It’s a regular Monday night, I’m finishing up my work for the night and hitting the couch to watch the news for a bit. After a few minutes, the show I’m watching goes to commercials so I decide to flip to Fox News. I expect to find some form of misinformation or outrageous spin, and I find exactly that. Tucker Carlson is in the middle of a monologue about the dangers of letting liberals gain more control of the government, specifically warning about their intent to socialize healthcare, and why in his opinion that is a bad thing.
None of what I just mentioned should come as a shock to anyone, as Fox News marches out a similar platform every night, but what came next was truly ironic. Within the same commercial break, two unique ads told the viewers to take advantage of their right to Medicare coverage.
Now, for those keeping score at home, Medicare is a federally funded insurance program for Americans over the age of 65 and a few other qualified groups, and the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines socialized medicine as “medical and hospital services for the members of a class or population administered by an organized group (such as a state agency) and paid for from funds obtained usually by assessments, philanthropy or taxation.” Well, Medicare currently provides access to medical service to the population of U.S. senior citizens, and is funded through the Social Security Administration, which all taxpayers pay into, so I’d say Medicare falls pretty squarely under that definition.
But back to Tucker and his ads. We have a situation now where a man is telling his viewers about the dangers of socialized medicine, only for those same viewers to be introduced to the benefits of socialized medicine minutes later. I decided to watch the next day’s episode of his show in full to see if this occurred again.
Sure enough, not only did Medicare ads accompany Carlson’s program again the next day, they seemed almost omnipresent. Showing up with two minute ad spots in each of the four commercial breaks, Medicare advantage ads ran for a grand total of eight minutes out of the 60 minute show, over 10% of what the viewers were being presented. Now you may ask, why the hell does anyone care? Medicare ads run everywhere! You’d be totally right, but what this tells us is that if these ads are run so frequently on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and other Fox News programs, the viewers must be responding to the call numbers and saying they need the information.
So if Fox News and other right-wing media outlets are actively warning against the promotion of social programs that directly benefit their viewers, why are these people still watching? Well, I think watching an hour of Carlson can explain that too. In the opening monologue of the same show that ran four separate ads promoting socialized healthcare benefits, Tucker used the pronoun “we” when referring to the proletariat class of the U.S. Now let me put that statement up against the fact that the man saying this makes $6 million dollars a year. He is not a proletarian in any sense of the word, but that doesn’t matter. Donald Trump can pretend to fight for the little guy while being the absolute opposite for the same reason: None of the information used in this article makes it to the average viewer of Fox News. When your echo chamber of a world is framed by people like Carlson, you fail to see the irony of a guy like him running Medicare ads on his show simply because you really have no idea what the left’s healthcare goals are. When the multi-millionaire “proletarian” tells you Medicare for All is bad that’s all you need to hear about it. He’s not trying to help anyone but himself.
This theme of only trying to help oneself is exactly the reason people continue to watch pundits like Carlson. The medicare ads shown make it very clear that the benefits you can get from calling the number provided are not guaranteed nor automatically applied. They’re not offered for everyone. Just as how Trump was totally fine receiving top-notch socialized medicine for his COVID-19 treatment, his supporters know full well that they need social programs like Medicare, but fall short when it comes to the compassion needed to want to expand this privilege to all.