As children played in Washington Square Park’s fountain, a Fox News camera crew distorted the public land into simulacra, intellectual property, and political ideology.
Fox News anchor Jesse Watters on Wednesday confronted a woman wearing a black t-shirt with the tagline “Be Kind.” Watters did not appear to take this advice, as he repeatedly shoved his microphone into the woman’s face, causing her to shrink back in fear. The questions he asked followed an all-too familiar playbook: Frame the opponent’s ideology, inject a question containing a premise that will prove the ideology as illogical or extremism, and then have the opponent either accept or reject the premise (if the premise is accepted then the opponent and their ideology become illogical, and if it is rejected then the opponent and their ideology become extremism).
“How do you feel about crime?” asked Watters as a Fox News producer tapped away in boredom on their phone, having clearly seen this playbook deployed many times before.
The scene is reminiscent of basketball dunk contests wherein carnival barkers lure in unsuspecting marks with dreams of a new Sony Playstation—the fantasy in this case is appearing intelligent on a news network profiting from those appearing illogical or extreme to bolster the ideological counterpart. Both are rigged systems: If the opponent does appear intelligent or outmaneuvers the star protagonist, then the segment is scrapped. There is no debate, despite the illusion of one.
“Are you a winner today?” smiles the charlatan as he fingers the hidden button which will cause the hoop to drop ever so slightly.
“Do you have a minute?” smiles Jesse Watters to another passerby as the television personality extends his microphone.
“New York City is back” goes the narrative as businesses do away with face masks and New Yorkers reengage with social activities found in the “real” world. But with this explosion into markets comes the return of something else.
“The neighborhood is nothing but a protective zone-remodeling, disinfection, a snobbish and hygenic design- but above all in a figurative sense: it is a machine for making emptiness,” wrote the late theorist Jean Baudrillard in Simulacra and Simulation.