As a commenter said in our pages, “Donald J Trump is a master manipulator of minds.” Is the Fox Flap just one more ruse? If you have not been paying attention, Trump attacked Fox after a Fox poll showed him losing support. Then, the network interviewed current Democratic presidential candidates, which Fox said was “news,’ but Trump said was propaganda against him.

Is this just a Trump trick to force Fox to get back on his wagon? Or maybe the whole thing is just another distraction.

We do need to clear up one likely error. In Trump’s first salvo, he said that “Fox is not working for us anymore.” Fox commentators took offense, especially Neil Cavuto, saying that Fox—and he—don’t “work for” Trump, meaning that they are not his employees. However, it’s probably more likely that Trump meant “not working” in the sense of “not pleasant.” It’s the opposite of the expression we use when we’re happy: “works for me!”

Breitbart quotes Cavuto at length:

Cavuto said, “I think the president watches Fox. I also think he’s getting sick of Fox, which is weird because I think he gets pretty fair coverage on Fox. But the president making clear that to fact-check him is to be all but dead to him and a legion of supporters, who let me know in no uncertain terms that I am either with him totally or a never-Trumper bully.”. . .

He added, “You’re entitled to your point of view, Mr. President. But you’re not entitled to your own set of facts.”

The Washington Examiner listed some of the Fox response. Likewise, The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, as is Fox News, also chronicled reactions from various Fox hosts. The Washington Times further reported on the controversy adding some more bits and pieces to the story.

Quartz says Fox News isn’t all that powerful, anyway, so why should Trump care?

Journalists and scholars underplay the reality of Fox News’ small audience. On an average night in 2018, Fox News attracted about 2.4 million prime-time viewers.

That’s an impressive number. It made Fox News the most-watched cable television programming in 2018.

But the US population in 2018 was approximately 327 million, which means that 99.3% of Americans weren’t watching Fox News on any given night.

But a Trump campaign official disagrees, saying Trump really needs Fox.

Not all of the Fox family is pro-Trump.

“Carl Cameron, a former chief political correspondent for Fox News, says President Donald Trump is attacking Fox News because Trump is a ‘cry-baby’ President who likes to bully instead of finding solutions.’”

Some say Trump is treating Fox like State TV.

So, is the Trump-Fox feud for real? Politico says it’s a fake feud—that it’s as choreographed as WWE Wrestling.

Not for nothing was Donald Trump inducted into the WWE wrestling hall of fame in 2013. The man knows how to stage a fake fight—like his current brawl with the Fox News Channel. . .

How angry at Fox can Trump genuinely be? Trump told Kilmeade that he appreciates the broadcasts of his longtime champions. . .

In the world of pro wrestling, “kayfabe” is the code of secrecy that demands all players stay in “character before, during, and after shows” to maintain the illusion that a real fight is happening. Trump’s trash talk and the raspberries that Fox functionaries like Hume and Cavuto blow back at him are pure kayfabe. . .

Trump’s faux-fight with Fox is designed 1) to add drama and excitement to where there is none; 2) make him the primary focus of events; and 3) temporarily complicate the storyline so viewers keep watching. Fox benefits from Trump’s periodic attacks (remember when he boycotted one of Fox’s 2016 presidential debates because it wouldn’t dump Megyn Kelly from the broadcast). They make the channel look like it’s standing up to the president, and Fox ends up looking more independent and credible.

It doesn’t get more kayfabe than that.

However, MediaMatters says Trump’s attacks could be dangerous to Fox.

Fox is a propaganda outlet whose success depends on maintaining just enough trappings of journalism to avoid that label. And if Trump turns his warning shots into a sustained assault, the result could spell disaster for the network. . .

In the short term, Fox employees can try to turn the criticism to their benefit by citing the president’s response as evidence that they aren’t really propagandists. But if Trump sustains his criticism, it will trap the network in a vulnerable position with no good options.

If the network tries to push back on Trump’s criticism, the result could be a cycle of escalations that triggers a viewer backlash. Previous altercations have shown that Fox’s audience will side with Trump over the network, and Trump has repeatedly promoted the even more overtly propagandistic One America News Network, suggesting a potential alternative for unhappy Fox viewers.

So where are we? Is Trump really angry with Fox, or just trying to manipulate its viewers? Would Trump like to create a network that is 100% in his pocket? And is this really all just a ruse, a hoax, fake “news,” just to keep us from focusing on substantive issues? Nobody knows.