Ex-Fox anchor shreds Trump and right-wing news for post-election disinformation campaign

  • 12/02/2020 1:13 pm ET Tobin Smith
Trump standing on a staircase

Flickr / The White House

So American politics have devolved and been corroded to this inglorious nadir: 70% of self-identified Republicans report in the latest polling they believe that, via a non-stop disinformation campaign run by the “actual President of the United States” and Fox News aka right-wing tribal partisan state media, that massive voter fraud is responsible for Donald J. Trump losing the 2020 POTUS election.

That they believe this fraud to be a fact (without a scintilla of actual evidence and every judge appointed BY TRUMP throwing out these accusations containing no actual evidence whatsoever) simply and blindly because a sociopathic pathological liar TELLS them its a fact is what the great historian of totalitarians Hannah Arendt described when she writes:

… Intellectual, spiritual, and artistic initiative is as dangerous to totalitarianism as the gangster initiative of the mob, and both are more dangerous than mere political opposition. The consistent persecution of every higher form of intellectual activity by the new mass leaders springs from more than their natural resentment against everything they cannot understand.

Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty.

This is just one more example of through-the-looking-glass dystopia that the Republican Party has devolved into as a result of their conversion to nihilistic Trumpism.

Disinformation is defined as “communication that intentionally promotes misunderstanding, through lies, misrepresentations, deceptive sourcing, or other tactics. Disinformation campaigns are organized efforts that use disinformation to achieve political or economic aims.”

Russia has been identified as the primary source via social media of digital “disinformation campaigns in the 2016 election, and Russia and other foreign states continue to target the U.S.“, but tribal partisan right-wing elites and citizens are now clearly and primarily responsible for the digital disinformation in the 2020 election.

FACT: While true disinformation campaigns may be initiated by a small number of people, in the age of social media they have (according to social media traffic data) 30X “greater impact when their claims are amplified by high-profile influencers and ordinary members of the public” 100+ million times per disinformative shared post on social media.

How do well-organized disinformation campaigns inflict long-lasting harms to a society? See Germany 1925-1945.

The first way is what political scientists call “corrosive falsehood,” which is not garden-variety pathological “lying so much as an attempt to undermine institutions that typically provide high-quality information or correct false beliefs, such as professional news media and government information agencies.” Russian propagandists, conservative commentators, and Trump all share the same playbook; to consistently attack the credibility of American professional journalists, accuse American news organizations of spreading “fake news” and creating actual fake digital news organizations to push partisan messages.

Look-my experience in journalism and tribal hate media is that many in America confuse the editorial section of news media from the investigating and reporting side. Maybe it’s because the hard news and editorial content get posted without differentiation.

But a democracy does not work if FACTS are published and then discounted by the leader of the democracy as “FAKE NEWS” simply because that leader does not like the reporting. That is close to Arendt’s definition of nascent totalitarianism.

Social psychology teaches us that repeated harms of corrosive falsehoods can culminate in what is referred to as “epistemic cynicism,” which leads citizens to distrust accurate sources of information, regularly dismiss claims as simply the result of partisan commitments, or cease to believe in ANY SHARED REALITY.

Cynically, what I find so shocking in the epistemic cynicism of roughly 70% of GOP members believing in a thoroughly disproven conspiracy theory is—in 2020 it’s not shocking at all.

In fact, we other outcomes should we have expected? When we deregulated the American media system in 1984-87 by abolishing the media Fairness Doctrine established at the dawn of the TV age (by legislators who had seen first hand what unbridled state propaganda media unleashed on the world), what did we think legislating a for-profit disinformation media business was going to do- bring red state/blue state America closer?

In fact, when created a for-profit $100 billion tribal hate media industry, we created a business where the only way to earn a greater annual profit is to convince more Americans this year to existentially fear and viscerally hate MORE Americans that they have never met than LAST year. In creating a fully digital tribal partisan feedback loop of hate and grievance that Goebbels must by lusting after in Hell, the latest data tells us 35-40% of American adults have chosen to live in a tribal cult-like digital cocoon of ego-gratifying/self-esteem building hate for 40% of their fellow American citizens as a visceral form of entertainment and not so surprisingly human connection.

Social identity psychology teaches us that tribal hate entertainment consumers LOVE all the feelings they get being down in their digital foxhole along with so many like-minded “patriots” left behind economically and culturally traumatized by the endless march of 21st-century progress as they hopelessly fight to reinstate the 20th century in the year 2020.

In short, it feels GREAT TO VISCERALLY HATE your tribal partisan enemy because when you scream into your TV “can you believe how STUPID those f—ing IDIOT libtards are!!!” all your EGO hears is a cathartic ego gratifying”And we are SO MUCH SMARTER and morally superior to those idiots, aren’t we?” pep talk.

Not all Trump voters of course are MAGA-hat-wearing Trump devotees. But all MAGA-hat-wearing flag-waving “Stop the Steal” devotees are members of a radicalized tribe that gets an emotional high from their own perceived righteous subversion of 21st-century culture that they don’t feel apart of.

And of course, like any great high, this kind of fervor can lead to an aggressive form of dopamine rush addiction (see miles of automobiles waving “Stop the Steal” flags). Let’s call this principle strategy of tribal partisan media the Law of Dopamine Economics-when you get the dopamine going, you get the digital ad dollar flowing.

The term “cult” means a ‘system of misplaced or excessive religious-like veneration and devotion directed toward a particular person.”

When 70% of a political party choose to believe a proven pathological lying grifter over unambiguous empirical fact, one can only conclude the cult of personality called Trumpism will continue to dominate the so-called “Republican Party” until their cult leader sets them free and does not require their devotion like other human beings need air.

In other words, never.

Tobin Smith’s original Fox News expose article “Confessions of Fox News Hit Man” on Medium.com in 2017 has over 130,000 reads and was selected Top 100 Journalism articles by Time Warner media critics.

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