Tucker Carlson, Fox News, Propaganda
The lies are the entertainment. Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0) See complete attribution below.

The relentless propaganda and demagoguery of right-wing media outlets are beyond dispute. However, it wouldn’t work nearly as well if their audiences didn’t want to be lied to.

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Republican voters, especially those who get their “news” exclusively from conservative outlets, may be unique in history. While there have always been demagogues who have lied to their constituents — and in many cases used mass media to do so — what sets modern conservatives apart is that they quite clearly want to be lied to.

Never before has so much information been available to so many but used so little.

Take Nazi Germany, perhaps the first major power with an effective mass propaganda apparatus. Here, the people only got the news that the government wanted them to have. Sure, you could try to listen to the BBC on a hidden radio, but discovery meant a one-way ticket to a concentration camp. And those within Germany who wanted to tell the truth risked their life every time they did so.

The same thing happened in the Soviet Union. There were government newspapers, TV, and radio. And that was it in terms of getting information.

Since then, mass propaganda amplified by the latest technology has become central to the authoritarian playbook.

The emergence of the global internet has made things a bit trickier, but in nearly all cases, governments could either control what could be accessed online, as in China, or not enough people had internet access, as in a country like Cuba.

In the US, however, neither of those things applies. Contrary to what Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and other conservative lawmakers, as well as the right-wing echo chamber, will have Americans believe, there is no systematic government censorship. And most people in the US do have access to the internet. That means just about all of them should be able to discern fact from fiction.

Instead of doing that, conservatives have been self-censoring for decades now. While all of the information they need to understand that they are being deceived and outright lied to is available to them, they choose to ignore it.

The only objectionable thing Fox’s firebrand found on these tapes was apparently how horribly peaceful tourists wearing MAGA gear were treated by mean police officers while they were sightseeing in the Capitol.

To be clear, we are not talking about competing studies on which economic model is better, nor is this about whether the privatization of Medicare makes sense or whether abortion should be legal. Those are legitimate policy debates that a society can and should have.

What we are talking about is right-wing “news” outlets conditioning their audiences to hate anybody who is not like them — i.e., white, Christian, willfully blind believers in American exceptionalism — and these audiences embracing the misinformation, disinformation, half-truths, and selective “news” they hear about the “woke virus,” the “Russian hoax,” “great replacement,” “grooming of children,” “caravans of brown people coming to take their jobs,” and any number of other topics with which they are inundated on a daily basis.

And it is their immunity to facts that makes this demagoguery possible in the first place.

We have spent a lot of time recently pointing out that Fox “News” is a GOP propaganda outlet intent on undermining democracy and dividing the US for profit. And rightly so, because Fox is a main reason why America is now more divided along political lines than at any time since the “woke” North defeated the Confederacy.

For their part, Republican lawmakers are complicit, as was evidenced by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) decision to give Tucker Carlson exclusive access to 41,000 hours of security footage from the January 6 insurrection.

This is also a great case study of what we are talking about.

The only objectionable thing Fox’s firebrand found on these tapes was apparently how horribly peaceful tourists wearing MAGA gear were treated by mean police officers while they were sightseeing in the Capitol.

That’s not terribly surprising. If you had asked a Japanese World War II general to selectively show footage of his country’s fleet on December 7, 1941, you probably would have seen a bunch of ships bobbing up and down in the Pacific while legions of airplanes took off from aircraft carriers for aerial tours of scenic Hawaii.

Carlson’s latest con job was so bad that even some Republican senators were offended by the assertion that January 6 was anything but an insurrection. By the way, just in case you are wondering how thorough this review could have been, even if the very first thing McCarthy did after being elected as speaker was to hand over these tapes to Carlson, it would have taken 90 people working eight-hour shifts 60 days to watch all 41,000 hours.

Please Donate to WhoWhatWhyCarlson’s narrative, while at odds with what we have learned about the insurrection — and seen   with our own eyes — is very much in line with what Republicans believe. Nearly 60 percent of them told pollsters most of the protesters at the Capitol were peaceful and law-abiding.

With regard to the apparent violence the world witnessed, solidly more than half of them believe the riot was led by “violent left-wing protesters.”

And, of course, different polls have shown that two-thirds of GOP voters are convinced that the election was “stolen” from Donald Trump, which in their minds gives the events of January 6 some legitimacy.

Again, none of these beliefs is based on any kind of facts or reality. But it is what conservatives want to believe, so they take the “truths” that Fox spoon-feeds them — even though the network’s owners, executives, and on-air talent know them to be false, as recent court filings show.

Case in point is one of the revelations from those court documents, which details a private message from Carlson to an unidentified Fox employee. In it, he writes that he “hate[s] [Trump] passionately.”

That could pose a problem for someone who makes his money conning people into believing that he is solidly on team Trump.

Fortunately for him, and this is what makes it such an excellent example of the willful ignorance of modern conservatives, most of his viewers will either never find out about Carlson’s comments disparaging their orange hero or they just won’t care.

A quick look at conservative Twitter shows that this is indeed the case. A lot of users believe this exchange was “fake” — never mind that it was unearthed during the discovery phase of a lawsuit against Fox, is included in a court filing, and has not been disputed by the network or Carlson himself.

None of that matters, though, to an audience of tens of millions conditioned to only accept as fact what conveniently fits into their belief that they, and their country, are exceptional.

At least they are right about that part. They are exceptionally prone to being lied to, and they are exceptionally ignorant. 

The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Tucker Carlson caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0), cup (Angela CoffeeRank / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), TV (Frank Reppold / Pixabay), and watcher (Sergey Galyonkin / Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 2.0).


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a senior editor for Politics and director of the Mentor Apprentice Program at WhoWhatWhy. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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  • DonkeyHotey

    DonkeyHotey creates art to illustrate news articles and opinion pieces. His current work is a combination of caricature, photo collage, and photo manipulation.

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