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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tragic events ahead of the midterms are causing a contentious media blame game over who is responsible for the increasing radicalization of American citizens.

Why it matters: The media infighting is itself the byproduct of a nation that's become radicalized by a collision of geopolitical events over years, and it's being compounded by an economic crisis around news, where the most profitable information online and on TV is often the most inflammatory.

  • Mainstream media hosts and columnists are pointing the finger at certain Fox News and Fox Business personalities for peddling bogus pro-Trump talking points leading up to the midterms.
  • Conservative media and the Trump administration are arguing that the mainstream media is obsessed with anti-Trump coverage, pointing to certain headlines and chyrons as examples of editorialized coverage.
  • Others are slamming social media companies for creating a breeding ground for people to spread conspiracy theories and hate.

Between the lines: The blame game is coming to a head at Fox News, where news and opinion programming differs, but viewers often struggle to discern the difference between the two. In the last week:

  • Fox News anchor Shep Smith rebuked comments coming from the president and some at his own network Monday about the risk posed by a caravan of migrants, arguing the rhetoric is a ploy to rally people ahead of the midterms.
  • Fox News political analyst Brit Hume, speaking at a Washington free press event on Thursday, called out the popularity of Fox's opinion coverage, but noted that there's also a separate, independent news team. "Chris (Wallace) is a part of that, I'm a part of that and Bret Baier is a part of that and many of our colleagues here in this room are a part of that as well. And we take a real pride in what we do and we believe we're a first-rate news organization."
  • Even Matt Drudge, founder and editor of the right-leaning Drudge Report, issued a rare rebuke on Monday of Fox News after host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery laughed during a segment about Saturday's mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
  • A Fox News spokesperson said that "Kennedy made an unrelated quip at the end of the segment which was focused on unity — there was absolutely no joking or laughing about the events of this weekend and a screen grab of her smiling is hardly indicative of the entire segment. The lower third should not have been up for the duration of this segment as it was not fully reflective of what the panelists were discussing."

The bigger picture: Axios Future Editor Steve Levine notes in a feature on democracy that similar geopolitical and technological forces are causing radicalized information environments and populations around the world.

  • "Across the democratic West — in the U.S., Britain, Hungary, Italy, Sweden and more — the two-year eruption of public wrath has been exceptionally volatile and, for those attempting to grasp and address it, vexing."

Yes, but: In some cases, the infighting is putting pressure on players in the media ecosystem to make changes that might improve the quality of coverage and conversation moving forward. For example, Twitter says it's considering banning "likes" in an effort to incentivize healthier conversations on the platform.

What's next: Experts predict that the radicalization of Western populations will only get worse, and in places like the U.S., it will continue to force people to take on tribal mentalities, which will continue to be reflected in the media.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

NRA declares bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment."

The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.

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