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.