Weaponizing “Fake News”

TRUTH WATCH--Comparing Trump to Hitler may sound like it has been overplayed, but there has never been any administration in the history of the United States that followed the fascist doctrine so closely. It was well-know that Trump studied Hitler’s speeches and this was validated in a 2016 Vanity Fair interview with his former wife, Ivanka. 

As with much of history, it seems to only take a few generations for the horrors of a dictatorship to seem less severe. Trump emulates Hitler’s actions and words to appeal to a base that believes in hate, racism, bigotry and sexism and follows the doctrine of the “14 characteristics of fascism.” 

Number 6 on that list is “Control of the Mass Media” and by consistent repetition of “fake news,” he is copying Hitler’s “lugenpresse” that eventually led to the destruction of the free press in Germany and a transition to government control. 

I cover each of the 14 characteristics in my three-part article series: Is The Trump Administration a Fascist Regime? Part 2 details media control where I state: 

“A controlled mass media… 

This is probably the single most important aspect of fascism as it relates to influencing the public and the most deadly. While the American population has historically turned to the media as a source of truth, it was quite apparent in the 2016 Presidential election that ‘legitimacy in journalism’ had been traded in for ratings. Mainstream media gave Trump the largest number of hours for interviews as well as his outrageous rhetoric than any other candidate. This set the baseline for his ability to control them. When the media reported anything that he didn’t like, he began the mantra ‘fake news.’

While it must be noted that during the election campaigns, there were many outside sources that were supplying false information under the guise of ‘news,’ Trump took advantage of it, continuing the accusation so that he and his administration are refusing to answer questions during White House media gatherings for those sources that they call that name as well as exclusion of the same media companies from a variety of press situations. 

The Trump supporters now refer to all mainstream media as ‘fake’, except the single extreme right wing news channel of Fox and written online sources such as Breitbart and their ilk. 

Both Mussolini and Hitler transitioned the media so that it was state/government controlled. During that time, radio was the main source of information and by controlling the media, both dictators could ensure that only their message was conveyed.” 

This process is referred to as “weaponizing the media,” turning reporting and journalism into a negative condition so that the cult followers only believe the information that complies with what the dictator approves of. 

Journalism Today

The media has always been at the forefront of reporting. When an error is made, those that comply with the true concepts of journalistic ethics include editorial corrections and this helps to ensure that the general public maintains belief in reporting the truth. A majority of the publications, television news channels and online newsfeeds continue with this tradition, however, there are a few channels that do not: Fox, followed by ONE America. These and other conservative locations have become the right arm of the GOP and Trump and they spin and twist the information to appease the Nazi-style that the base followers want to hear. 

In my article: “How Fox Brainwashed Conservative America,” I entail exactly how Fox was created with the help of President Reagan and the methodology used to begin the propaganda machine: 

“How Do They Get Away with It? 

A very important aspect to take note of is that all news channels have some percentage of questionable reporting, but Fox tops the charts with the least truthful of all. In my same article:  ‘Supporting Trump: The Psychology of the Lie,’ I include statistics for how bad Fox really is and that they average only around 18% truth in reporting: 

“Over the passage of time, a majority of conservatives turned to Fox as their primary channel of choice, even though those behind the reporting were deliberately spinning information into lies. 

This is shown in a Politifact post 

  • True 17 (10%) (17) 

When presented with this type of fact checking information, conservatives that view Fox will not only deny, but try to relate that other news program lie more and spin the information to a liberal slant. The same Politifact study listed above shows that this is simply not true.” 

Fox and their ilk have devoted decades to crafting the conservative messages that comply with their belief systems. In a previous article that I wrote entitled: “The Misinformation Fallout: Conservatives Still Taking the Bait,” I included: 

“Conservatives and the extreme left share one thing in common: they live in a bubble of denial and they will believe anything, no matter how bizarre, that appeals to their beliefs. Now this may sound like a glove being thrown down, but let’s address conservatives first. In an article by PsychologyToday which stated: 

“An interesting study by Fessler et al. (in press) found that conservatives are more receptive to believing false negative information regarding hazards (relative to benefits) than liberals. This is called negatively-biased credulity. The study was covered in The Atlantic by Olga Khazan in “Why Fake News Targeted Trump Supporters.”  

It should be noted that the purveyors of these foreign and domestic fake news sites admitted that they couldn’t do the same thing with standard liberals as they were caught when they “fact checked.”

Viewers of Fox often rant the same rhetoric regarding the popularity of the channel. The truth is that those that are conservative watch only Fox, whereas people of middle to liberal ideologies watch a combination of channels. If the latter group watched only one channel it would represent around 75% of the viewers as opposed to the 25% or so that watch Fox

While people of all ideologies enjoy hearing validation of their personal beliefs, conservatives are the least likely to want to hear anything that contradicts them. There is also a kind of brainwashing aspect that occurs in hearing a lie repeated over and over again. I address this topic in my article: “Supporting Trump: The Psychology of the Lie.” 

“To find out why so many lies have become not only acceptable but completely believable by the Trump supporters, you have to delve into how our brains process lies. This is explained in a NYMag.com article:   

‘Upon first hearing a lie, your brain must accept it as truth. Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert has theorized that to do the work of separating truth and lies, our brains first must accept the false statement as if it were true; otherwise, it’s impossible to engage with it. ‘For instance, if someone were to tell us — hypothetically, of course — that there had been serious voter fraud in Virginia during the presidential election, we must for a fraction of a second accept that fraud did, in fact, take place,” [psychologist, Maria] Konnikova explains. ‘Only then do we take the second step, either completing the mental certification process (yes, fraud!) or rejecting it (what? no way). 

‘If you hear a lie often enough, it starts to sound true. According to what’s called the “illusory truth effect,” the more you hear a false statement, the truer it starts to sound. This is even true when you should know better. In a fascinating, if disheartening, 2015 study, researchers showed that if people repeated the phrase ‘The Atlantic Ocean is the largest ocean on Earth’ enough times, the Atlantic Ocean did indeed begin to seem like the largest ocean on Earth. 

‘A constant stream of lies becomes so mentally taxing that your brain gives up. ‘It’s called cognitive load,’ Konnikova writes, meaning that “our limited cognitive resources are overburdened.’ Lie detection is difficult work, and your brain can only handle so much.’” 

Throwing Members of the Press Out 

The weaponization of the term “fake news” began early on in Trump’s campaign. During a variety of his rallies he segregated members of the press, making hateful comments about those that were reporting negatively about him, while praising “Fox.” His cult supporters bought into the process so heavily that many members of the press were fearful for their lives as some were physically attacked. 

As Trump continued to spew hateful commentaries, referring to all Mexicans as “rapists,” Jorge Ramos, of Univision, stepped forward to call him out on the anti-Latino message and was promptly disregarded and then removed from the press conference.  This type of action has never before been seen or experienced and it was the first step to a true weaponizing process of the press. 

If you examine the methodology that Hitler used, you will find that historians confirm that he first demonized all press that wrote or reported anything against him and this was eventually followed up by putting various reporters and journalists in the concentration camps and the transitioning of all media so that it was controlled by the government that he created. 

It is well-known that Trump has a sick and twisted bromance with Vladimir Putin of Russia, who also follows the same doctrine when it comes to controlling the media. This is covered in an article by The Guardian“How Russia’s independent media was dismantled piece by piece,” in which they detail the gradual destruction of the Russian press from resignations to closures. 

However, unlike Russia, and Germany and Italy of the past, the United States has the 1st Amendment of the Constitution that dictates freedom of speech. This is the single strong thread that is intertwined in our most basic sense of being and while Trump and Fox may try to continue to spew his lies, the American people aren’t buying it. 

While Trump will always have the small group of base supporters that will allow him to do or say anything, the number of people that are turning away from him is growing and his poll numbers are shrinking. 

Trump’s attempt at realigning the media to become a weapon is failing and this is being demonstrated by those that turn to Fox and conservative so-called “news.” There is a single important aspect that needs to be noted on the Fox polls: Conservatives watch only that channel, while all the other viewers watch a number of sources, and channels such as MSNBC and CNN have taken their gloves off and are battling to save our 1st Amendment. 

It may be too late to expose this weaponization attempt to your conservative uncle, brother or sister-in-law, as they have spent years listening to twisted versions of the news and have already bought into the propaganda. 

For the rest of us, we need to stand strong, support those journalistic efforts that continue to report the truth and yes, call them out when they are tempted to spin the truth to appease the populace. We need to remind our media that ratings are fleeting, but truth will indeed set them and us free.

 

(S. Novi is a journalist working in the media when it DID have integrity. A liberal and one that is suspicious of cults and empty promises.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.