Wissot: Propaganda and media bias are not the same (column)
August 24, 2018
Editor's note: Find a cited version of this column at http://www.vaildaily.com.
There are numerous reasons people didn't vote for our president in 2016 and won't again, if he runs, in 2020. I won't elaborate on them except to tell you that they were persuasive enough to cause me to not vote for him, too.
There are also voters who overlooked the president's shortcomings and found something in his promises worth supporting. I didn't, but I don't disparage them for their decision. I can't fault people for making political choices different from mine.
I understand, for example, why white evangelicals voted for him in 2016 and most likely will again in 2020. Two words: Neil Gorsuch. Now with Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the possibility of overturning Roe vs. Wade by confirming a more conservative replacement, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, is a strong likelihood.
I get their reasoning, even though I don't want to see their wishes come true.
Those who will vote again for the president because of the generous tax cut he helped enact also seem reasonable and sane to me. I never vote with my wallet, which is why, among many other reasons, I have never voted Republican. Republicans or Democrats in the White House, good or bad economic times, have had no appreciable effect on my standard of living.
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This brings me to the group for whom this column is really directed. I think the media refers to them as "low information" voters, which is really a euphemism for people highly susceptible to propaganda. Propaganda? Yes. Propaganda. Not Russian or Chinese or Cuban propaganda. No, no. I'm referring to our very own American propaganda.
The kind of propaganda that viewers of Hannity, Fox and Friends, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham are treated to on a daily basis. I'd also be remiss if I didn't include those listeners to or readers of Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones and Ann Coulter. These right-wing celebrities are gleefully cashing in on their audience's willingness to believe in conspiracy fantasies, misinformation, disinformation and just plain old lies.
My position here isn't only driven by liberal partisanship. I am genuinely concerned about what Kellyanne Conway referred to as the administration's advancement of "alternative facts." There are no alternative facts. As Chuck Todd said on "Meet the Press" in responding to Conway's claim, "Facts are true. Alternative facts don't exist." ("Meet the Press," Jan. 23, 2017)
Our president's real genius is found in his ability to get his followers to believe in a version of reality, reinforced by his media allies on the right, that is totally self-serving and protective of his presidency. The naked emperor is wearing clothes if Donald Trump says he is.
We all know that Fox is a love child of the right and MSNBC is the darling of the left.
As Newsweek said of Rachel Maddow, the star political commentator on MSNBC, "She may have her biases … but she doesn't tell cynical lies meant to fool Americans hungry for insight into the current political maelstrom." ("Fox News pounded in ratings as truth mounts surprising comeback," Newsweek, Alexander Nazaryan, May 23, 2017)
In the print medium, we realize the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal take demonstrably different positions, not only on their editorial pages, but on the way they cover or don't cover the #metoo and #blacklivesmatter movements, tax policies, climate change and budget deficits.
While we know they take their news coverage and editorial opinion in different directions, we don't expect them to use "alternative facts." That's the difference between a biased media and a state-run propaganda machine.
In a recent poll, "43 percent of Republicans say that Trump 'should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior'" ("The Week," Aug. 17-24, 2018, p. 17).
I'm assuming "bad behavior" means coverage that is critical of the president. The Fox News network must be on their "good behavior" list.
So for all the president's faithful who follow Fox religiously, they might be interested to know that they have much in common with hundreds of millions of people around the world. They are not our president's backers but viewers of Russia-1 in Russia, CCTV in China and Cubavision in Cuba.
They are just like them: consumers on a daily basis of the best propaganda their countries have to offer.
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail. Email him at email@example.com.
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