A Fox News Liberal is a Strawman
character who is used to bring the illusion
of political balance in a narrative or discourse that is otherwise overwhelmingly slanted in the other direction. Named after a critique of the Fox News Channel
, a distinctly right-wing channel on US television, it has an opposite counterpart in the MSNBC Conservative.
It's quite common for them to propose 'compromises' when their opponents are clearly 'wrong/crazy' by their own standards, meaning they 'should' think the solution at least half-wrong/crazy
It's also very common is for them to admit that the solutions proposed by people with 'correct' political views are basically good and desirable, but quibble about the details or minutae of their 'correct' policies. note
At the most basic level, the presence of a 'Fox News Liberal' gives a 'face' to the ideological enemies of the show and lets the show make ad-hominem attacks on them and by extension everyone who holds their views. For these reasons a 'Fox News Liberal' may well be ugly, rude, have poor public-speaking skills and/or a tendency to say the wrong thing (under pressure)... or maybe they're just really boring and speak in a monotone
On a final note, the show itself sets the agenda for what is discussed - a Fox News Liberal will almost never be presented with a topic which "their kind" think is actually important, and the topic is often deliberately chosen to invoke all the poor argument techniques listed above.
In another formulation, the Fox News Liberal may be presented as the Only Sane Man
with their particular political views. In appearing to be swayed by the 'superior' reasoning of their co-hosts, and agreeing with the position of the show, they make 'their' side look 'unreasonable'. Expect a heartfelt and theatrical sigh, followed by the words "If only the rest of them were as reasonable
as this one is, the world would be a better place!" In particularly egregious cases of this version of the trope, the character's forsaking their (unreasonable
) ideological beliefs and political allegiances (in favour of better/'the correct' ones) constitutes Character Development
The common thread is that their status as an official representative of their ideology is used to reinforce the ideology and/or viewpoints advanced by all the other co-hosts in general, and the show as a whole. Being a token socialist or liberal on a panel show - wherein there are representatives of 'numerous' ideologies - doesn't count if the show itself doesn't have a political-ideological slant.
See also Informed Attribute
. Compare with No True Scotsman
, for those people who disavow the Fox News Liberal
as a "real" member of their political group.
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- Icon from Milestone Comics was created by a black liberal writer as a supposed black conservative. However, the in-story reason for him being a conservative is that he was born in the days of slavery when the Republicans were on the anti-slavery side and in modern times his sidekick started convincing him that conservatism is bad for the poor. This doesn't exactly fit the definition, but it approaches it. It's as if the writer wanted to put a conservative in, but as the trope description says, couldn't think of any way for a reasonable person to be one today. This is a complicated example, as "liberals" and "conservatives" of 150 years ago share very few traits with their counterparts of today except for the names, not to mention that he's a two-century-old alien ex-slave and probably wouldn't think like a modern human anyway.
- The DCU: Decisions election issues were designed around superheroes expressing political opinions about the 2008 election. The problem was that all of the Presidential candidates were fictional and there was no real sense of anything they stood for. Green Arrow seemed to be voting for the Green Party and Lois Lane seemed to be Republican (or possibly a Libertarian?) but everyone else's opinion was just obtuse. In the end it seemed to come to a conservative-leaning writer (Bill Willingham) and a liberal-leaning writer (Judd Winick) picking heroes like they were choosing players for their kickball team. Needless to say, the whole story caused a Flame War. Green Arrow's (left wing) and Hawkman's (right wing) political views were already well-established for years, but the idea of ascribing definite political views to all the other characters resulted in fans hysterically fighting over which characters "should" or "shouldn't" belong to which party.
- Julia Shumway, the Informed Attribute Republican editor of the newspaper in Stephen King's Under the Dome, is considered by some to be the conservative version of a Fox News Liberal. On the one hand, she doesn't talk about politics at all, and the only reason to believe that she is a Republican is because the author says she is. On the other hand, almost no one (who is sane) mentions politics at all because, well, they're trapped under a dome, and sometimes little things like that have to take precedence.
Live Action TV
- The West Wing, like most Aaron Sorkin shows, makes heavy use of Strawman tropes, including this one, despite attempts to resist using them.
- Ainsley Hayes, the Trope Namer for Blonde Republican Sex Kitten (with a touch of Southern Belle). Presented, at first, as a strong Republican that had previously been a member of the Federalist Society and could smack around expert liberal debaters, she quickly lost or strongly downplayed her initial displeasure about pork-barrel politics, gun control, and what she saw as unnecessary legislation. Her quick decision to leave gun control off the discussion table in response to a politician's attempted assassination is a particular moment, coming as it does from a Ronald Reagan Republican.
- Arnold Vinick, the Republican presidential nominee in the final season, rejects enough Republican principles that it's almost impossible the real-life Republican party would nominate him for president. He's pro-choice and not at all religious, although he's a big believer in economic conservatism, as in big tax cuts and reducing the size of government. Vinick's strong economic conservatism would not go far in the Democratic party, and he's not extreme enough to be accepted by the Libertarian party, so he's more of a Republican than anything else. Of course, he's from California, where Arnold Schwarzenegger, with similar views, was successful as a Republican politician, so his being a Republican Senator is believable. But as for his presidential nomination....
- Actually Vinick is very similar to real-life "establishment" Republicans, a few of whom had indeed been the Republican nominee for president. Where Vinick starts to be unrealistic is that he doesn't apologize for, or walk back, any of his more liberal positions in an effort to convince the Republican base to vote for him. He would have to in order to be so much as nominated.
- In fact, pretty much any Republican character whom the audience is supposed to like and respect gradually becomes one of these if they're around long enough. One particular exception is Speaker of the House and Acting President Glenallen Walken, who proves to be a competent president and reasonably likable man of integrity despite also being clearly depicted as a conservative Republican and military hawk. However, he was only around for three episodes, it's possible this wasn't intentional and in any case, he was played by John Goodman, which goes a long way.
- Nearly everyone who appears on the show and is to the left of the main characters seems to adopt the characteristics that Fox News associates with liberals: they are, almost to a person, shrill, mean-spirited, short-sighted, and egocentric. This is especially notable in any episode dealing with free trade, where opponents of free trade always get portrayed as hypocrites, grandstanders, or idiots. Basically, the door swings both ways: if Aaron Sorkin disagrees with you, you're either a nut or a meanie, and it doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on.
- In the case of free trade, the protagonists all worked for President Bartlett, who was a Nobel Prize winning economist. Still true now, although even more universal at the time The West Wing aired, virtually every economist, left or right, supports free trade (for example Paul Krugman in real life is a Nobel Prize winning economist to the left of Bartlett who was very strongly for free trade) so it would have been inauthentic to do anything other than portray him and his staff as disdainful of protectionists.
- The French Police show P.J has Chloé Matthieu, who is a Fox News fascist — she starts as a member of a far right Police Syndicate, her uncle ran an election for a far-right party (not named, but probably this real life party), she seems to hate anything and anyone having a common point with Arabs, Muslims, human beings with dark skin, homosexuals... Yet she manages to become good friend with Muslims and/or black policemen, has a child with a black man, works part time in a lesbian bar, asked a bisexual colleague to help her take care of her child when she has to work late, and implicitly admits than most of her opinions are bogus. This is a case of the trope being used as character development: she starts as a straw man, and then progressively realizes how evil her beliefs are during the course of the show.
- Entertainment Weekly editor Mark Harris wrote an article about this, specifically naming Harriet Hayes of Studio 60 and Kitty Walker of Brothers and Sisters.
- The Newsroom
- The main character is Will McAvoy, a conservative news anchor who repeatedly criticizes the current state of the Republican Party. In the first few episodes of the show he mocks Sarah Palin and rails against the Tea Party.
- In-universe, News Night can't get a good conservative representative to support SB 1070, so they're forced to get a bunch of idiots and wack jobs who don't know the issues. McAvoy has to make their own arguments for them and feels that the show dropped the ball.
- In-universe, one episode of All in the Family has Archie Bunker complain to a local TV station about a pro-gun-control editorial. After he confronts the station manager, he's offered airtime to present an opposing view, with the clear implication that the manager is cynically satisfying the letter of the then-extant Fairness Doctrine while making the pro-gun side of the argument look bad.