The Fox Effect

There’s clearly a lot that could be said about former President Trump’s lunch with one full-fledged Neo-Nazi and and one wanna-be Nazi, and most of it has been said or written. I won’t add my two cents to the reactions, except to say that I agree with the two most common ones: Trump’s anti-Semitism is disgusting but hardly a surprise to anyone who follows the news even superficially; and the most telling element of this whole sordid story was the lack of pushback–or even comment–from most Republicans.

Far and away the best comment I’ve come across, and the impetus for this post, was an observation by the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah.

Everyone agrees that Nick Fuentes should not be having dinner with former president Donald Trump. He’s much better suited to be a host on Fox News.

The Daily Show followed up with an absolutely devastating “mash up” of speeches by Nick Fuentes, the Neo-Nazi, and various Fox News personalities, including  its most reliable and prominent bigot, Tucker Carlson. You really need to click through and watch it, and then consider the effect of Fox’s poison on its (largely elderly) audience.

There is a reason President Biden has identified Fox as one of the most destructive forces in the world, and Rupert Murdock as the most dangerous man in America. 

As the linked report shows, four elements make Fox News a” uniquely damaging part of the American news landscape: its strength on the political right, the demonstrated way in which it shapes its viewers’ beliefs, its grip on Republican power and the views of its leadership.”

A national poll conducted by he Washington Post and the University of Maryland looked at where people with varying political ideologies get their news about politics and government. Researchers found that  Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents consulted a reasonably wide variety of essentially mainstream sources. At least three out of ten of that group identified CNN, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, NPR, the Times, and/or The Post as  their main sources of news.

Among most Republicans, though, only two sources were identified: local television and Fox News.

Cable-news viewership skews toward demographics that are more Republican in the first place, and CNN and MSNBC are fighting for a similar base of viewers — viewers who also partake of news from other outlets. Fox News’s strength with 43 percent of the country (the percentage that is Republican or Republican-leaning independent, according to Gallup) gives it a distinct advantage in ratings.

Most Americans don’t care about ratings, of course. So it’s important to put this in a more useful context: Fox News has a larger audience than its competitors — an audience that is largely politically homogeneous. And new research reinforces that this homogeneity is not solely a function of Republicans choosing Fox News but of the network filtering what it shows its viewers.

In other words, Fox chooses what it presents as “news”–and what it omits.

Another recent study paid  a group of regular Fox viewers to watch CNN, then compared  how those viewers understood news events with how a control group of Fox News viewers understood them. The study found “large effects on attitudes and policy preferences about COVID-19” and in “evaluations of Donald Trump and Republican candidates and elected officials.”

Participants in the experiment even grew to recognize the way in which Fox News presents reality: “group participants became more likely to agree that if Donald Trump made a mistake, Fox News would not cover it — i.e., that Fox News engages in partisan coverage filtering.”

Researchers also found that much of what Fox News did show was exaggerated or untrue.

There is a growing body of research confirming that Fox is a propaganda outlet serving the GOP, and not a real news organization–a conclusion brilliantly supported in the Daily Show mash-up.

To belabor the point: where people get their news matters–which explains the considerable concern  generated by Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. In pursuit of his profound misunderstanding of the First Amendment’s Free Speech clause,  Musk has opened the Twitter floodgates–the frequency of racist tweets and hate speech has grown significantly. 

Twitter has thus joined Fox in normalizing bigotry and incivility. Those of us who were already worried that Twitter was shortening attention spans and increasing Americans’ tendency to substitute bumper-sticker memes for thoughtful debate, now see the platform exacerbating racial and religious divisions and reinforcing pernicious stereotypes. 

The social media admonition not to feed the trolls seems appropriate here. In a very real sense, both Fox News and Twitter are America’s trolls. Somehow, we need to figure out how to keep people from feeding them.

Given the undeniable lure of confirmation bias, it won’t be easy.


  1. As long as corporate America keeps funding Fox and Twitter with their advertising dollars, this will continue. Unless and until they pull their Ad Dollars, change is unlikely. Or perhaps more large civil suits for slander may have an impact.

  2. “…the most telling element of this whole sordid story was the lack of pushback–or even comment–from most Republicans.”

    This is the most telling evidence of the downside of unification which is the strength keeping the current Republicans in power. In unity there is strength! Just as we can’t choose our family members, they have been brainwashed into believing they can’t choose their party members to support or attempt to control the out-of-control spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum. As for that infamous Mar-A-Lago dinner; Trump is still an American and a private citizen who chose to invite the riff-raff into his home as is his right. His hatred and ignorance has no boundaries. The media reports on that dinner will continue into and beyond the next elections and Trump has now served his demand to terminate the Constitution of the United States of America as dessert.

    Fox and Twitter are still protected by the 1st Amendment freedom of speech; just as those AR-15 toting mass shooters are protected by the 2nd Amendment. We need to begin seeing names of those who make up the majority of the current Republican party whose silence and idleness are the power behind Trump’s continued “Big Lie” and his bigger seditious and treasonous rantings and actions. How many of them follow Fox News and are active on Twitter? What percentage of American voters did Elon Musk buy with his $44 BILLION?

  3. I sure don’t know how Fox Spews viewers can be convinced to watch real news sources. They have been extremely brainwashed by it.

    In Emanuel Macron’s interview on 60 Minutes last evening he stated his deep concern about social media’s influence and how it has spread bigotry and hatred. He spoke of how it has caused so much hatred worldwide. Europe has more stringent internet rules to protect their citizens’s privacy. Maybe they will crack down on the spread of hatred on social media too.

  4. JoAnn,

    Re you wanting to see names of republicans that remain silent about trump’s big lie, etc. Mike Braun has openly supported trump and likely has a very good chance to be the next IN governor. In northeast Indiana there is Rep Jim Banks – he is a Fox favorite. He constantly spews hatred on news outlets and obviously has his sights set on moving up within the R party. He and Jim Jordan from OH are two of a kind, but I think Banks may be worse.

  5. While it is easy to find national and international news outlets that present a wide range of viewpoints, not so with local news. Here in central Indiana we can tune into our tv news for crime or meaningless fodder that supports the Christian Conservative agenda.

  6. JoAnn, you are only partly right that the 2nd Amendment protects our right to carry weapons such as the AR-15. Keep in mind that James Madison, who wrote the first draft of the components of the Bill of Rights, was an educated man. He and many of the members of the Continental Congress, who ratified the Amendments, could read Latin, a language whose grammar is more complicated than English. So the wording of the Amendments expressed what they were thinking. And when one reads the Second Amendment carefully, noting where the commas are, you see that the phrase about bearing arms is the predicate of the sentence. It is not independent of what preceded it, so it pertains solely to national defense, via the “well-regulated” militias. That was the interpretation accepted by the NRA until the last 30 of 40 years, when the organization was taken over by people who are suspicious of anyone who does not carry a weapon with him to buy toilet paper at the supermarket.

  7. At least we have finally put to rest that old adage: With age comes wisdom. The Fox Fogies have disproven that.

    Thirteen Circuits/Thirteen Justices

  8. Pascal – thank you for telling the rest of us about the founding fathers ‘ knowledge of Latin. I never knew this and your explanation about the meaning behind the wording of the 2nd Amendment, based upon grammar is truly good to know. Wouldn’t it be nice if a Latin expert were interviewed on Fox?

  9. “Among most Republicans, though, only two sources were identified: local television and Fox News.” It would be interesting (and perhaps shocking) to learn how much “local television” is actually owned/controlled by a few right-wing owners.

  10. Pascal; of course the 2nd Amendment “…so it pertains solely to national defense, via the “well-regulated” militias.” Also at the time it was written; guns were in every household to put food on the table and people were still shooting “bars and injuns” to protect the lives of their families. The 2nd Amendment begins by referring to “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,…” is ignored so the meaning of the Amendment is lost. How and why has the NRA, a private organization, been allowed to define that Amendment which now results on the deliberate killing of thousands of Americans annually? Watching my Uncle Don, Don Davis of Don’s Guns, go from a small gun shop dealer to a multi-millionaire in a very few years is one answer; “Follow the money.” The lax gun laws in this state aided in filling his coffers and providing weapons of military level and mass destruction to be sold to anyone with the cash, credit or debit card to purchase them. Police and sheriffs tried repeatedly to arrest Don for selling the weapons used in killings; he was following local gun laws and could have been sued for refusing to sell to customers he believed to be a danger to themselves or others. He lobbied for years for the same requirements to purchase long guns as Indiana had to purchase handguns; Indiana lowered the handgun requirements and he went back to making money.

  11. Tox News must be the main reason Republicans can campaign on killing Social Security and Medicare and win in Florida. And that’s not to mention pushing policies and rhetoric that materially contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands people nation wide, many of them dependent on those two programs and other parts of the social safety net.

  12. “The Loudest Voice in the Room” is a terrific book for those wanting to understand the cravenness of Fox News and Rupert Murdoch. The “philosophy” of Murdoch is simple: Ratings uber alles. He hired Roger Ailes to create Fox News and he couldn’t have picked a more deranged fascist for the job. Ailes was sick in a variety of ways, but one of those ways was his unregulated hate for liberals. He constructed Fox News around that premise and hired the people to present it to the weakest minds among us. His fetid legacy still exists. Notice how most of the women on Fox are blond, leggy and wear short skirts. THAT image is another of Ailes’ illnesses: his pathetic sexism and female exploitation.

    As to the 2nd Amendment… Thanks for the detailed explanation of the clause structure, Pascal. My own research also showed that the final wording pertained to the sop thrown to the southern, slave-holding states who wouldn’t sign the Constitution until they felt they had the right to bear arms to put down slave rebellions and chase runaways. Who knew that our original sin would have such far-reaching and tragic consequences these days? BTW, one of the biggest turds in the NRA punchbowl is a wretched creature named Wayne LaPierre, the whore of the gun/ammo industries. His sickness parallels Ailes’ and Trump’s: Their hate for anything and everything not white, straight and Christian is a true pathology.

    It should be noted that Roger Ailes died a couple years ago, but Fox has sustained his model for harboring hate news and lies.

  13. I find Pascal’s comments excellent! He touched on something that I always found fascinating.

    Latin was basically a dead language for a long time, but why continue to use it when the common man did not understand it? It’s easier to manipulate individuals when they cannot understand and read for themselves what they are being told.

    The Greek Septuagint the Aramaic Targums the Syriac Peshitta and the Latin Vulgate were all made from the original Hebrew scrolls and not copied from a secondary source. In other words, there was no medium involved. That basically would prevent translation and scribe errors.

    After the beginnings of collapse of the Roman empire, Latin was basically a dead language. But why did the church continue to embrace it? Many of the founding fathers were educated in the church. The answer is simple, manipulation and deception! Until the 1600s, having possession of scripture was a death sentence! The church had the authority to claim heresy and torture individuals to death by gorat and then burning. But also drawing and quartering, and disemboweling. They made it fearful for anyone to have or attempt to translate the scripture for the common man.

    For example, the Greek word Diakonos and the Latin word minister We all recognize because it has been absorbed into English. But those two words, mean the same thing, it means attendant or servant like a waiter or a personal servant.

    So that basically tells you that ministers, including those in the churches no matter how high up they claim to be, are to be servants of the common man. Not masters of man.

    To be clear, Around the second century was the push for the Roman religious hierarchy to replace the Greek as a language of the New testament to Latin. As mentioned above, Basically a dead language.

    So, why does Latin continue to be the official language of Vatican City? Because very few understand it. And what they say can be manipulated to mean almost anything they desire. Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Limbo, Hierarchies, and Authorities. Are all subject to Latin interpretation, and this interpretation is always accepted by those common folk.

    Today, if somebody is interpreting or speaking Latin, they are trying to pull the wool over someone’s eyes! The founding fathers were well aware of this very thing when they were using Latin.

    It shouldn’t be a surprise, all of them were steeped in the religious dogma of the day. Their religious allegiances and loyalties came through in their writings.

    Pascal was very astute in pointing this out, kudos, excellent post.

  14. Today’s Indy Star print edition ran a weird article on the front page, titled “Small Town Voters Fear for America”. I’m not sure it shouldn’t have been an opinion piece, since it seemed like they drew hugely broad conclusions from interviewing a few people and then extrapolating voting statistics to imply that everyone in the rural America thinks the same way.

    BUT, Fox News does explain a lot of what people have been told to think and I am sure the reach is deep in rural America.

    As for Republican silence on the Big Lie, even our Indiana Senator Todd Young is very careful in all of his press releases, Facebook and Twitter posts to be completely silent on that point. All it takes is for good men to do nothing….

    As for the 2nd Amendment, the reason the sentence is a fragment is that it was proposed by several states ratifying the new Constitution and several of them tried to define exceptions to having to serve in the “well regulated militia”. Most of those exceptions were about being religious based, and end the end nobody could agree on what the exceptions should be, so that part of the sentence was struck, thus leaving a slightly grammatically ambiguous sentence that 200 years later has been interpreted to mean that anyone has the unlimited right to bear arms and the reference to a well regulated militia was just an afterthought and should be ignored.

  15. Imagine my surprise when 45 announced that we need to suspend the constitution for his fascist take over of the government. I’ve mentioned several times that the constitution needs to be rewritten and modernized for the 21st century and it appears 45 agrees! Let’s make sure that if we do rewrite it, he’s not in charge, Shall we?

  16. I agree with Patmcc. And I wonder, why haven’t they been sued? Why hasn’t someone sued them into the dirt yet? How about a class action suit on behalf of the American public? Obviously not a lawyer, but their lies are overwhelming. MAKE them say at the top of every show they should not be confused with news, but only viewed as entertainment. A clown show.

  17. Dan, I would point out that if that is true, it blows away the argument that the 2nd Amendment was aimed only at an organized militia.

  18. Melinda,

    This morning’s Denver Post had an article about the Dominion voting machine defamation suit against Fox News. None other than Lachlan Murdoch his own self will be called to testify. If Dominion wins, it could cost Fox over a billion dollars.

    The whole world is watching.

  19. HA HA – click on the link on what ages get their news from which sources. ALL are over 60, including MSNBC! Folks, the people who will decide the future of our democracy are well under that, especially those under 35. Wanna know where they get their news? How about Facebook and TikTok! You don’t wanna think about the implications of that…

  20. WOW “At least three out of ten of that group identified CNN, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, NPR, the Times, and/or The Post as their main sources of news.” Sheila, was there any mention of what the other seven mentioned as their primary source of news??
    As always, thank you!

  21. I have to agree with the danger of Fox and other truly fake news sources, but Lester is also right. That article basically pointed out that MSNBC and FOX both have aging audiences.

    As for the Second Amendment, thank you Pascal for that explanation.

    I am no constitutional scholar, but I have been struck by the words, “A well regulated Militia” in the second amendment, especially after reading through the Articles of Confederation.

    Here is a snippit talking about the military in general:

    “…..every state shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accounted, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition, and camp equipage.”

    It always struck me a fear of a national army that might be used to support a new king.
    I suspect that everyone took for granted the right for everyone to have muskets for hunting and for protection in frontier, or even rural, areas. I don’t know what they thought about “home protection” in cities. Controlling slaves was probably a consideration in the “slave states”.

    John – Latin may be a dead language, but you reminded me of a summer semester in Ann Arbor. I shared a breakfast table with a Catholic priest and a Latin Master. Half of the conversation was in Latin, and the smiles on their faces, being able to use the language, was worth the parts of the conversation that I couldn’t understand. Maybe “mostly dead” (apologies to The Princess Bride) is a better term. 8)>

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