For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, a Megyn moment, as I have taken to calling it, is when you, a Fox guest — maybe a regular guest or even an official contributor — are pursuing a line of argument that seems perfectly congruent with the Fox worldview, only to have Kelly seize on some part of it and call it out as nonsense, maybe even turn it back on you. You don’t always know when, how or even if the Megyn moment will happen; Kelly’s political sensibility and choice of subjects are generally in keeping with that of the network at large. But you always have to be ready for it, no matter who you are. Neither Karl Rove nor Dick Cheney have been spared their Megyn moments, nor will the growing field of 2016 presidential aspirants, who can look forward to two years of interrogation on “The Kelly File.” The Megyn moment has upended the popular notion of how a Fox News star is supposed to behave, and led to the spectacle of a Fox anchor winning praise from the very elites whose disdain Fox has always welcomed.
Or: Megyn Kelly exists on Fox News as a false assurance to viewers that what they are getting is not, in fact, monolithic and prescribed; that the people they depend on to momentarily jolt them out of the deep torpor induced by the overall Fox News programming ethos, which is expressly intended to induce despair in its aging audience, are not simply following a cynical script between car-service rides in and out of Manhattan (which, if you’re ever near News Corp’s building on Avenue of the Americas, is a worthwhile and striking image to consider: the sensibilities expressed upstairs, to Regular People far away, are meant to sound like common sense; they could not be repeated with any self awareness at lunch a block away on 5th Avenue, or over drinks by the park, ten blocks north, and almost certainly aren’t).
A “Megyn Kelly moment” only gives the impression of evidence and rigor to the viewer’s naturally accumulating feelings of doom and decline. Fox News, the financial and political operation, is a relatively small entity that produces enormous externalities: it alienates its viewers from society — and, if necessary, their families — just enough to keep them watching but not quite so completely as to prevent them from continuing to cast their votes against the darkness.