Roll Up Your Damn Sleeves: An Interview with LGBT Activist and Fox News Commenter Sally Kohn


AE: No, I love that. I’m not going to pretend that this next question is simple, then: I watched another clip in which you were on Megyn Kelly’s show with [radio host] Monica Crowley, and Crowley was using this debate technique – almost a propaganda technique – where before she answered any question, she kept saying “Well, of course we all know that the media is slanted liberal. We all know that the media has a liberal tilt,” and then she would say her piece. I’ve seen that tactic before: I’m going to work this lie in up top, so that you can either deal with that or with my central point, but you can’t deal with both. How do you deal with that when it comes up?
SK: [Laughs] It makes you miss the world of rhetoric, right? People used to study rhetoric. I will say – and Monica is frequently guilty of this, but there are these interesting rhetorical tactics. It’s a rhetorical tactic. And what’s interesting is, the right thinks we do them too. The right thinks that the media is in fact slanted liberal. I happen to not agree with that. They think we have a whole host of rhetorical devices and cheats and whatnot to go with that.

I think for my part, the way I sort of encapsulate that and other dynamics — more recently, I think this is a surging tactic on the part of the right, is what I call – it’s actually something that I just wrote and posted on my blog: Is the right creating crises so they can be the heroes of the problems they create? And so the “liberal media” is sort of an example of that: We’re going to say that the media is liberal so that we can become the heroes of combating the liberal media. I think one of the examples I give in the piece is the idea that gay marriage is going to lead to people marrying their goats. No! But you make people afraid of that, which the right has done in their sort of anti-marriage campaign, and now, oh, my gosh! Let’s vote for the right so they will save us from man-goat marriage!

The latest example is the [deceptively edited] sting video attack on Planned Parenthood, which makes the preposterous argument that this historic organization that champions gender rights and gender equality is in fact propagating sex-selective abortion. It’s a made-up crisis. It is a manufactured crisis. But it sort of makes it hard, because if even one human being hears this critique and has this outraged reaction, sort of this knee-jerk “Oh, my gosh! Who’s going to solve this? Who’s going to solve this?” And of course, the right has already set themselves up to be the saviors.

And that emotional reaction almost can’t be tamped down by anything that comes after. Including facts. It’s very effective. It’s immensely effective. It’s one of the things that — again, I think it’s better to know what’s happening than to turn a blind eye to, because you have to be able to effectively respond.

AE: There have been a few studies suggesting that people who only watch Fox News are actually less well informed than people who don’t watch news at all. Does that concern you at all?
SK: You know, look: I have my quiver of what I do. So I don’t concern myself with the larger politics at all, because, again, you can parse that, you can parse the ratings of the channels, and you know, who wins that game? Who wins this game? Here’s the thing: If there’s going to be a debate in the media about fundamental issues of fairness, equality, and the future of our country, I’d rather be in that debate than not in that debate. I’d rather be responding than looking the other way and pretending it’s not happening. So to me, that’s why it matters to be in the mix, to be there, to be as strong an advocate as I can.

What I will say is hard for me is that sometimes I think a lot of really fierce and sort of politically progressive voices and advocates won’t go on Fox because they have a certain idea about what Fox is and what Fox isn’t. And to me, it’s almost like, I don’t run the place, I don’t know – it doesn’t concern me. What concerns me is conversation that I’m in. And can I make a difference in that conversation? I’d actually like to see more of us… Like I said, I’m not concerned about whether the media is liberal or conservative or whatever. I’m concerned about is it inclusive? Is it including a wide enough range of voices? And to me, there aren’t enough people who are politically far to the left of center, who are not just shills for big business, but are really standing up for people’s interests, who are gay, who are people of color, who represent the full spectrum of America. I feel like that’s where I can make a difference.

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