FOX News Attempted to Troll Me at ABMB

by Michael Anthony Farley on December 11, 2015 · 4 comments Art Fair + Opinion

Jesse Watters troll ABMB

Last week, I was approached by a stranger at Art Basel Miami Beach who asked to film me standing next to a painting that matched my blazer. Based on his somewhat foppish presentation, I assumed this was for someone’s Youtube street fashion channel. It wasn’t until the “interview” started that I realized the camera equipment bore the FOX News logo. I was so not prepared for this.

If the unedited video were available, one could likely very easily spot the successive moments when my face processed confusion: “why is FOX News at an art fair?” Realization/rage: “They’re here to troll us.” And ultimately, panic: “This is an ambush. This is going to be edited to make us all look like morons.”

And of course, that’s exactly what happened. Although Salon points out that the segment did in fact backfire, what’s missing are all of the exchanges that demonstrate how the right wing is incapable of defending its own positions in rational discourse. Responses to all of the interviewer’s follow-up questions are instead replaced with cartoon sound effects and clips that look like B-roll from the film Idiocracy’s “Ouch my Balls!”

And so I’ll attempt—to the best of my memory’s ability—to transcribe what didn’t make the cut. This is as close to verbatim as I can remember the exchange, including me being awkward:

Jesse Watters: Why do you think the art world tends to lean left, politically?

Me: Because they’re grounded in critical thinking, observation, and discourse.

JW: And the Republicans aren’t?

Me: No. The Republican Party is busy debating whether or not they would kill the baby Hitler but not abort the fetal Hitler. That’s a ‘real’ thing… That they’re actually talking about.

JW: Well, yes… I mean, they’re talking about that…. but not in the actual party debates…. um, anyway, if the left is so good at critical thinking why is there so much income inequality in this country even though we have a Democratic president?

Me: Because we have a right-wing congress that holds actual legislative power and irrationally blocks every attempt at policy.

JW: And you think the right-wing’s policies aren’t better at addressing income inequality and the economy?

Me: What policies? The Tea Party wants a Libertarian Theocracy. The only other country in the world I can think of that has a Libertarian Theocracy is Somalia, whose economy isn’t doing so great.

JW: (Flustered) So what, you think we should just tax the rich more and have Socialism?

Me: Yes, I would say that secular Socialist states are a pretty tried-and-true tactic to improving income inequality. Look around this room, it’s full of people who have more than enough money to spare. 

JW: So you think Socialist countries have better economies?

Me: Yes. Compared to Libertarian Theocracies? I would say so.

JW: Really? Socialist countries are doing better than small government?

Me: Compare Sweden and Somalia.

JW: I mean, income inequality is huge there…

Me: In Sweden? 

JW: …. I mean, unemployment.

Me: So you think Sweden has worse income inequality than Somalia?

JW: Anyway, Obamacare.

Me: What about Obamacare?

JW: Why doesn’t it work?

Me: It’s not perfect, but it’s working better than the system we had before. This is the first time in my adult life I have health insurance. It could be better, if it hadn’t been gutted by the Republicans in congress.

JW: Well, what if it’s not working out for me?

Me: Really? It seems to be working for you.

JW: Why do you say that?

Me: You seem healthy, you look like you have money. You’ve clearly had a lot of elective cosmetic dentistry.

JW: Uh, thanks. Yeah…. I have a great dentist.

Me: Must be nice.

JW: Anyway, so why do you think Liberals think climate change is a bigger threat than terrorism?

Me: Because it is.

JW: WHAT? How can you say that after 150 people died in Paris last week?

Me: Because climate change kills thousands of people, it will kill millions of people. Look at New Orleans, how many more people died in Katrina than in Paris?

JW: So we never had hurricanes before the Industrial Revolution?

Me: No, that’s a huge simplification. Now we have more frequent hurricanes with greater strength. Do you understand how hurricanes work? Do you know what makes a hurricane?

JW: (Ignoring that question) Anyway, what about ISIS?

Me: Climate change is one of the causes of terrorism. Are you aware that the Syrian civil war was preceded by a record-breaking drought that caused a catastrophic famine? ISIS filled that power vacuum.

JW: Uh, no I wasn’t. I mean, really? Is that real? So you think if we all stop driving SUV there wouldn’t be terrorists?

Me: No, but maybe if you stopped driving SUVs you wouldn’t be supporting oil economies like Saudi Arabia who do fund terrorists.

(At this point the camera man started to laugh and Watters realized he should wrap-up the interview, because a small crowd was forming and filming/agreeing with my responses)

JW: So I guess you agree with the Black Lives Matter protestors.

Me: Uh, if I didn’t agree with the Black Lives Matter protesters, what would my stance be? “Black Lives Don’t Matter”? Are you asking me if I think black lives don’t matter? (This is when I started to lose my temper and more camera phones came out)

JW: No, I mean do you agree with the phrase “Black Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter”?

Me: (Sarcastically) Oh definitely just Black ones. Fuck white people. And Asians.

(At this point the small crowd that had gathered started laughing)

JW: So why do Black Lives Matter protesters only care when white people kill black people?

Me: WHAT? Are you kidding me? Do you even know what you’re talking about? We marched in the streets demanding justice for the police who murdered Freddie Gray. Half of those officers were black.

JW: Really? I did not know that.

Me: Yeah you seem pretty uninformed about a lot of things.

JW: Yeah I guess this interview is over. Let me ask you this: What do you think would be a great artwork? A bunch of naked Republicans tied up here in the convention center for you people to throw things at?

Me: I’d love to throw things at Republicans but I can’t think of a single one I’d like to see naked.

JW: Not even Rush Limbaugh?

Me: Uh, no.

JW: Do you watch “Watters’ World”?

Me: The Kevin Costner movie about sea level rise?

JW: No, this. This is “Watters’ World” and you’re in it!

Me: Uh okay. Thanks. I’ve never heard of it. I’m really, really curious to see what you can use from this interview. I’d love to see what ends up on your cutting room floor.


Watters looked genuinely embarrassed. I didn’t think they would use any of the interview. But apparently the several seconds of me reacting incredulously to a painting purportedly about “Obama’s ‘red line’ in Syria” were worthwhile television, yet actual political discussion was not.

This is why those of us in the art world tend to swing left—we really are grounded in critical thinking based on observation and intelligent discourse. FOX News doesn’t want to air any of that—they’re content to cover up their own admissions of ignorance with fart sound effects and footage of people wearing “wacky” pants.

Which leads to the most childish aspect of this all—they obviously don’t give a shit about art. They were just there to troll. We don’t go to NASCAR rallies and ask their viewers to defend the intellectual merits of watching cars drive around in circles. And it’s obvious that trolling is what their entire political platform is based on—from absurd questions about fetus Hitler to marching through college campuses with assault weapons to pretending to give a shit about who has sex with who or lives on the wrong side of an imaginary border line. Jesse Watters, if you’re reading this, I want you to know that I’ll always treasure that look of sheepish panic on your face when you shook my hand at the end of our interview. You know you’re full of shit, and you know we know it too.

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