Monday, January 30, 2017


Over the weekend, The New York Times published a good story by Caitlin Dickerson about how the right-wing media makes its audience angry and hateful.
Anxiety About Muslim Refugees Is Stoked Online by the Far-Right Media

Type the word refugees into Facebook and some alarming “news” will appear about a refugee rape crisis, a refugee flesh-eating disease epidemic and a refugee-related risk of female genital mutilation -- none of it true.

For the months leading up to the presidential election, and in the days since President Trump took office, ultraconservative websites like Breitbart News and Infowars have published a cycle of eye-popping stories with misleading claims about refugees. And it is beginning to influence public perception, experts say.
Headlines are quoted, including these:
Breitbart, May 31, 2016: Syrian Refugees Spreading Flesh-Eating Disease, Polio, Measles, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis...

Freedom’s Final Stand, Oct. 3, 2016: Muslim Refugee Beats and Rapes Woman in North Dakota While Yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’
And we hear from a consumer of this news, an Oklahoma police officer named Mike Eason, who responded to the latter story:
The post, which was shared 14,000 times, linked to a story about a case in which the authorities have not described the immigration status of the suspect, or said that he was a noncitizen. They have also discredited the claim that the man yelled “Allahu akbar” during the episode.

Nevertheless, the comment that Mr. Eason posted on the site, which he later said he could not remember making, garnered 87 likes. “If Muslims are taught hate by their religion,” he wrote, “then all Muslims are potential terrorists and should be treated accordingly. TRUMP will stop this kind of stuff.”
This is important. Republicans don't win office because their ideas are better. They reach office because the right-wing media scares and agitates white voters with anecdotes that substitute for data and half-truths (or outright lies) that substitute for reality. Some of this is what we now call "fake news," but much of it is a distortion of reality for propaganda effect. Breitbart, for instance, ran a story titled "Muslim Immigration Puts Half a Million U.S. Girls at Risk of Genital Mutilation." Reality:
... the Breitbart article about genital mutilation was based on a study that estimated that a half-million women currently living in the United States have had their genitals mutilated. But most of them were immigrants who had fled here because of such treatment in their home countries.
(The Times story doesn't mention it, but please note the strategic use of "U.S." in that headline. It's a legitimate cause for concern that those who come to America from communities where female genital mutilation is accepted practice might continue the practice here. But the headline wants to plant the suggestion that immigrants are going to mutilate the genitals of native-born American girls. That's outright deception.)

The Times story is good, but it's twenty years too late. Mainstream journalists have been ignoring the right-wing media since the Clinton years, with disastrous results.

Back in the 1990s, the mainstream press generally shrugged off the stream of disinformation on the right -- the "Clinton body count," the reports of sex toys on the White House Christmas tree, and so on. Regnery published book after book filled with disinformation, quite a few of which hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, but they weren't reviewed and they weren't debunked. The belief seemed to be that they were too ridiculous to be acknowledged by serious people.

But in the past two decades, disinformation (in book form, online, and on Fox and talk radio) has the been the main way the GOP has built brand loyalty. And now it's worse: We have a president who's not a cynical beneficiary of right-wing disinformation, he's an eager consumer. The president of the United States gets his ideas from this garbage.

More like this story, please. But it's probably too late.


Victor said...

What once, 20+ years ago could have been cured - or, at least contained - by a lot of exposure to sunlight, has now pretty much eaten its way through the body politic, like a terminal cancer.

I coud understand why, at the point this bullshit was disseminated via books and Reich-Wing talk radio, it could be dismissed.
But now, with the intertubes (sic) to add to the cacophonous Reich-Wing media Wurlitzer, your crazy uncle's or aunt's e-mails about DEMONcrat politicians feasting on the bodies of aborted children like they were items at an "all-you-can-eat-buffet," and washing the meals down with actual bodka BLOODY Mary's.

You don't have to go to a bookstore and reach out to buy Ann Coulter's lates anti-liberal screed, bits and pieces of it come free of charge, and you can order your copy via Amazon, or in e-book form.

It's probably too late now, because Reich Wing propaganda is now the language of all mediums. And what's "fake," what's fake, and what's real, is in the eye of the consumer/beholder.

We're fucked, unless we can figure out ways to combat this mountain of bullshit. And frankly, I don't have any ideas on this subject - except to keep fighting back as best we can!

Anonymous said...

To my experience it is the "Christians" who are taught hate by their religion.

I often despair of humanity, seeing the mass as that of maggots: a few will evolve* and escape as flies, the vast majority will consume the host and die. We as a species, the human species, as a “race”, the human race, today stand at a cusp, an iteration, in the evolution, in the maturing, of humankind. But if we don’t abandon – outgrow – this irrational dependency on adolescent fairytales and attendant adolescent squabbles over whose imaginary dog has the bigger dick… we may very well not survive at all.

Our changing atmosphere doesn't give a shit.
Ten Bears

main street liberal said...

Sometimes mainstream media is responsible itself for the right-wing propaganda, as with ABC in 1980: "Day _: America Held Hostage."

Procopius said...

It's not as if we haven't been here before. In 1919-20 police departments across the country rounded up and held without charge thousands of people they said were radicals, usually calling them Communists. Thousands were deported without hearings.Tailgunner Joe McCarthy ruined thousands of people because many millions of middle-class and working-class Americans feared Communists. When I was in high school you could not find a book in most of America that explained what Communist or Leninist or Stalinist doctrine was. It was enough that the Attorny General had a list and he put organizations on it. The richest and most powerful people in the country claimed to believe it. They feared that Communist ideas were so attractive, so persuasive, that if common people were exposed to them they would be instantly radicalized. This is why I have come to regard people like Squint and the Meat Puppet with less respect than I give pedophiles and puppy farm managers.