Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Mistaking propaganda for news: Fox News spoon feeds Scott Walker

While other networks are covering Trump’s myriad setbacks and scandals, Fox presents an alternative reality in which the bumbling president is close to infallible (except when he splits with fellow populist Jeff Sessions), his critics are “snowflakes,” and the biggest threat facing America is, depending on the day of the week, either the Hillary Clinton email scandal, “the war on Christmas,” or “political correctness.” It’s all too reminiscent of the Soviet-era TV stations that ran stories about record grain harvests even as grocery shelves were bare

The president has also hired a number of prominent Fox News on-air staff to work high-level jobs in his administration, including National Security Adviser John Bolton and Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert. In July, former FNC co-president Bill Shine joined the White House to serve as communications director. 
Some critics of the network have accused it of acting like a Republican propaganda operation with Trump in the White House. 
“This isn’t just state-run TV. This is what state-run looks like under authoritarian rule,” Baltimore Sun media columnist David Zurawik wrote in May.

Consider what we know. First, the president is driven by his ego, not some commitment to a core set of beliefs. He is neither a principled person nor a person of principles. Second, the president is notoriously disinterested in matters of policy. He is too intellectually lazy to read reports, study issues, learn facts, or even listen to his advisers. 
Third, the president spends significant portions of his day in “executive time,” meaning he obsessively watches television, principally Fox News. Fourth, the president’s staff regularly present him with printed copies of the chyrons, the all-caps text at the bottom of the screen, from his favorite television programs. He apparently really enjoys seeing his name (as if this weren’t already clear from his buildings). And fifth, the president not only watches Hannity regularly, he also speaks with Hannity regularly. In fact, he has even had Hannity on stage with him at political rallies.

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