The Ongoing Hoax of Fox News

Senator Doug Jones
Will the Alabama press paint Doug Jones as a liberal?

Let’s try this again.

Observers of the press in 2020 can be excused for their misrepresentation of Fox News, because it flows from their predictable understanding of the news business: that stories in the press rightly contain the many voices representing the issue being examined. That the mainstream even regards Fox as part of today’s news ecosystem is a significant error, for Fox News doesn’t fit the news paradigm, because its behavior represents itself as a mouthpiece for the political right. Despite its “Fair and Balanced” slogan, Fox News has no need to represent other views, because the “balance” it allegedly supplies is juxtapositioned against the purported bias of the mainstream press as a whole.

Everybody got that?

This is exactly what we did in the 1980s at The 700 Club. We positioned ourselves and our bias as on the same level as everybody else in the press, but with one huge exception. We, like Fox, felt we were providing the “balance” that the mainstream refused to provide, because they were biased in favor of liberalism. The latter, of course, was routinely proven false, but propaganda has no need of or respect for the truth.

Read these next words VERY carefully. The news business is based on what’s new, which includes both ideas and practices within our generally progressive/evolving culture. It’s not rocket science to understand that the word “news” involves that which is new. Those who only wish to protect the status quo certainly have voices within the framework of reporting something “new,” but those voices don’t have the authority to present people simply doing their jobs as representing their political opponents. This is very useful for the extremists, who need to present the press as an outside agitator or key facilitator of the evil they boast about defeating.

This forces the mainstream press into a box convenient for the political right, because the press can do nothing but play defense. It’s especially the case when the right drags out the “fake” news paintbrush. Logical fallacies abound, but there’s nothing the press can do about it, so long as they wish to be called the press.

And, here’s where the thought line gets murky, because professional journalism has its own deception to deal with, one that clouds everything regarding the press in 2020.

We used to think those many voices could be presented within individual stories. Balance, we called it. Fairness. All “sides” included in stories relevant to these varying voices. It was known as “objectivity,” the gift of Walter Lippmann’s “professional” journalism of the early 20th Century. That’s right; it’s only 100 years old.

However, as historian Christopher Lasch so brilliantly noted in his 1990 essay “The Lost Art of Political Argument,” thus began the detachment of the people from the political process. As this professional press grew, involvement in the political process by Americans declined, and not only that, but another consequence was we lost our ability to form arguments. The press did it for us, and this was viewed as progress.

Read further into Lasch’s essay, however, and you come across the real intent of all this, which was to create a sterile environment for the sale of advertising. That’s right. Commerce giants didn’t want their brands soiled by acquaintance with dirty politics, so Lippmann’s views became mainstream. Moreover — and this is the important point — it empowered the tactics of public relations, as envisioned by Lippmann’s Creel Committee cohort, Edward Bernays.

Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, had sneaky and psychologically-based ideas about how a small group of men (this was 100 years ago) could manipulate public opinion through what he called “propaganda.”

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”

Propaganda, by Edward Bernays

The ideas of propaganda have been with humankind for several centuries, but it was the space created by the professional press that boosted it to prominence. After all, the essence of mass media is that a single entity can reach great throngs of people, and the 20th Century — with its industrial revolution — was a great test tube for experimenters like Edward Bernays. His access to significant resources (such as money from the tobacco industry, one of Bernays’ initial clients) allowed him to manipulate mass numbers of people.

So the effort to position right-wing propaganda against the mainstream press was really just clever public relations, because these deliberately biased organizations don’t really belong within the body of what we know of as “the press.” This is likely fine with the perpetrators of this false witness, because it served the special interests — a.k.a. the aristocracy, a.k.a. the silk stockings, a.k.a. corporate masters — in their wishes to escape government regulators or cultural responsibilities to the communities they serve. “Noblesse oblige” has gone the way of the Dodo bird, for today’s aristocracy is only interested in themselves.

I will quote John Milton at every turn: “License they mean when they cry ‘liberty’.”

As Pat Robertson taught me, “If I’m playing the position of fullback, and the announcer calls me a halfback, that’s not MY fault; it’s the ignorance of the announcer.” This kind of thinking, we believed, gave us license to call ourselves whatever WE thought was proper. So, the heck with those pesky announcers (cultural observers).

It’s also easy to understand that the press is exasperated with this turn of events, because it’s gone beyond a case of simple political positioning; the radical right is exceptionally skilled at propaganda and no longer wishes to be just a “side” in some observer’s reporting. No, their clear “want” is to always be the player with the most marbles and to keep others (meaning those who are different) out of their inner ring. Call it racism, xenophobia, classism, or whatever you wish, but an economy that serves only the top 1% simply isn’t sustainable absent a bayonet at everybody else’s back. And that, my friends, isn’t liberty; it’s totalitarianism. No wonder Donald Trump envies Valdimir Putin.

Here in Alabama, the demonizing of Conservative Democratic Senator Doug Jones has begun, and his race for the Senate against newly-minted candidate Tommy Tuberville (a former football coach at Auburn, of all things) has all the earmarks of a unilateral attack on the character of a real servant of the people. What qualifies Tuberville? He supports Donald Trump and was a way for him to get revenge on Jeff Sessions for what Trump believes was a betrayal. They’re trying to present Jones as a liberal, which is hilarious to those who pay attention, and it’ll be very interesting to view how the Alabama press responds. I think we already know what Fox “News” will present, as well as the many lesser known Fox wannabes that exist here.

That’s how it goes with propagandists, those bearers of false witness demanding license for the 1%.

I’ll keep you posted.

BONUS LINK: The Underlying Fallacy of Fox News

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