Hats off to New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo for recognizing that while Facebook’s refusal to remove the doctored Nancy Pelosi may be worrisome, the deceptive Pelosi video aired on Fox Business was much, much worse.
As I wrote last week, Fox Business Network host and informal Trump adviser Lou Dobbs aired a deceptively-edited video of Pelosi seeming to stammer through a press conference. Donald Trump subsequently tweeted the video to his millions of followers. So did Fox Nation’s Diamond and Silk. Insisting that the video had not been doctored, the duo wrote, “To Us, she looked like a Non-Functioning Alcoholic then & she still looks like one now #Intervention #AA #coverup."
Yes, we should worry about Facebook, Manjoo writes, “but not at the risk of overlooking a more clear and present danger, the million-pound, forked-tongue colossus that dominates our misinformation menagerie: Fox News and the far-flung, cross-platform lie machine that it commands.”
“While Facebook moved quickly to limit the spread of the doctored Pelosi clip, Fox is neither apologizing for airing its montage nor taking it down, because this sort of manipulated video fits within the network’s ethical bounds.
And Fox has apparently persuaded us all to live with its lying, too. Even though it was the Fox Business clip, not the amateur Facebook segment, that President Trump tweeted to his millions of followers, it was somehow Facebook, Twitter and the digital world that came in for the biggest scolding from press critics.
I understand the fear about digital fakery. But to focus on Facebook instead of Fox News is to mistake the symptom for the disease.
The disease is an entrenched, well-funded, decades-in-the-making, right-wing propaganda network, one that exists to turn faintly sourced rumors into full-blown, politically convenient narratives. The propaganda network’s tentacles now infiltrate every form of media — magazines, books, talk radio, social networks — but it still finds its most profitable and effective outlet in the Murdochs’ cable empire.
And it is devastatingly effective: Just about every political lie that has dominated American discourse in the past two decades — the Swift Boaters and the birthers, death panels, the idea that undocumented immigrants pose an existential threat but climate change does not — depended, for its mainstream dissemination, on the Fox News machine."
One of my biggest beefs as a long-time blogger about Fox has been the left’s consistent underestimation of its danger and sway. On Election Night, 2006, when Democrats regained control of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, I was a guest on a certain online talk show whose host announced, “Fox News is now irrelevant.” In what could have been a more diplomatic response, I called it dangerous folly to dismiss Fox as a threat. The interview ended almost immediately thereafter. But, sadly, my pessimism has been borne out in reality.
Watching Democratic candidates take part in Fox town halls without seeming to care, or maybe even understand, how they are acting as carriers of the Fox disease makes me wonder if Democrats will ever get it.
So thank goodness Manjoo gets it. Maybe the punditocracy will listen to him more than they do to me. Let’s hope his readers will understand how important it is for us to rise up and refuse to keep accepting the plague of extremism and disinformation that Fox News spreads.
I highly recommend the complete column.