For most of February, the biggest story on Fox News has been about Canadian politics. This week, each of its late-night hosts—Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham (and Jesse Watters, if you feel like counting him as well)—has devoted segments of their show, sometimes one after another, to the “Freedom Convoy,” a posse of truckers that has been winding its way across the Great White North in protest of Canada’s vaccine requirements and lockdowns.
“This is a peaceful, political protest. No one has shown any evidence to the contrary. It’s not a drug trafficking or human trafficking operation. It’s not Al Qaeda,” Carlson said on Monday. “These are Canadian citizens who drive trucks for a living, but they’re being treated like a terror group.” Hannity has used his perch to admonish Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over an image of the Canadian leader clad in traditional Indian dress, telling him to go “out of your office, go to Ottawa, and sit down with the truckers and listen to them. Start being a public servant instead of a public lecturer.”
Ingraham, meanwhile, painted the convoy as the kind of protest movement that terrifies the political and media elite. “The regime media knows exactly what’s happening in Canada, and it scares the heck out of them,” she said “Now it’s not because they think the truckers or the truckers’ supporters are terrorists: They know they’re not.” (Fox News’s dedication to clarifying this point seems rather intense!) Ingraham continued: “But they’re scared because if usually mild-mannered Canadians have figured things out—that most of what their governments did to fight Covid was insanely destructive, then how can liberals here possibly think for one second that they’re going to keep this Covid theater going on in the United States for much longer?”
Overall, Media Matters for America found that Fox News has devoted eight hours of coverage to the truckers, with three hours coming on Monday and Tuesday of this week alone. Thirteen participants in the protests have appeared on the network, as well.
There is, in each of these segments, a barely concealed effort to portray the Canadian truckers as part of some grassroots movement of patriots who are fed up with Covid-era coercion and control, who are now taking matters into their own hands. This is, to say the least, a misleading portrait. Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, and 90 percent of Canadian truckers are vaccinated; the Canadian trade group, the Canadian Trucking Alliance, has vocally opposed the protests. Two-thirds of Canadians both oppose the protest and believe that it represents the views of a “small minority” of Canadians.
Not exactly the Braveheart-like movement of working-class heroes that Carlson et al have been been keen to portray it. Nor does it seem to be the start of a Canuck version of the Tea Party, with chapters sparking off across the country in opposition to Trudeau’s heavy-handed approach to the pandemic.
But the point isn’t really to pressure Trudeau to meet with the truckers, nor is it to influence Canadian politics at all. Rather, Fox is pushing the convoy as a movement to be emulated here in America. The truckers are “freedom fighters” and “civil rights heroes”—the face of resistance to the controls that have popped up to mitigate a pandemic that has killed more than five million worldwide. Surely a similar social movement might emerge in the U.S., in which like-minded patriots rise up in protest of the dastardly measures that have been put in place by D.C. bureaucrats and, in particular, the Biden administration. This is what it means to really stand up to government control. Are you going to let Canadians take the lead?
The irony is that in the U.S., there is already a strong passion for ending pandemic mitigation measures among liberal media elites, urging a return to normal that writer Tom Scocca has characterized as “unlimited Covid.” No American cities are currently under lockdown; the vaccine mandates that do exist are quite narrow. The actual crisis in the U.S. at the moment is that our vaccination rate remains low, particularly compared to similar nations’, leaving many in the country particularly vulnerable to new variants of Covid-19.
Alas, this doesn’t provide Fox News with what it desires the most: content to fill its broadcasts. This ultimately is the goal: To bring a trucker convoy to the U.S. that Fox News can then spend months crowing about endlessly. The Biden era has provided grist to right-wing media mills and to Republicans, but it has lacked a true Tea Party–like group onto which every culture-war bauble can be stitched for endless infotainment. In a group of Canadian truckers, Fox News thinks it’s found the next golden goose. Now it just needs to spark its own version into existence.