Journalist and satirist H.L. Mencken defined the demagogue as “one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.” That is a perfect job description for Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs and the denizens of the curvy couch at Fox News. These demagogues of the airwaves are responsible for the disinformation campaign that got Donald Trump elected. Despite that fact, it’s no secret that Trump and Fox News have a tempestuous relationship, to say the least. Trump demands nothing less than total fealty and Fox appears to be getting less and less inclined to give it to him. Here’s Trump’s latest grievance against the network.
Hard to believe that @FoxNews will be interviewing sleazebag & totally discredited former FBI Director James Comey, & also corrupt politician Adam “Shifty” Schiff. Fox is trying sooo hard to be politically correct, and yet they were totally shut out from the failed Dem debates!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2019
Both Commiecast MSNBC & Fake News CNN are watching their Ratings TANK. Fredo on CNN is dying. Don’t know why @FoxNews wants to be more like them? They’ll all die together as other outlets take their place. Only pro Trump Fox shows do well. Rest are nothing. How’s Shep doing?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2019
These comments can be understood on a couple of different levels. First and foremost, they are the immature lashings-out that we’ve come to expect from Trump, another day, another Twitter tantrum. Secondly, and far more troublesome, they are an indication that Trump is only thinking in the short term, of “his” presidency, “his” posterity, all things Trumpian — and he doesn’t give a tinker’s damn if he burns all of our democratic norms to the ground, as long as it serves his selfish purpose to do so. That’s also par for the course with Trump and it has always been terrifying; because preserving our norms is the only way we’re going to remain America and Trump doesn’t care about that at all. He never has. Wired:
That tradition and idea of American politics as an ongoing conversation, an endless argument, is key to preserving our democratic experiment. The idea that you will be in power sometimes, and out of power other times, is what preserves norms and traditions, and curbs the worst abuses and impulses; politicians traditionally understand that actions taken in the majority could serve to bite them if and when they return to the minority.
Donald Trump, who rose to prominence trumpeting the very “birther” falsehood that McCain once batted away, seems bent on undermining that tradition; he has proven he’s perfectly willing to burn down political norms for short-term gain. Fox News seems intent on helping him—and on a daily basis, they’re telling their viewers he’s right and anyone who disagrees with him is less than human. Trump’s lies are the one constant and consistent position of his presidency (13,000 and counting!), and Fox News has gone all in.
We, as a democratic society, cannot survive such consequences-be-damned, winner-take-all, facts-don’t-matter politics. Fox News has upended Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famous proclamation that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Its daily programming seems driven by the idea that everyone might be entitled to their own facts, but that there is only one correct opinion: President Trump’s.
In 1984, George Orwell wrote his imagined dystopian regime “told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears,” but Fox News has actually figured out a tactic even more pernicious: Fox News’ own masters of Orwellian doublespeak, its Hannitys, Carlsons, and Doocys, the ones who smugly declare down up and up down, aren’t even bothering to tell their viewers to ignore their eyes and ears, because the truth never even approaches their airtime.
Since Trump took office it’s been “enemy of the people” this and “fake news” that. Any ideas deemed contrary or not specifically targeted at keeping Trump in power are part of a “coup” and any facts which show him to be the liar that he is, are deemed the machinations of a “Deep State” plot, proselytized by a “corrupt” media.
As a nation, we’ve survived some horrendous times that ripped the nation apart, yes, but during the Civil War, the Great Depression, Vietnam or Watergate, people were not contending with two separate narratives of reality, playing concurrently side by side. There may have been a difference of opinion as to the meaning or consequences of certain facts, but people were in agreement as to what those basic facts were and what was real. That is no longer the case. Reality itself is the main casualty in Trumpworld.
We deal with a dumbed down electorate, due to the default of the educational system, and a progressively illiterate one as well. People don’t possess the level of critical thinking skills they once did and people don’t read. They depend upon television for news and information and a great majority of them create a bias for whatever personality or topic pulls the right emotional trigger and they filter out anything that doesn’t confirm that bias. That’s why we have Donald Trump in the White House. He was elected by a protest vote, because people felt government was failing them. The irony is, the same people who elected this charlatan are going to guarantee the failure of government, if they reelect him.
And unless there’s some mechanism by which the truth can out, I honestly don’t know where we’re going. I’m counting on more people turning out to the polls, as they did in 2018. And God forbid Trump gets reelected, if somehow the Democrats can keep the House and regain the Senate, then maybe that’s the best case scenario. At least it will provide some measure of oversight of Trump and McConnell will be stopped from stacking the courts.
What is the saddest fact of all: none of these strategic thoughts or plans would even be necessary, but for the pernicious effect of right-wing media, particularly Fox News. Conspiracy theories are broadcast alongside the weather report and people don’t know what’s real anymore. “1984” turned out to be prophecy — except the year was 2016.