Propaganda takes all sorts of different forms, and serves a variety of interests. Does the latest scientific knowledge undercut your fundamentalist religious or political beliefs? Does the upcoming election pit your preferred candidate against one who is espousing more popular measures? Are you frantic because “those people” are asserting their entitlement to rights equal to your own, or because those you consider “real Americans” are losing their privileged social or cultural positions?
Lie. Target those lies to an audience likely to be unsure or unaware of the facts and thus receptive to your preferred version of reality. Examples emerge daily. Allow me to share a few.
In March 2020, when everything changed, roughly nine in 10 Americans, regardless of their preferred media outlet, said they trusted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Within weeks, though, that trust was plunging among Americans who mostly watch Fox News or other conservative outlets, as well as those who cited no source.
By the end of last month, just 16% of those who said they get most of their news from Fox or other conservative outlets still said they trust the CDC, compared to 77% of those who favor network news and major national newspapers and 87% of those who primarily watch CNN or MSNBC.
People who primarily got their news from Fox or other conservative media outlets were also more likely to be unvaccinated, and to report that they had tested positive for COVID-19 at some point during the pandemic.
An essay from the New York Times pointed out the under-appreciated damage being done by those despicable Rightwing “groomer” accusations.
As we head into the 2022 midterm elections, calling someone a “groomer” or a “child abuser” has become the conservative attack du jour. What once felt like language reserved for the followers of QAnon, a fringe community united by a central conspiracy theory that America is run by an elite ring of pedophiles, has seeped into the mainstream. The use of these terms has even sparked the anti-gay slur “OK, groomer,” a play on the phrase “OK, boomer,” which is often used by young people to disregard or mock retrograde arguments made by baby boomers…
If the politicians making those accusations were actually concerned about ending child abuse, the kinds of institutions they would be challenging would include religious organizations, youth sports and even the nuclear family — systems that exert control over children and their bodies. These are the venues where child sexual abuse commonly occurs. The misuse of these words is not about stopping abuse, but rather a reassertion of homophobia, gender hierarchy and political control.
The author of the essay, a survivor of actual childhood sexual abuse, points out that in the real world, this indiscriminate and dishonest accusation is “dangerous and corrosive to the very real and devastating experience of sexual abuse. To use these words in this way voids them of their real meaning and desensitizes civil society to bodily harms.”
It isn’t only America’s frantic culture warriors. Russia is fighting back against growing global ostracism by concocting a wholly-invented threat posed by Ukrainian “bio-labs.” That claim, according to NBC, has been eagerly seized on by the American Right.
Russia’s early struggles to push disinformation and propaganda about Ukraine have picked up momentum in recent days, thanks to a variety of debunked conspiracy theories about biological research labs in Ukraine. Much of the false information is flourishing in Russian social media, far-right online spaces and U.S. conservative media, including Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News…
Most of the conspiracy theories claim that the U.S. was developing and plotting to release a bioweapon or potentially another coronavirus from “biolabs”’ throughout Ukraine and that Russia invaded to take over the labs. Many of the theories implicate people who are often the targets of far-right conspiracy thinking — including Dr. Anthony Fauci and President Joe Biden — as being behind creating the weaponized diseases in the biolabs.
We don’t know how many people died as a direct result of COVID disinformation, or how much real damage has been done by ludicrous “grooming” charges. We cannot calculate the percentage of wartime deaths in the Ukraine that can be attributed to the fact that several GOP Senators adopted the biolab fantasy and delayed the sending of critically-needed aid.
But there is one death from persistent disinformation that we can easily see: the death of civic discourse and Americans’ ability to govern ourselves.
I used to tell my students that if I say a piece of furniture is a chair and you say it’s a table, we will never be able to agree on its use. If you prefer fantasy A to uncomfortable but demonstrable fact B, or “alternative facts” to reality, that preference is deadly to the democratic enterprise.
16 thoughts on “Disinformation Kills”
This is a continuation of yesterday’s discussion about the religious right in this country. According to the US Constitution, the free press’s role is to use whatever means possible to hold the government accountable to the people, while the government’s role is to keep the private sector accountable.
How many people believe the government and free press perform their roles well?
“A picture is worth 1,000 words” is something we used to hear. Jeh Johnson recently posted a piece where he suggests VISUALS may help convey the message when words fail.
I made that suggestion hear recently so I agree with him.
A couple of things:
1. FOX News and its friends in right-wing media are NOT conservative. That word implies that they want to preserve the status quo – to some extent. Those networks have radicalized information distribution and are shameless liars. They exist for the sole reason to provide confirmation bias commentary for those imprisoned in their own willful ignorance.
2. Everything coming from the right-wing media that blames everyone but themselves is a PROJECTION of massive proportions. The distortions therein create a mass-pathology that feeds on disinformation. Why do they do that?
Well, it seems that intellectual sloth and concrete thinking never made it past 7th grade for these folks. Fox and friends is a “service” that feeds that pathology to the detriment of all. It used to be that the implied purpose of the First Amendment was to allow anyone to expose themselves as a damned fool. Today, it is used by right-wingers across the spectrum to feed self-congratulatory stupidity.
The current administration is so lacking in its performance the distrust of the government is fueled by the lack of honest reporting by CNN, MSNBC, and NPR. The role backs of comments the President is making is absolutely devastating to how we rule when we cant find legitimate self aware politicians. When the current administration is worse than the last in its embellishments one can wonder what role the government is taking on iur behalf.
When government agencies fail us, like the FDA and the current baby formula crisis ate we not supposed to report on it?
$32 million was waisted on a false Russian hoax Dossier which was supported by the mainstream press. Political investigations into peoples lives were made without knowing there was a crime beforehand, the only crime that began their investigation was they got involved in politics.
Currently $4 million is being wasted on a Jan 6th commission
Its not just Fox News thats creating distrust but the level of incompetence and coverup of that incompetence. Biden single handedly destroyed the wheels of our energy independence and economy.
Destroying the middle class is the role of this administration. It is making it clear that families hoping to climb out of poverty with the help of the government are being held down by the actions of the government
One could take this post and the comments a bit further by saying that Fox and Friends are “groomers.”
An interesting thought! But, the graphic pictures? Just like they’ve been saying concerning the Sandy hook slaughter and other massacres, and the Russians have been saying concerning the massacres of civilians with their hands tied behind their backs were all fake. The pictures were staged, Hollywood was involved, none of it is real, special effects!
This kind of insanity is what happens when you don’t refute the lies! Or, when you are afraid to call out a liar, and actually call them a liar!
That word was seemingly off limits, and still some are hesitant to use it to describe those conspiracy theories that are damaging to society and make light of tragedies and grief by misdirection and obscurantism.
Obscurantism and obscurationism: The practice of deliberately presenting and misrepresenting information in an imprecise abstruse Manor to limit further inquiry or understanding by the obtuse! (IMHO)
But why swallow obvious lies and propaganda and be afraid to call it what it is! Maybe those who claim to be on the righteous side of the facts are really not as righteous hearted is they might have you believe. Sometimes, refusing to call an Ace and Ace, is revealing! Maybe, there are aces hidden up the sleeves of those self-proclaimed truth tellers! Those supposed Truth tellers that absolutely refuse to call out the liars and the propagandists!
Unfortunately lying is protected speech concerning politics. And politicians! In other words, they can use lies to gain reelection! Now, the question is, WHY?????
When businesses do it, in their advertising, or your doctor does it, or your accountant does it, or your significant other does it or your child does it, there is a huge price to pay!
And to top it all off, people pile money into the contribution dish of their local church to listen to their pastors lie through their teeth! Of course that’s called Willful Delusion which is consciously believing a falsity or a falsehood, because you want that falsehood to be your reality!
In Titus 1: 15, 16 it reads; “all things are clean to clean people; but to those who are defiled and faithless nothing is clean, for both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They publicly declare that they know God but they disown him by their works, because they are detestable and disobedient and not approved for good work of any sort.”
Jesus Christ himself said in Matthew 7:16 – 18 which reads;
“By their fruits you will recognize them never do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles do they? Likewise every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit. A good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce fine fruit.”
So, what fruit are these Evangelical pastors putting forth? What fruit are these Evangelical politicians putting forth? They are nothing but thorns and thistles producing rotten fruit! Unfortunately many of the obtuse crave the rotten fruit. As a certain profit stated, “Cretans are always liars, injurious wild beasts, idle gluttons.”
Maybe call these pastors and politicians Cretans, it fits!
Good morning Vernon Turner,
Sorry I was writing my diatribe and only saw your comment after I posted. But, you are absolutely right on the money this morning. Excellent my brother. By the way, those books you mentioned that you had written earlier in your career, are they still available? I would be interested in checking those out.
Good morning Todd!
Again, well said.
Good morning Lester,
Where are you? This is in your wheelhouse, lol!
Do you think anyone who watches FAUX News has wondered why DNA was needed to identify victims in Uvalde? Maybe FAUX’s pundits should be invited to an autopsy. How long before this latest massacre of children becomes a “false flag operation,” like Sandy Hook and MSD?
Yes, the books are available on Amazon.com.
Be advised, NOBODY could possibly be worse as both a human being and a President than Donald J. Trump. Joe Biden is NOT an insurrectionist. Joe Biden is not a pathological liar. Joe Biden is not a grifter. Joe Biden does NOT harbor criminals in his inner circle. Joe Biden is NOT a racist nor a misogynist. The facts and the comparative histories validate my comments. Now, what were you saying again?
People consume entertainment today at a rate that appears like we cannot exist without it, like is true of oxygen. The title of Neil Postman’s 1984 book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death” says it all. (BTW Lester, many thanks for that recommendation.) His theme is not only that fact but how inherently devoid of meaningful content audio/visual anything is. Textually based books and newspapers are permanent records of ideas that must be carefully researched and enlightening in order to become consumer demand. Entertainment is inherently throw away content that is meant to titillate then be forgotten. It truly is eye/ear candy with zero redeeming value, yet we choose to live in a soup of it every “woke” hour. Like the supermarket tabloids of old, someone makes up what we would get a kick out of seeing and hearing and they build it into a story that amuses consumers for just a few seconds that it is forgotten.
Whatever learning and intelligence we used to have is being sucked out of us with one of the most lucrative businesses that there is, entertainment.
Pete – you saved me the effort – kudos! All the rest – read the book!
John S: what Vernon said; your last sentence is absolute bonkers.
I can see the baby formula issue! But, what I don’t understand, the stupidity of these supposed young mothers that can’t figure out how to feed their babies! If nursing your child is not an option, there are formulas that you can make yourself, they had been doing it for many many decades before there was enfamil or similac! One of the biggest and most used was the pet milk formula. If you don’t mind more sugar, then you have the Carnation condensed milk! You also have whole milk powder! You can add a little rice cereal with the milk. Or, you can pick up unsweetened almond milk or unsweetened oatmilk, unsweetened soymilk, they’re fortified with vitamins! It’s not rocket science. This shortage is manufactured hysteria!
The media is complicit in this entire situation. They could be offering solutions for these young people who have no knowledge, no wisdom to research. Just put the recipes and instructions out there on a wide scale by media, problem solved!
I read your links, town hall is nothing but a right-wing rag! And, that’s one reason why I’m really disgusted with politics and politicians! Town Hall might as well call themselves fair and balanced, because they’re no better than their competitors in that regard.
My advice John? Don’t limit your research. And, stay away from the kool-aid!
Yes, John, they are groomres…good point.
The conservatives of the likes of the Koch boys, Buckley, and the others, set in motion, a movement that has been kidnapped
by the crazies they probably did not even imagine existed. Buckley was certainly not talking to the likes of MTG, or LB, when he
was so smoothly espousing his twisted POV!
It is not unusual for movements to be hijacked, and move off in directions the founders never envisioned, no?
People are making millions of dollars, I’m sure, spreading disinformation (the Orange Grifter, and Alex Jones for example?), and partying, with no thought, or
care for the damage it does to the culture, or toso many individual people.
Lack of education kills.
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