Lying For Profit And Purpose

The lying liars that work at Fox News Corporation (FNC) are now the official propaganda arm of the MAGA Republican Party and cater to the party’s autocratic and fascist tendencies for corporate profit and to push lies about the 2020 election (still!) and the attempted coup on 6 January 2021. Too strong of a statement? I think not. This week we saw for ourselves how hypocritical and uncaring about the future of our country the “talent” and corporate leaders at FNC actually are.

In recent days, two sets of supporting documents were released for the Dominion Voting Systems Corporation case suing Fox News and FNC for defamation and asking for 1.6 billion dollars in damages. They are also suing Rudy Giuliani, Sydney Powell, Mike Lindell, Patrick Byrne, One America News Network (OANN), and Newsmax for billions more. (Another voting machine company called Smartmatic is also suing FNC for 2.7 billion dollars along with the other defendants.) The Dominion case is moving through the judicial system as, so far, all attempts by the defendants to have the cases dismissed failed.

The documents released so far clearly show that the leadership at FNC and the on air personalities such as Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and others knew that the falsehoods being spread by Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell and the rest were entirely false. Yet, they continued to give them air time and to promote the lie that the election was rigged and that Trump actually won the election. They purposely tried to undermine the 2020 election results as they feared a loss of profits from a Fox viewership that was turning to other sources of right wing conspiracy stories because Fox announced Joe Biden as the winner. (Isn’t it ironic that they lost viewers by telling the truth?)

Under the terms set by the Supreme Court decision in New York Times vs Sullivan, there is a very high bar required to prove defamation or libel by a news organization. Because of the First Amendment, the court ruled in that 1964 case that the plaintiff must show that “the defendant knew that a statement was false or was reckless in deciding to publish the information without investigating whether the information was accurate.” Over the years, this ruling has protected many news organizations from lawsuits. In the Dominion case, judges have so far ruled that there is sufficient evidence in the case to move to trial because it may be possible that FNC knew what they were doing was wrong, but they did it anyway. I am not an attorney, but to me the emails, texts, and memos revealed so far clearly show that everyone involved knew exactly what they were doing and deliberately and with malice of forethought went ahead and spread lies as though they were facts.

It gets worse.

Knowing full well what was happening in the Dominion case, and that many Fox News personalities were liars, the Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (MAGA – CA) none-the-less turned over roughly 44,000 hours of video evidence from the violent attack on the capitol to Tucker Carlson of Fox News. Only to Tucker Carlson. Not to any other news outlet, at all. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Carlson played his selected excerpts from the recordings that purported to show that the rioters and thugs in the building were actually just “sightseers.” He claims that the footage shows that “taken as a whole, the video does not support the claim that January 6 was an insurrection. In fact, it demolishes that claim.” He also claimed that the authorities lied about the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, a particularly callous and shameful statement. In other words, all of us that saw what was happening, live and in color, as it happened, are all victims of yet another big lie. Or as Trump once said, “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” Only people like Trump, Green, Boebert, Gaetz and Carlson are truth tellers, otherwise it’s all “fake.” Thankfully, many Senate Republicans, along with all Democrats, condemned the selected release of the tapes and reiterated that it was a full blown attack on the capitol by insurrectionists. Unfortunately, in the heart of MAGA country — the House Republican caucus — there was no such condemnation. In fact, there was celebration in some corners that now the “truth” is out. They claim the insurrectionists are actually patriots being held as “political prisoners” by a corrupt government.

Why do I bring this up? Because to me it is terrifying. I may be able to call Tucker Carlson a liar and understand his devious motives, but millions of others take him at face value. He is purposely poisoning the well of facts, truth, and trust in order to undermine our democracy. Oh, and to make a profit while doing so. Despicable. Why poison the well? Because he, and those like him, do not believe in a democracy where everyone has the right to vote and a voice in choosing the direction our country should go. Mr. Carlson’s favorite leader is Victor Orban, the Prime Minister of Hungary. Why? Because Mr. Orban is anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, anti-free press, and believes that the white Christian culture of Europe is being destroyed by “outsiders” and must be “saved.” He is creating an autocratic state where his is the only voice that matters.

It gets worse.

Last weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) — a long standing conference that used to be about discussing conservative values and policies and ideas, but now is a MAGA rally — Trump took it over as a coronation of his future presidency. In a nearly two hour rambling mess of a speech, Trump laid out the reasons he should be elected president. While I happen to believe that he is becoming less and less a factor in politics, he is not irrelevant. And his supporters are becoming ever more rabid. That makes him dangerous.

In his speech he said these ominous lines, “If you put me back in the White House, their reign will be over and they know it. America will be a free nation once again. We are not a free nation right now. We don’t have a free press or a free anything right now. In 2016 I declared I am your voice. Today I add that I am your warrior, I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged, and betrayed, I am your retribution. I am your retribution. I will totally obliterate the deep state.”

Fascism, here we come. “Retribution?” Sounds like he is claiming that he will rule with an iron fist. Recall that he called for the “termination” of the Constitution.

What do we have when we put this all together? Danger. The MAGA crowd in Congress, some state legislatures, some governors, “news” outlets, and the dark reaches of the web all believe that they must “rescue” our country. The threats of violence are barely disguised. The propaganda machine at FNC continues to pump out lies. And on and on in various forms. For those not paying attention, the anti-democratic voices are getting louder and stronger.

Why? To sow division, hate, fear and confusion. Once people think that they cannot trust any government or elected official, any news organization or any other citizen outside of their tribe, the door is open for the autocrats and fascist leaning elements of our society to step in and impose their own view of the future. Believe me, most of us reading this piece are not in their plans.

We have to care or they win. No more “whataboutism” or “both sides” or “I don’t read the paper or watch the news anymore because it is too upsetting.” That is what they are counting on. The aim is to wear people down to the point that they stop paying attention. Do not let it happen. Pay attention. Vote. Let your voice be heard.

By nature I am an optimist. I think our democracy will survive, after all we survived the Civil War. But it won’t survive on its own. I worry that the attack on 6 January was a dress rehearsal. I worry about political violence, as does FBI Director Wray who is on record that the number one threat to our society is domestic political terrorism — and most of it comes from the hard right. When Trump talks of “retribution” he is using a thinly disguised reference to violence. When MAGA Republican members of Congress wear AR-15 lapel pins on the House floor, they are silently implying violence. There are signs everywhere.

Be careful out there.

2 Comments on “Lying For Profit And Purpose”

  1. Mike West says:

    Great piece, Thomas.

  2. Barbara Filipiak says:

    Thank you again for reminding us to maintain vigilance despite the lure of news fatigue.

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