexual harassment — but she was a perfect fit for that network. She became a star at Fox because she embodied the conservative ideals of people like Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, and everything was copacetic between them all on a political plane. Being a victimized women does not make her an ally or an admirable person. Ann Coulter is subject to some of the most scurrilous, rancid attacks by people on the left; that’s wrong, it makes me sympathize a little bit with her on a personal level, but she still holds hateful and odious views for which she should be spurned.

A lot of us were shocked that MSNBC, the so-called ‘liberal’ news network, offered Kelly a job, but I suppose we should recognize the reality that the news networks are unprincipled profit-making establishments that cannot be trusted to pursue truth over dollars. But now Kelly is following the instincts that served her well on Fox and is interviewing Sandy Hook ‘truther’ (about as contemptible a title as you can bestow on anyone), Alex Jones. And she has so little conscience that she could simultaneously promote Jones and host a benefit for the Sandy Hook families (she’s not now, fortunately).

So why are confirmed liars and phonies like Alex Jones and Megyn Kelly and other ghastly serial liars like Jeffrey Lord given a loudspeaker at every opportunity? Yet at the same time others, like Reza Aslan (whose show I despised for its insipid religious apologetics) get fired? How can people be upset at a performance of a Shakespeare play that has someone who looks like Donald Trump cast as Julius Caesar? That’s a serious promotion given to the president, and yes, Julius Caesar gets assassinated, but the whole point of the play is that the assassins get their due, and that murder is a violation of Republican principles.

I’ve come to the conclusion that free speech is an illusion in a world where power puts on the mask of liberty. It’s not free speech when it’s selectively denied and used solely as an excuse to justify hate and the expression of one set of values. It’s not free speech when Nazis think it means they get to slash people’s throats. It’s not free speech when it’s a club used to rationalize trampling on the rights of the oppressed by the privileged.

So I’m not at all surprised when a regressive toady like Megyn Kelly keeps bubbling up to the top. She’s part of the demographic that knows very well how to manipulate the concept of free speech to make lies a virtue.


  1. Derek Vandivere says

    I think I’d give Kelly one chance to act like a real journalist outside the purview of Fox – of course, she might be seeing Jones as an easy target and taking him down in an interview as a way to repair her image.

    (Hey PZ, quick editing comment: in paragraph two, conscious should be conscience)

  2. says

    You’re just now figuring that out? And let’$ face it there is one reason that she keep coming to the top and that is that she really does believe that the 1% deserve to be in power and deserve all their money and that if you don’t have their kind of money you don’t deserve it.

  3. says

    These cretins will, without a sense of irony, scream freeze peach anytime one of their own gets rebuked by the free market, but praise their dear leader when he blocks people on Twitter, which is an actual violation of the constitution, as it’s censorship by the government.

  4. says

    The problem is that Jones already has a platform, with millions of followers. NBC is claiming that the point of the interview is to expose him, not elevate him. If a media operation had the opportunity to interview any number of odious people — Kim Jong Un, Donald Trump — should they decline because it would be wrong to “give them a platform”?

    Here’s what NBC says about it:
    “Until you see the full program, in the full context, I wouldn’t judge it too much,” Liz Cole, the executive producer of “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly,” told CNNMoney. “Judge it when you see it. Megyn does a strong interview. We’re not just giving him a platform.”

    “Giving him a platform would mean he goes unchallenged, and that’s not the case in any way,” Cole said. “Where is he getting these theories and this information?… Viewers will see Megyn do a strong interview where she challenges him appropriately… That’s the benefit of putting him out there. When someone actually sits down and asks him questions and he has to come up with answers — there’s value to that.”

    Jones has also called for the interview to be pulled because he claims it makes him look bad.

    I think it best to wait and see the thing itself before judging.

  5. doublereed says

    Why is this surprising? MSNBC, along with the rest of cable news, has become grossly right wing. Megyn Kelly is a perfect fit for MSNBC.

    This isn’t that new. They famously fired anyone who was against the Iraq war. Look at all the racist coverage of BLM.

    The only thing that’s surprising is that people still watch television news when it’s all horrendous establishment propaganda.

  6. doublereed says

    And it’s not at all about money. The new boss Andy Lack of MSNBC has been trying to rid the network of liberal voices even though they’re the most popular shows.

  7. says

    One need only go back about 50 years to the work of a fellow Minnesotan, Bob Dylan, to find some of the best commentary on the state of the world. “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol” comes to mind as a good place to start…

  8. lotharloo says

    I strongly disagree and this is bullshit ad-hoc reasoning. The interview has not aired, and Kelly has not produced anything of note outside Fox News so we can have a reasonable expectation of anything. The outrage can only be justified after we have seen the interview.

    This is the sort of thing that makes me pissed of at liberals and the left in general. Aren’t we supposed to be the rational party here? Then why the hell are we outraged about an interview that we have not seen and have no idea of what is in it? Where is the rationality at that? You can interview people to “give them a platform” or you can interview people to expose them, criticize them, and attack them. I honestly have no idea what Megyn Kelly is going to do.

  9. manhattanmc says

    “The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”
    ― Frank Zappa

  10. zibble says

    The outrage can only be justified after we have seen the interview.

    So we can only oppose something after we’ve helped make it successful?

    Do you not see the inherent flaw here? Vulgar attention-seeking yellow journalism hacks don’t give a fuck about your criticisms. Their goal isn’t well-reviewed journalism, their goal is to get viewers and make a profit. You might as well say you can only oppose a candidate after voting for them.

  11. thirdmill says

    I’m a near-absolutist on free speech, primarily because I don’t trust the government to decide what the rest of us can hear, but I do recognize the Fox News problem: If you have lots of money, you can spread wild lies with impunity and get Trump elected to the most powerful position on the planet. I also understand this is a major catastrophe that can’t just be brushed aside. My question is what’s to be done about it.

    I don’t see how you can allow the government to decide what’s true and what’s false, because we would then have a situation in which every government would simply declare to be true whatever benefited it politically and false whatever did not benefit it politically. We’ve seen press censorship in most of the world and that’s what it mostly boils down to: You can say whatever the government wants the people to hear. Bad as Fox News is, in my view it’s far preferable to China, Turkey, or Iran.

    So, is there some way to mitigate the damage done by Fox News without allowing the government to decide what the rest of us hear? If so, I’m all ears.

  12. says

    @13 Zibble: I understand the dilemma. What if it does turn out to give Jones a bump and people let it go forward? But that does not seem to be NBC’s intention and it’s a pretty good hint that Jones himself says he doesn’t want the interview to air. We need a credible corporate media that people can tell apart from InfoWars and the rest of the wingnutosphere, so I think we at least need to give them a chance. If it falls short of thoroughly discrediting Jones then by all means give the network hell. But protesting sight-unseen is inconsistent with our own values, as far as I’m concerned.

  13. lotharloo says


    Fucking bullshit. That’s another nonsensical non-argument. The “thinking left” has reduced thinking to judging an unseen unaired interview based on who the interviewer is and without having any evidence that the interviewer will have any biased towards the interviewed and without having any clue what is in the goddamned interview. You don’t even know if there is any reason to be outraged and yet you have created outrage. So even if you watch it you are outraged, I am not going to trust you at all. This applies to you, to PZ and to anyone who has already reached a conclusion. Why should I trust your opinion when you have formed the opinion without having seen any evidence?

  14. says

    Thirdmill #14:

    I’m a near-absolutist on free speech,

    I’m not, but perhaps I come close to being near-absolutist ;-)

    The point being that everyone draws the line somewhere, don’t they?

    So, is there some way to mitigate the damage done by Fox News without allowing the government to decide what the rest of us hear? If so, I’m all ears.

    If you hate going after media organisations for publishing disinformation and lies, perhaps you could get behind publically funded media with editorial independence. Which should of course then be well-funded enough to provide a credible counterbalance to the corporate media.

    Matthew Ostergren #1:

    As long as money can buy “speech” capitalism will always be anathema to free speech or democracy.


  15. Zeppelin says

    @thirdmill: I don’t see a fundamental difference between the power of a government to sanction speech/restrict publication of speech and its power to, say, restrict people’s movement, lock them up, confiscate their property, or use violence against them.

    Sure, governments can and will abuse those powers, but outside of some strains of anarchism it’s not typically argued that the government should therefore not have them at all. They’re seen as a necessary evil for a functional, orderly society, a risk we have to accept, something to be vigilant about. I don’t particularly “trust” my government to decide who should be arrested either, but it’s better than having no law enforcement at all.

    @Olav: Germany has publicly funded media with editorial independence, and it’s…pretty all right? It costs more money than it probably should and most of the fluff programming is rubbish, but it does fund a lot of reasonably impartial international and local journalism that might otherwise not happen, especially now that local newspapers are going under.

  16. thirdmill says

    Zeppelin, No. 19, I think the difference is that if the government unjustly restricts my movement, locks me up, confiscates my property or uses violence against me, it is free speech that enables me to draw attention to it, complain, bring like minded people together and agitate for change. In other words, speech is one of the protections we have against government overreach. If the government had the power to both unjustly lock me up and also prevent me and my supporters from publicly speaking out against it, that makes a bad situation that much worse. Plus, I then have to ask, what is the objective measuring stick that determines what speech can be suppressed and what can’t.

    Olav, No 18, I do support public broadcasting and I agree that it provides a necessary check and balance.

  17. Zeppelin says

    @thirdmill: What’s the objective measuring stick that determines whether something warrants arrest? Or what should be legal and illegal in the first place? There isn’t one, we just make things up as we go along, to the best of our ability, based on a bunch of often conflicting priorities, hopefully with appropriate checks and balances. The same applies for sanctions on speech.

    My government is even allowed to kill me in some situations (or at least do things to me that will most likely kill me). Yet I don’t think there’s really a slippery slope from “the government can fine news stations that spread malicious falsehoods” to “the government can arbitrarily suppress any speech it finds inconvenient”, any more than there is one from “the government can shoot hostage takers in a standoff” to “the government can shoot anyone it doesn’t like”.

  18. kome says

    NBC isn’t much different than the other major broadcast networks or other major news media outlets in print or online. They are chasing ratings, page clicks, or views rather than pursuing information to disseminate to the public. Alex Jones is a good ratings grab for NBC, so they’re okay with it. They are, much like Fox or CNN or any other corporate news outlet you can think of, not allied with the truth, but with the dollar. And they will continue to be that way as long as they keep benefiting from doing so. Kelly’s show will get the ratings bump from Jones’ supporters, but other MSNBC pundit shows won’t really take a hit. Maddow or Hayes will keep on chugging along. The larger NBC entertainment programs won’t take a hit, either. America’s Got Talent will still get the same amount of people tuning in. Until the network starts losing money in response to these stunts, they’re going to keep doing them. And, the way to make them lose money is to stop patronizing anything associated with the company. There are plenty of other sources of entertainment and news out there, so giving the proverbial finger to an entity that will gladly give someone like Alex Jones a platform just because they can make a buck from doing so is necessary.

  19. Owlmirror says

    Given that Alex Jones and Donald Trump are best buddies, and Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump loathe each other, I kinda hope that the plan was to pit anti-gov’t Jones against current head-of-gov’t Trump.

    MK: “Since you believe that Sandy Hook was a hoax perpetrated by the government, shouldn’t Trump have exposed this hoax by now and punished those responsible?”

    AJ: “No, see, there’s this shadow government that covers all this stuff up ( wibble wibble buy my survivalist alt-health magic stuff . . . ! ! ! )”

    MK: “But if Trump isn’t able to purge out this shadow government, is he really in charge of anything?”

    (and stuff in a similar vein)

  20. says


    The interview has not aired, and Kelly has not produced anything of note outside Fox News so we can have a reasonable expectation of anything. The outrage can only be justified after we have seen the interview.

    That’s fucking bullshit. Years of past behaviour are the best indicator of future behaviour that you have. We know what Kelly did on Fox News. We know she didn’t leave them because she had an epiphany, but because she was sexually harassed.
    Yes, outrage at her herself being given a platform is justified and outrage at her giving Jones another platform is justified. Journalistic pieces that expose frauds, charlatans and demagogues require both high levels of personal integrity and journalistic skill, neither of which Kelly has demonstrated.
    I guess you also kept telling people to give Trump a chance and that folks shouldn’t be upset about the secret Senate healthcare bill because they haven’t read it.
    Fact is: you may not be a right winger, but you’Re happy to help them.


    Zeppelin, No. 19, I think the difference is that if the government unjustly restricts my movement, locks me up, confiscates my property or uses violence against me, it is free speech that enables me to draw attention to it, complain, bring like minded people together and agitate for change.

    You’ll be shocked to hear, but US prisoners don’t have full first amendment rights. Prisons can simply block journalists from seeing prisoners and restrict their access to information. So yeah, the US government can actually lock you up, confiscate your property* AND stop others from drawing attention to your case.
    But somehow the parents and children of those killed at Sandy Hook and the decent people amplifying their voice are the problem. Also college kids who boo deVos.

    *There’s currently a bunch of anti protest laws in the making that would allow the government to lock up all people involved and confiscate their property if somebody in a protest engages in illegal activities. Which is what we in Germany call “Sippenhaft” (locking up people for their (family) associations) and consider one of the characteristics of a dictatorship.

  21. thirdmill says

    Giliell, prisoners are a special category; there are lots of rights that one loses when one goes to prison. They don’t have much in the way of privacy rights either, for example. But without free speech rights, nobody else could advocate for them either. And free speech is central to a free society because the right to protest is one of the last protections against over-reaching government.

    However, even if I granted your point, the solution is to expand free speech rights for prisoners rather than take them away from everybody else. And I can’t speak for Germany, but I very much doubt that those “anti protest laws in the making” would survive a court challenge in the United States.

  22. lotharloo says


    Her prior life in Fox is not relevant to the argument. The point is that it is an absolute violation of intellectual integrity to criticize something that has not aired and we do not know exactly what is in it. But perhaps intellectual integrity and academic integrity are not things that you are interested in.

    Do you know what I tell my students? That even if 10 other papers cite some paper [1] claiming that “X, Y, Z were proved in [1]”, they cannot do that unless they open [1] and look at it. And now you tell me we can criticize [1] before it is even published and we know what is in it, just based on the name of the author. Right, fuck off.

    Finally, the case of the Donald Trump is completely different. Drumpt had publicly stated positions and campaign promises. How is it similar? If Megyn Kelly had mentioned that “We will dispel the official cover up, blah blah” then you had a case in comparing the two, but you don’t.