While Trump fans revolt against Fox News for daring to sporadically report the truth, that Donald Trump lost the election fair and square, CNN’s Brian Stelter pointed out that we need to come to grips with the fact that the problem goes beyond the lies being fed to Trump fans and includes their demand for such propaganda.
It’s tempting to think that Donald Trump’s and his fans’ attacks on Fox News will lead to the right-wing eating its own and falling apart. And that could happen eventually, in my view. But right now, we are dealing with a dangerous epidemic of disinformation that strikes at the heart of our democracy.
In his opening for yesterday’s Reliable Sources show, Stelter explained how the demand for a pro-Trump alternate reality has made right-wing media more radicalized since the election:
STELTER: Something remarkable has happened the past week, something I have never seen happen in the right-wing TV world. Fox has dominated right-wing TV for 20 years, but that, that situation, that monopoly control is starting to break apart. Newsmax and One American News, channels that are further to right than Fox, that are claiming Biden is not the president-elect, these channels are seeing a ratings surge.
And some right-wing media viewers are expressing their frustrations with Fox. Why? Because Fox called Arizona for Biden early on and because Fox is identifying Biden accurately as the president-elect.
Stelter played clips of Trump supporters attacking Fox News, saying they don’t trust Fox, calling it “crooked” and even “the enemy of the people.” He noted that Fox’s ratings are still very high and not all viewers feel that way. But there’s a real “balkanization” going on, with a substantial number of viewers going to One American News and Newsmax.
Also played was a clip of Newsmax’s Greg Kelly, its highest-rated host (and former Fox News correspondent and Fox & Friends cohost), saying that Trump will remain in office for four more years.
STELTER: This is not reality. This is not an alternative reality. This is a parallel universe of disinformation. It's a fantasy being sold, being supplied.
And there is demand for it. Let me show you the ratings for Newsmax. I have never seen anything like this in the 16 years I have been covering Fox News. I have never seen a channel pop like this going from, I don't know, 100,000 viewers a day on a good day.
Greg Kelly is now getting a million viewers a night. Fox has never seen competition like this in its history. So, what you have going on is this right-wing audience that's ticked off at Fox News for not being pro-Trump enough. I've never thought I'd see it.
Even Trump is telling his Twitter followers to try Newsmax, to try One America News. He is tapping into that anger at Fox News. But you know what? He's trying to have it both ways. He's also promoting Rudy Giuliani appearing on Fox. He is promoting Jesse Watters and Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity.
Trump doesn't want news. He wants propaganda and that's why he shares the propaganda videos that come off of Fox at the same time he suggests that his fans look elsewhere.
But Stelter’s point is that it takes two to tango:
STELTER: This is all about supply and demand. In this country, there is a lot of demand for straightforward, accurate news about President-elect Biden.
Most Americans want to know about the transition. They want to know what's going to happen next. But there's also a demand for this fictional universe where Biden is not president-elect, where Trump has not lost, where the fight continues, where the election continues -- and millions of people are demanding this content.
I know we talk a lot about the supply, right? I talk about Rudy Giuliani. I'm saying he is out there spreading B.S. on Fox. That's the supply.
But we need to talk about the demand. Why is there a demand? Why do so many people want to consume these lies?
It’s an important question and our democracy may depend on finding the answer.
In a fascinating panel discussion that followed, former Fox contributor Julie Roginsky said that Fox feeds its viewers crack:
ROGINSKY: Well, I hate to say it, but it is a drug. They are literally giving a drug to the viewers. The viewers are determining what they want to hear, and in order to get ratings, some of these, quote/unquote, journalists, which they are really not, are giving their viewers what the journalists themselves know is fallacy.
They know full well that this is absolutely untrue, but yet because their social media demands it, because their ratings demand it, because their superiors apparently demand it, they allow this to go on. It's absolutely as toxic for the viewers as drugs would be.
I think Roginsky is spot on, but I also think there is more to the story.
What do you think?
You can watch Stelter’s commentary below, from CNN’s November 15, 2020 Reliable Sources.
Right wing media and talk radio have been slowly chipping away at decent standards of conduct most people and societies maintain. Then Trump came along and ripped the remaining shreds of decency away-at least for these people. They are now set free to be their worst selves.
Its important to remember that they are not in the majority, they are just the majority of aggressive and violent people. 2/3 of us have to want a return to decency more than the 1/3 want to indulge their barbarian natures.
I’ve heard it before, but this is really the tactic Hitler used in blaming the Jews for the German people’s faults and shortcomings.
tRump is the perfect messenger for this. Any time he loses, he claims he really won but as cheated because whatever it was was stolen from him. Convince 70 million people they are being held back from milk and honey and they’ll blame anyone — even their own liberal brother…
My history teacher in high school – a former Marine, full of patriotic fervour – used to describe the destruction of Carthage as the sort of thing that the USA would never do. He also taught us a lot about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, including the importance of the principle of “peaceful transition of power”.
McMasters was on Cuomo Prime Time last night, where he babbled on and on, saying precious little of consequence. The once outspoken soldier (who wrote that a patriotic soldier was honour bound to reject unlawful commands) said nothing at all about the un-American activities of the Toddler-in-Chief. I, for one, don’t want to have his new book on my shelves.
History also suggests that practically nobody will thereafter admit to having ever supported the defeated leader who had invariably put self above them.
The USA used to take pride in opposing that sort of thing.
I think we need to understand why if there is any hope for this country. I’m not saying anyone has to hold hands and sing Kumbaya with Trump supporters. But I see it like deprogramming people from a cult.
Its about power and how a political party decided to use media to control the weak-minded followers in our population. Fox softened up the brain matter of its audience for 25 years and then when something more outrageous than Fox came along they were ripe for D. Trump to pluck them up for his own use. And now the weakest parts of this group are being maniacally steered into the dark, ugly parts of the human psyche.
We can no longer allow any of this catering to unreality, I do believe this balkanization of Fox viewers will lead to a break up in this group think that has enveloped them for all these years. But these are dangerous times, and some of these are very dangerously deluded people.