Let’s face it, at this point, it’s a safe bet that 99 percent of the MAGA cult is gone, lost, unreachable because they’ve bought into the lies of Donald Trump and hard-right pols.
The classic propaganda tactic was first espoused by Adolf Hitler in his book, “Mein Kampf” and used effectively by Joseph Goebbels, during the rise of Nazism.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it, ” Hitler wrote.
But there is a corollary to that infamous adage that rarely gets repeated. “The truth is the mortal enemy of the lie,” Hitler noted.
America is not Nazi Germany — yet. It has always had a safety valve to deflate demagogues — a free press and protected speech. But what about self-censorship?
As powerful as the mainstream media may be, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other traditional media outlets have been shackled by a long-standing institutional bias against taking sides.
It was born out of the days of “yellow journalism” when media barons like William Randolph Hearst used his newspapers to start wars and sink political careers.
“Balanced” coverage may have tempered some of yellow journalism’s worst excesses, but it also has a downside. It’s easily exploited by politicians and demagogues intent on pushing the “big lie.”
It’s happened time and time again., during the “Red Scare” in the ’50s, the Vietnam War in the ’60s, the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003 … and now.
The mainstream media has fallen into the same trap. It feels an obligation to repeat lies, misinformation and propaganda in the interest of maintaining “balance” in their coverage.
But the effect is just the opposite. The media adds legitimacy to false claims and fosters the “big lie” simply by reporting it over and over.
Sure, fact checkers set in soon after to correct the record. But by then, it’s too late. The news cycle has moved on. The lie has been propagated and spread.
Today, balance is no longer enough. Journalism needs a new paradigm. It needs to become the mortal enemy of the big lie.
During the Vietnam War in the 1960s, government lying was so pervasive, it gave rise to what became known as “interpretive journalism.” It wasn’t enough to take statements at face value and recite them; journalists began adding interpretation and context to news reporting.
The trend peaked with coverage of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate in the 1970s. But the media fell back on its old ways and failed to meet the challenge of Ronald Reagan’s post-truth politics in the 1980s.
It should come as no surprise that Reagan repealed the Fairness Doctrine in broadcast media and ended the prohibition on news media monopolies, which gave rise to Rupert Murdoch and his truth-bending media empire.
It’s been a slippery slope for journalism ever since. The Internet and social media fed the trend, shattering the truth in thousands of echo chambers.
During World War II, the allies conducted a psychological profile of Hitler to establish how he was able to manipulate so many people and promote his own big lie. These were his principles:
“Never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”
Trump, is using the same principles, today, along with a right-wing media co-opted by Murdoch, and fellow travelers like Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn and a coterie of other sycophantic hangers-on.
Nothing will change the minds of this “Earth 2” – Lauren Boebert, Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Marjorie Tailor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Tommy Tuberville, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Kari Lake, Ron DeSantis, Lindsey Graham, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Ginni Thomas and the like; sadly, the list could go on for miles.
Trump’s followers could smear feces on the walls of the Capitol, shatter its windows, deface its offices, threaten the life of Trump’s own vice president and injure police officers, and the MAGA base won’t budge. Because, they’re dug in too deep — past the point of no return.
To change tracks now would mean the “libs” were right. That’s a fate worse than death.
Perhaps, even more implausible, listening to what’s left of their conscience, and admitting they were wrong, would require summoning the one thing virtually no MAGA Republican has: Character.
If you think a concerted misinformation campaign isn’t underway, you may recall this 2018 conversation between Giuliani and “moderator” Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Giuliani: And when you tell me that, you know, he [Trump] should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth …
Todd: Truth is truth. I don’t mean to go like…
Giuliani: No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth.”
A year earlier, Trump mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway echoed the same refrain on “Meet the Press” when she pronounced that Donald Trump had “alternative facts.”
In one of the few times, to his credit, Todd pushed back, he schooled her: “Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods,” he said.
In the age of alternative facts, here is one fact that is all too true. Stories don’t need to contain a shred of truth to be widely disseminated. Trump knows better than anyone.
Just saying it, just putting it out there, does the job. Facts? Proof? Nah. “Just say we won and leave the rest to me and the Republicans in Congress.” Trump infamously told his Justice Department after his 2020 election loss.
Just sending a barrage of disparaging headlines into the void is all the far-Right needs to achieve its goal of swaying a few thousand voters here and there. And, it’s working.
Plenty of Americans are still undecided and/or on the fence about the 2024 election.
Case in point, a good friend of mine, whom I love very much, recently said to me, “I can’t stand Trump – but I may vote Republican, because… Biden stutters.”
Yep. As dumbfounding as it is, these are the voters who are most vulnerable to misinformation, disinformation and irresponsible “click bait” journalism.
It’s not the far corners of the Dark Web — the Four Chans, the Telegrams — doing the most damage. There’s no place better for misinformation/disinformation than the mainstream media.
It’s one thing for some right-wing scandal sheet to spread a lie, but when The New York Times repeats the same lie in the interest of “balance,” the impact is amplified ten-fold.
When an Internet search engine does the same thing, it’s even worse. Yahoo News, the third largest search engine in the world, has a black belt in propagating false and misleading headlines.
The news site continues to allow the cesspool that is Fox News dominate its front page, every hour on the hour, day-after-day, month-after-month, to millions of views, with zero guilt or conscience, just like “The Matrix.”
Fox paid close to $1 billion – and was forced to admit it lied to its viewers — for years — about Trump’s election lies. But did Yahoo’s execs freak out, order their coders to change their algorithm, and kick the 24/7 spigot of lies to the curb?
LOL. The very next day, it was business as usual on their front page. Fox News, Newsmax, OANN, The Washington Times, and other right-wing entities continued to be featured, front-and-center, on its site, garnering tens of millions of views per day.
If you asked its editors — not that they return calls — they would invariably reply they are trying to provide “balance.”
That’s the fallacy: Propaganda is not truth and does not balance the truth. But that’s how it’s treated.
Then, there’s Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg‘s unmatched arrogance and greed saw the social media giant play a vital role in helping Trump get elected in 2016.
Facebook continues to spew fake news like a busted New York City fire hydrant.
And now that pro-Trump, pro-Putin puppet, Elon Musk, owns “X,” formerly Twitter, the sky’s the limit. Musk relishes insulting his own users by amplifying anti-Semitic, white supremacist views and arrogantly calling it “free speech.”
As if he had any idea of what free speech is all about.
Musk, easily the stupidest smart person on earth, is in a class by himself. He denied Ukraine access to SpaceX satellites in the thick of battle, like he was some all knowing savior out to prevent what he thought was another “Pearl Harbor” and World War III.
Note to Musk: Pearl Harbor was a sneak attack; the Russian war in Ukraine has been going on for nearly two years.
Thanks to Musk’s actions, untold numbers of Ukrainian civilians are being killed daily by preserving Russia’s ability to launch missile strikes from the Black Sea.
On the idiot box, both CNN’s “Town Hall” and NBC’s “Meet the Press” had no issue “normalizing a maniac” in the interest of journalism.
Both networks gave Trump, the Human Chernobyl, virtually uninterrupted access to millions of Americans, for sixty excruciating minutes, with virtually zero push back.
Trump bullied and pushed around “Meet the Press’s new host,” Kristen Welker, like she was one of his 25 alleged assault victims. Trump was right about one thing… She let him! She let him do it!
Even hit shows that have nothing to do with politics aren’t immune from wading into the mire. ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” welcomed Trump’s first spineless sycophant, Sean Spicer, with open arms.
Fox’s “The Masked Singer” thought it would be a good idea to openly mock the depravity of an attempted coup by featuring its main mouthpiece, Rudy Giuliani, as a surprise guest.
Right here in the Big Apple -the Big “Blue” Apple, we have WABC radio. These rocket scientists gave Giuliani, “Mayor Hair Dye” his own show. The guy is a human tragedy.
Frequently drunk, millions of dollars in debt, accused of sexual harassment, and admitted defamer who destroyed the lives of two private citizens, the man is a walking advertisement for “How to Trash Your Legacy in Five Easy Steps.”
Yet, these clowns give him a megaphone in the greatest city on earth? You can’t make this stuff up.
We are living in a time where the media has made the conscience decision to treat those who tried, and are STILL trying, to destroy our democracy like everyday politicians, and not criminals who needed to be arrested yesterday.
if cable companies would let viewers choose which networks they want on their system, Fox, OANN and Newsmax would be dropped in droves. Sure, some would also likely drop CNN and MSNBC.
But it’s too unprofitable for the companies to give their viewers a choice. Instead, they force them to involuntarily underwrite the very networks that are undermining democracy.
But don’t think they started this trend toward normalizing fascists. Back in the 1930s, the Associated Press agreed to avoid criticizing Hitler to gain uninterrupted access to his regime. So, there’s that.
All this is just the tip of the iceberg.
An argument can be made the reason so many Americans are still undecided — in spite of the high treason on full display on an hourly basis, in spite of one party trying to make it legal to override the will of voters in dozens of states — is specifically due to the myriad news outlets constantly airing or printing propaganda pushed by these power-hungry, anti-democratic sycophants.
And it’s not just influence they’re peddling; they are inciting violence. Why do you think the threats to officials have tripled in recent months? It’s more than the orange dumpster fire posting on “Truth Social.”
“Threats of violence have become commonplace among a significant part of the party, as historians and those who study democracy warn of a dark shift in American politics,” The Times reported in June.
Trump has repeatedly used the language of violence without repercussions. He has encouraged rally attendees to “knock the hell” out of protesters, praised a lawmaker who body-slammed a reporter, and in a recent interview defended rioters who clamored to “hang Mike Pence,” according to the Times.
Lindsey Graham said last August if the Justice Department prosecutes former president Donald Trump for mishandling classified information, there will be “riots in the street.”
The nutjobs threatening the judges, the lawyers, the election workers, even the folks at the National Archives, get the news that spawn their actions from these galactically irresponsible outlets and the politicians they feature. NICE
The mainstream media needs to get a spine and call out Trump for what he is, a lying demagogue, in the same league as Andrew Jackson, Joe McCarthy, Father Coughlin, Richard Nixon and, yes, Hitler.
“The threat of demagoguery is bigger than Donald Trump. If we treat him as exceptional, we will learn none of the important lessons about the dangers that demagoguery poses to our democracy,” wrote Emily Pears recently in National Affairs.
Her observation is prescient. Donald Trump is already spawning a host of wannabes like Kari Lake, Josh Hawley, Ron DeSantis, Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and other back-benchers who mimic his mendacity.
If he succeeds, they succeed and a host of others will follow. Then, truth won’t be truth. It will be whatever these demagogues command it to be.