Over the weekend, in the wake of the impeachment hearings, millions Americans were wondering how so many members of the Republican party–like our neighbor to the north, Rep Elise Stefanik–could lie so blatantly and persistently about facts that should be obvious to any thinking person. For example, how could Republicans say Trump didn’t ask Ukraine for a personal favor when the transcript released by Trump’s White House showed him doing it? How could Republicans claim that Rep Adam Schiff was “gagging the minority” in the impeachment hearings when in fact he was following the long-standing rules passed by Republicans years ago and applying them evenly to both parties? Why does the Republican party get away with so much shameless and pernicious lying?
In a word, Fox.
Trump and his cult and all the Republican politicians who support him are merely a symptom of a deeper disease. Beginning at least thirty years ago, AM talk radio began featuring ultra-right-wing “shock jocks” who spewed the most vile, salacious, and false stories, generating attention and earning the broadcasters a lot of money. People like Limbaugh, Beck, Jones, Savage and Hannity made millions of dollars fearmongering, scapegoating, demonizing and dividing. And because they were on the fringes, listened to by truck drivers and retirees, they weren’t treated seriously. But their subject matter and tone were eventually dragged into the mainstream by Roger Ailes at the fledgling Fox network, where Ailes cynically called it “news” even though it was really gossip and uninformed opinion. For example, Sean Hannity isn’t a journalist, he’s just a guy with a lot of opinions pretending his views have some sort of authority. He never graduated from college and worked as a house painter before becoming a radio talk show host, eventually discovering that hateful, divisive rhetoric earned him a lot of money.
Fox has been a major source of disinformation and fearmongering for the two decades since, enabling an entire party and its supporters to remain outside the reach of facts and real reporting. As propaganda, it’s been very effective. And it’s a cancer at the heart of our Democracy. As long as a major cable network convinces its viewers that up is down and black is white, our nation will be divided. As long as Fox employs liars and partisan hacks and industry stooges, its viewers will remain in a bubble of delusion. Moreover, as long as Fox continues to demonize Democrats and liberals and judges and scientists and journalists and civil servants and women and minorities, we will experience increasing violence and division.
It’s important to protest Trump and climate change and reproductive freedom and immigrant rights, but we’re approaching the inescapable reality that these issues all rest on a foundation of institutional propaganda. The smarter choice for activists may be to protest Fox in any way they can. Scorn Fox’s advertisers. Confront Fox employees on why they support a business of hate and lies. Picket Fox offices on Sixth Avenue in New York City–a city Fox often demonizes and ridicules. Until Fox approaches their news network–especially their opinion programs–with a minimum of editorial integrity and journalistic standards our nation will continue to be divided on basic facts–facts ranging from the minor (Trump’s inaugural crowd size) to the major (the connection between human carbon emissions and a rapidly warming planet).
Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office” if he isn’t removed first.