Under Donald Trump and more generally over the last several years the right wing media is driving us off a cliff, and we may be witnessing the end of our republic as we know it. I know that sounds dire, but I’m certainly not the first person to echo this sentiment and ignoring it isn’t an option.
Fuelled by angry right wing conservatives hell bent on arresting social progress, conspiracy theories have not only gained ground in the right’s main stream consciousness, they are threatening to become the mainstream itself. Last week, Rep. Devin Nunes, a serial abuser of his office’s power, released a partisan memo written by his staff over objections by both the DOJ and the FBI due to misleading content. The purpose of the memo was obvious to everyone: discredit the FBI as a left wing bastion of corruption, and delegitimize the Russia investigation and the man running it.
As people are beginning to understand that the United States is increasingly becoming an alt reality state, the power of such partisan antics begins to come into focus. Watching Fox News and then MSNBC, one could not help but notice the different way these two stations covered the same story. Fox’s master propagandist and president of the Donald Trump Sycophant Fan Club, Sean Hannity, artfully painted a picture of a situation so much worse than Watergate that Nixon’s crimes seemed trivial by comparison. Meanwhile, MSNBC and the rest of us looked at the memo and shrugged. Trump’s own FBI and DOJ said it was misleading. The contents were partisan nonsense so the memo was not worth reading.
The point in all of this is that we live in different universes, where people who get their information from what can only be called pure propaganda outlets have no idea there’s a counter narrative that in many cases is far closer to reality. Reading right wing message boards, it’s clear that the commenters seem to indicate that there really is a huge problem in both the FBI and the DOJ, that various people are going to jail, and that it’s only a matter of time before the whole thing comes to light.
Meanwhile, the cumulative effect of the out-of-control right wing spin machine is that we’re becoming dangerously divided in numerous and insidious ways that threaten all of us, and our most trusted institutions are under assault.
- The conservatives, furious over social change in the country’s perception of gay marriage and abortion have turned on our judiciary. They coined the term ‘activist judge’ and the phrase ‘legislating from the bench’ to describe unpopular decisions. At first, it seemed overly dramatic yet mostly harmless. But years later, this dangerous spin has taken hold and now judges in certain parts of the country or certain courts are supposedly suspect. Trump took this concept to an extreme during his election campaign where he openly questioned the loyalties of an American born judge because of his parent’s country of origin.
- Conservatives have declared war on the media, the cornerstone of our democracy by calling them collectively the ‘opposition party’ and ‘ the enemy’. Let’s not underestimate the power of the media. The media is best used in a democracy to shine a light on corruption and without it, state issued propaganda can control dissent. One only needs to look at the pure fabrications coming from Fox News to understand the power here, and conservatives are manipulating that power daily with their disparaging attacks on what they have derisively termed the “MSM”, an acronym we all know today as a result of their long-term efforts to sew doubt about reporting by what previously were simply our nation’s respected news institutions. CNN, NBC, CBS and others are all under attack by the conservatives in this country as purveyors of the newly minted “fake news” label purveyed most frequently by the president himself.
- As mentioned above, conservatives have now taken aim at law enforcement agencies like the FBI and Justice Department. In an effort to shield Donald Trump from the consequences of having likely worked with a foreign government to win the election, they are willing to sew doubt in the minds of voters about our two most important law enforcement agencies we have in the country.
- Conservatives have routinely complained about the primary and general election voting systems, calling them rigged, among other things even when they win elections. When they lose, there’s no doubt that their voices will be raised to fever pitch, much like the supporters of Roy Moore who recently refused to concede defeat in his campaign for Senator in Alabama.
- Conservatives has used Fox News and other news outlets to drum up conspiracy theories about political opponents. Evil Arizona sheriff Joe Apriao is pushing the fake birther theory, and calls for Hillary Clinton and others to be jailed over an above board uranium deal are just the latest nonsense to permeate right wing airspace. Meanwhile, Fox and others would have you believe the “Deep State” is a real thing, and out to sabotage Trump.
What was once a curious sideshow is become a dangerous and destabilizing force in the country. Propaganda this sinister works to give conservatives the right to claim any investigation by the FBI is biased against them. Any unpopular judicial ruling is biased against them. The media is hopelessly biased against them, and of course the voting system and the very government itself is an infested den of bias by left wing agitators who are biased against them.
This kind of talk lays the groundwork for people to claim just about anything with a degree of impunity, much as the environment Trump has created for himself. Trump recently claimed it was treasonous not to applaud his state of the union speech. This is where we’ve arrived. Meanwhile his outrageous utterances often carry no real consequence other than to incite, but loom dangerously over us as his vitriol spreads dissention among his angry band of gun toting right-wing followers.
It’s time to take action. Right wing news like Fox New, Breitbart and others are taking this beyond a line where things could get out of their control. They are irresponsible and dangerous. Hannity is a purveyor of dangerous propaganda that eventually could lead some to commit acts of violence in this country on an scale few imagine today. One cannot incite millions of people night after night with cries of “1000 time worse than Watergate” without someone (or maybe lots of someones) beginning to take action against their perceived enemies like this shot-up pizzeria. It’s one thing to report the news and it’s another thing to make it up and twist it to manipulate sheepish viewers. It’s also incredibly short sighted. We don’t need the kinds of problems that come with a country where public perception of our institutions is so eroded that no one trusts the police, the judges, the media, the vote, or the government. That’s a recipe for the end in both of our mutually exclusive universes, but that’s where conservatives seem to be leading us.