It’s Right/Left But Also Fantasy/Reality

This is a somewhat edited Twitter thread from Steve Schmidt, a political strategist who used to work for Republicans. His comments were precipitated by a CNN podcast (referenced at the bottom of this post):

The debate is around how to think and talk about Fox News. What is it? [CNN journalist] Brian Stelter thinks about this directionally and ideologically: describing Fox as moving further right. He is correct, as is [journalism professor] Jay Rosen, who evaluates Fox News along a different axis. For him, it is the drift into fantasy and the unreal.

The authoritarian movement in America is real, powerful and present. All authoritarian movements are nourished by an ecosystem that includes three powerful components:

A. The Financiers. “No Bucks, no Buck Rogers” said the PR man to the disdainful test pilots who were to become America’s Mercury astronauts in one of the all time great movies “The Right Stuff”. There is no autocratic movement without money and they have a lot.

B. CYNICAL ELITES.  Rep. Elise Stefanik, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Josh Hawley and Sen. Mitch McConnell are but a few examples of people who have tried to manage the toxic reverberations from [the former president’s] cult by manipulating it for power, self interest and vanity. They have aligned with the fringe and venomous ideas.

C. PROPAGANDISTS. All authoritarian movements rely on propaganda sustained by a particular type of lie. THE LIE OF AUTHORITY requires the abandonment of belief, truth, ethics, values and intellectual agency. It demands submission to the lies of the Leader/Party.

. . . Right-Left, in the tradition of American politics, has long been explicable with a two dimensional rendering, specifically, a horizontal line. It doesn’t work any more. When [Brian Stelter] talks about Fox and moving “Right”, it is important to pause and look at the [system of measurement].

Trying to explain the metastasized conservative media by marking a point on a line [that could be] used to measure ideological distance between [Republican moderate] Christie Whitman and [Republican conservative] Orrin Hatch [fails to capture reality].

The “Right” we are talking about here is a very specific variant, that no matter how easily identifiable, seems to induce a blindness in people who should see it clearly and an allergy towards confronting it by the people who have the most at stake in the fight.

We are talking, of course, about an authoritarian Right that is steeped in fantasy, delusion, hate, scapegoating, scientific racial theory, menace, violence and coercion.

This American Right is cousin to the noxious movements that have long been built on a fetid marsh of lies, grievance, scapegoating, hate, menace, fear and fantasy nostalgia for a world once pure. That fallen world, is the nucleus of a powerful and evil fantasy at the core of a terrible and dangerous mythology. The mythology is fear-based and architected around the imagined birthright of one group to feel superior to others.

It always leads to subjugation under the power and boot of the state for the purpose of preserving the power of the few and the fabulously corrupt over the common good of the great many.

Fox News is moving in a new direction and has been for some time. . . It is getting worse and more extreme every day. . . . The [metastasizing] ideological drift and the demand for submission to fantasies is at the core of understanding what all of this is. I hope enough people can see the totality of it all before we lose it all.

Unquote.

The CNN podcast is called Reliable Sources. From the description of this episode:

Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at NYU and authors the PressThink blog, discusses the devolution of Fox News; the difficulty of describing a “shifted political universe” in the United States; and the need for news outlets to be “much more explicitly and aggressively pro-democracy.”

He says “Fox is becoming in some way more demand-driven” because “its audience is in the driver’s seat in a way that’s more extreme than when Roger Ailes ran the network.” For example, Rosen comments, “Do you want January 6 to be the fault of Antifa? You can have that. Do you want [somebody else] to have won the 2020 election? You can have that.”

Rosen explains that “these kinds of maneuvers are attempting to sever people from reality so that you can do what you want with them… to just sort of de-anchor people from anything that they have in common with their fellow citizens so that they can be manipulated further. And that’s why it’s so insidious.” 

Cable TV vs. Truth: A Case Study

Tucker Carlson is a bow tie-wearing creep who peddles right-wing nonsense to his Fox News followers five nights a week. This is from Judd Legum’s Popular Information newsletter:

Tucker Carlson has lost virtually all of his advertisers. A typical broadcast includes no national brand advertisers, a few direct response ads from companies like MyPillow, and house ads promoting other Fox News shows. 

Why have advertisers abandoned Carlson? In addition to the conduct described above, Carlson has:

Said that Black Lives Matter protests are “definitely not about black lives, and remember that when they come for you.”

Asserted that immigrants are making the country “poorer and dirtier

Called the Derek Chauvin verdict “an attack on civilization” and falsely claimed George Floyd died of a drug overdose.

Spread misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines.

Carlson has the right to say whatever loathsome things he wishes. And Fox News can choose to broadcast those views on television. But Carlson and the Murdochs do not have a right to have those views subsidized by millions of Americans who never watch Fox News. But that’s exactly what is happening. And those dynamics have allowed Fox News and Carlson to weather a near-universal advertiser boycott. 

Here’s how it works. Cable companies pay “carriage fees” to networks for the right to carry their channel. These fees are then passed on to users in their monthly bills. In 2020, Fox News made more money from carriage fees ($1.6 billion) than advertisements ($1.2 billion). 

Other channels, of course, also receive carriage fees for their content. But the Murdochs have negotiated exorbitant fees for Fox News that are far greater than any other non-sports programming. 

According to a survey conducted late last year, about 14% of cable TV subscribers watch Fox News regularly. But every cable TV subscriber pays an average of $1.72 a month to receive Fox News. In contrast, 31% of cable TV subscribers regularly watch FX (owned by Disney) but the channel adds just $0.81 to an average cable bill.

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This means, for every actual viewer, Fox News receives a $7.75 subsidy from people who never watch Fox News. This is a higher subsidy than other non-sports channels, like FX ($1.79), CNN ($3.18), and TBS ($2.79), receive. And none of those channels regularly spreads white nationalist talking points to millions of viewers. 

So how can Americans who don’t watch Fox News and find Carlson’s conduct repugnant stop subsidizing his $10 million salary? One option would be for major cable operators like Comcast, Spectrum, and AT&T to offer cable TV packages that exclude Fox News. This would allow people the choice of whether to pay for Fox News, just as people choose whether to pay for HBO. 

But, for the moment, corporate America seems loathe to take on the Murdochs or alienate Fox News’ passionate fan base. So the only way to stop sending cash to the Murdochs is to “cut the cord” and find a combination of streaming services that doesn’t include Fox News.

Unquote.

If you want to stop paying for cable TV but still want your local stations (which include ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and even Fox, but not Fox News), there’s a not-for-profit streaming service called Locast. It’s now available in 31 major TV markets around the country (plus Puerto Rico):

Get the local channels you love [note: or hate] without a monthly bill. Locast is a not for profit service offering users access to broadcast television stations over the internet. It’s time to shred those cable bills and contracts!

If you’re part of the international elite who rub shoulders with the odious, 90-year-old Rupert Murdoch and his evil spawn Lachlan, you can treat them with the disrespect they deserve. You might tell them to stop the propaganda and then spit in their soup.

Hazardous to Public Health and National Security

Margaret Sullivan, former public editor of The New York Times, now writes about the media for The Washington Post. Today, she unloads on Fox News and suggests a corporate boycott. Her column is called “Fox News is a hazard to our democracy. It’s time to take the fight to the Murdochs”: 

I happened to be watching Fox News on election night when the network startled the political world by calling Arizona for Joe Biden.

It was a weird moment, without the fanfare that usually accompanied the announcement that a state was being put in one column or another. A few hours later, the Associated Press made the same call.

But many other news organizations, including The Washington Post, took days to reach that daring conclusion. For them, Arizona’s vote count simply remained far too close. . . .

And Txxxxworld was enraged. Losing the traditionally red state would make it that much harder to proclaim that the election was so close that it must in fact have been stolen by the Democrats. It would disrupt the Big Lie narrative. Former president Donald Txxxx’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, even called Fox honcho Rupert Murdoch to complain. But Fox News stood behind the call, which turned out to be correct.

But a lot has changed since then. Last week, two key members of Fox News’s decision desk abruptly departed the network. One was laid off, the other has retired, and some insiders are calling it a “purge.”

Apparently, at a network that specializes in spreading lies, there was a price to pay for getting it right. (“Fox News isn’t a newsgathering organization,” surmised press critic Eric Boehlert, arguing in response to the purge that its White House credentials should be revoked.)

In recent days, Fox has taken a sharp turn toward a more extreme approach as it confronts a post-Txxxx ratings dip — the result of some of its farthest-right viewers moving to outlets such as Newsmax and One America News and some middle-of-the-roaders apparently finding CNN or MSNBC more to their liking.

With profit as the one true religion at Fox, something had to change. Ninety-year-old Rupert Murdoch, according to a number of reports, has stepped in to call the shots directly. Most notably, the network has decided to add an hour of opinion programming to its prime-time offerings. The 7 p.m. hour will no longer be nominally news but straight-up outrage production.

Why? Because that’s where the ratings are.

And in a move that should be shocking but isn’t, one of those who will rotate through the tryouts for that coveted spot will be Maria Bartiromo, whose Txxxx sycophancy during the campaign may well have been unparalleled. She was among those . . . recently forced under threat of a lawsuit to air a video that debunked repeated false claims on her show that corrupt voting software had given millions of Txxxx votes to Biden.

At the same time, Sean Hannity, who likes to blast Biden as “cognitively struggling,” and Tucker Carlson, who tries to sow doubt about the prevalence of White supremacy, have become even more outlandish as they try to gin up anti-Biden rage within their audiences.

Even James Murdoch, while not naming names, blasted the harm that his family’s media empire has done. “The sacking of the Capitol is proof positive that what we thought was dangerous is indeed very much so,” he told the Financial Times. “Those outlets that propagate lies to their audience have unleashed insidious and uncontrollable forces that will be with us for years.”

But it’s his father and his brother, Lachlan, who run Fox, not James.

How to get the Fox News monster under control? I do not believe the government should have any role in regulating what can and can’t be said on the air, although I often hear that proposed. That would be a cure worse than the disease. But let’s not count on the hope that the Fox-controlling Murdochs will develop a conscience.

No, the only answer is to speak the language that the bigwigs at Fox will understand: Ratings. Advertising dollars. Profit.

Corporations that advertise on Fox News [such as Procter & Gamble, Amazon, Kraft Heinz and Verizon] should walk away, and citizens who care about the truth should demand that they do so (in addition to trying to steer their friends and relatives away from the network).

Big companies would never do that, you say? Don’t be so sure.

The Post reported last week that the 147 Republican lawmakers who opposed certification of the presidential election have lost the support of many of their largest corporate backers. General Electric, AT&T, Comcast, Honeywell, PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG and Verizon all said they would suspend donations to members of Congress who voted against certifying Joe Biden as president.

This shows, at the very least, that there is a growing understanding that lying to the public matters, that it’s harmful — or “insidious,” in the words of James Murdoch. And that some corporations don’t want to be a part of that.

When you think about Fox News’s role in the 400,000 lives lost to the pandemic and in the disastrous attack of Jan. 6, it’s even fair to call it deadly.

So if reality-based America wants to communicate clearly with Fox News leadership, they’ll have to do it in a language they understand. The language of money.

Unquote.

Sullivan later called attention to an additional point of attack:

Your cable/satellite TV provider pays subscriber fee to carry @foxnews. That cost is passed directly to YOU. Typical household pays #FoxNews $2 per monthh = $20 per year via their cable satellite provider, regardless whether they watch it. DEMAND @comcast @Xfinity #UNFOXMYCABLEBOX.

It wouldn’t hurt if the rich and famous who appear on the Fox Network or rub elbows with the Murdoch clan or serve on their boards of directors began to exert pressure too. Unfortunately, for the most part, such people consistently ignore my suggestions. 

There May Be No Bottom

Now that the voters have almost certainly chosen Joe Biden as our next president, I looked at some of the stories I’ve been avoiding. These are all headlines from The Atlantic:

“A Large Portion of the Electorate Chose the Sociopath: America will have to contend with that fact.”

“The American System Is Broken: It should not take the largest voter turnout in U.S. history to guarantee that a president rejected by the majority . . .  stops being president.”

“Trump Is Powerless to Stop the Count: The president has run up against something he cannot control.”

“The Polling Crisis Is a Catastrophe for American Democracy: If public-opinion data are unreliable, we’re all flying blind.”

But there are two articles that are especially disturbing. The first is “Trump Won’t Accept Defeat. Ever: His forever campaign is just getting started” by Anne Applebaum:

While you watch Dxxxx Txxxx’s presidency stagger to what appears to be its ugly end, always keep in mind how it began: Txxxx entered the political world on the back of the “birther” conspiracy theory, a movement whose importance was massively underestimated at the time. Aside from its racist undertones, think about what a belief in birtherism really implied. If you doubted that Barack Obama was born in the United States—and about a third of Americans did, including 72 percent of registered Republicans—then that meant you also believed that Obama was an illegitimate president. That meant, in other words, you believed that everyone—the entire American political, judicial, and media establishment, including the White House and Congress, the federal courts and the FBI, all of them—was complicit in a gigantic plot to swindle the public into accepting this false commander-in-chief. A third of Americans had so little faith in American democracy, broadly defined, they were willing to think that Obama’s entire presidency was a fraud.

That third of Americans went on to become Txxxx’s base. Over four years, they continued to applaud him, no matter what he did, not because they necessarily believed everything he said, but often because they didn’t believe anything at all. If everything is a scam, who cares if the president is a serial liar? If all American politicians are corrupt, then so what if the president is too? If everyone has always broken the rules, then why can’t he do that too? No wonder they didn’t object when Txxxx’s White House defied congressional subpoenas with impunity, or when he used the Department of Justice to pursue personal vendettas, or when he ignored ethics guidelines and rules about security clearances, or when he fired watchdogs and inspectors general. . . . 

Not all of this was Txxxx’s doing. Many Americans had lost trust in democratic institutions long before he arrived on the scene. One recent survey showed that half of the country is dissatisfied with our political system; one-fifth told pollsters that they would be happy to live under military rule. Txxxx not only exploited this democratic deficit to win the White House, but he expanded it while in office. And now his political, financial, and maybe even emotional strategy requires him to damage America’s faith in its democracy further.

He is launching that strategy right now. . . .Txxxx is no good at governing, but he has long understood, with the intuition of a seasoned con man, how to create distrust, and how to use that distrust to his advantage. . . . 

Now, having spent months talking darkly about the rules being rigged against him, he has laid a set of traps designed to discredit and demean the electoral system so that some Americans, at least, lose their faith in it. This has been said by others, but it bears restating: That Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan did not finish counting their votes on Tuesday night is no accident. In all of these states, Republican legislators prevented their election boards from counting postal votes before Election Day. In the midst of a pandemic that Democrats take more seriously than Republicans do, after Txxxx himself told his followers that voting by mail was suspect, the partisan gap between in-person and postal voters was always likely to be stark.

Txxxx anticipated that vote totals might begin to shift in Joe Biden’s favor. That was why, when he spoke at 2:20 a.m. on Election Night, before results were even remotely clear, he declared the vote “a fraud on the American public” and announced that “we don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o’clock in the morning and add them to the list.” That’s why Republicans had already launched a rash of frivolous lawsuits, designed to create the appearance that something was wrong. . . .

This is a carefully planned strategy, not a temper tantrum, and it may have several stages. The first could take the form of a Hail Mary pass, a brazen and illegal attempt to stay in office. . . . Both the rhetoric and the flurry of ridiculous lawsuits are intended to create a misleading impression of electoral fraud so deep that some Republican state legislators could even be tempted to ignore the ballots and simply appoint an Electoral College delegation to vote for Txxxx. The head of the Pennsylvania Republican Party mentioned this as one of his “options,” although the Republican majority leader of the state Senate explicitly shot that idea down.

But even if Txxxx’s Hail Mary pass quickly fizzles, even if his attempt to stay in the White House is drowned out by the reality of the vote count and a tsunami of “Biden won” headlines, that doesn’t mean Txxxx will admit that the election was fair—ever. . . . It is in Txxxx’s interest, and a part of the Republican Party’s interest, to maintain the fiction that the election was stolen. That’s because the same base, the base that distrusts American democracy, could still be extremely useful to Txxxx, as well as to the Republican Party, in years to come.

. . . Just as Txxxx once helped convince millions of Americans that Obama was illegitimate, so he will now seek to convince Americans that Biden is illegitimate. “Biden Is Fake” Facebook groups will be used to gin up Republican votes and support for Republican causes; emails with “Phony Biden” in the subject line will be used to raise money. Txxxx’s campaign has already blasted out a fundraising text with the following message: “Pres Txxxx & VP Pence: It’s so urgent we BOTH texted you. Dems & the Fake News want to STEAL this Election! 1000%-MATCH to FIGHT BACK! Act NOW” . . . Laura Ingraham of Fox News is already engaging and enraging her millions of followers by tweeting about the “continued abuse of our electoral system by corrupt Democrat officials.”

Other Republicans will join this cause, because they too can raise money and attract breathless fans by indulging that latent distrust. The newly elected senator from Alabama . . . Tommy Tuberville is already tweeting . . . that the Biden campaign is cheating: “It’s like the whistle has blown, the game is over, and the players have gone home, but the referees are suddenly adding touchdowns to the other team’s side of the scoreboard.” Never mind that the game is not over . . . Tuberville can now use the myth of Biden’s “illegitimacy” as an excuse not to cooperate with the new president, not to help pass any further pandemic-relief legislation, not to make the coming four years a success for Biden—or for America.

The Txxxx family being what it is, expect the illegitimacy myth to be exploited for commercial purposes too. Paradoxically, Txxxx’s loss may well increase the loyalty of his most ardent fans, who will be angry that he has been unfairly deprived of his rightful role. They will now become loyal purchasers of flags, ties, MAGA hats, maybe even degrees at a revived Txxxx University. They could become the customer base for Txxxx TV, a media company that will set itself up as the rival to [Fox News].

As the financial and legal pressures now bear down on Txxxx—the hundreds of millions of dollars he owes, the tax and fraud investigations that are on their way—he will need a political base more than ever. Expect Txxxx and his children to portray any and every legitimate legal action against them as political persecution: “They are trying to get me because I oppose the fake president.” Expect them to continue to seek headlines, day after day, with out-of-control press conferences, carried live on Txxxx TV, streamed on Facebook, featured on the front page of the New York Post. . . . 

Above all, though, the Biden illegitimacy myth will function as a prop for Txxxx’s own fragile ego. Unable to cope with the loss of the presidency, unable to accept that he was beaten, Txxxx will now shield himself from the reality of defeat by pretending it didn’t happen. His personal need to live in a perpetual fantasyland, a world where he is always winning, is so overpowering that he will do anything to maintain it. In his narcissistic drive to create this alternative reality, he will deepen divisions, spread paranoia, and render his supporters even more fearful of their fellow citizens and distrustful of their institutions. This is a president who never had America’s interests at heart. Do not expect loss to change him [or make him go away].

The second article is related: “Fox News Hits a Dangerous New Low: The most-watched news network in America is choosing to mislead its viewers about the state of the election” by Megan Garber:

Here are some of the things that happened yesterday evening on the most-watched news network in America: The minority leader of the House of Representatives announced, absolutely falsely and with no pushback, that “President Txxxx won this election.” A former speaker of the House argued that, in the name of democracy, the U.S. federal government should “lock up” state election workers. One of the most-watched TV hosts in the country implied to the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the GOP-controlled Pennsylvania legislature should override the will of the state’s voters to appoint its own electors. Lindsey Graham responded, gravely, “Everything should be on the table.”

Fox News, which spent years flattering Dxxxx Txxxx and his fictions, is finishing what it started. The network that first helped bring Txxxx to political power is now working—despite a fair election that seems poised, as of this writing, to be won by his opponent—to keep him there. Fox’s popular prime-time opinion programs, throughout this week, have functioned as a Txxxx-campaign ad by another means. But last night’s shows reached a dangerous new low. The Fox News Channel, this week, had the opportunity to reckon with reality; instead, the network chose to mislead its viewers about the state of the election, and to foment mistrust in the workings of the American electoral system more broadly. It chose the fate of Dxxxx Txxxx—and the ratings that come from the viewers who love him—over the fate of American democracy.

“As poll workers continue to slowly tabulate results,” Sean Hannity said last night, “we have serious reports of irregularities and fraud and not allowing vote counters to observe counting. Which is a matter of law. And they continue to come in, these reports, from all over the country.”

The reports have been coming from the Txxxx campaign itself. They have not been validated. They have been, in some cases, thoroughly debunked. “Txxxx,” The Washington Post noted yesterday, in an extensive summary of his campaign’s long-running attempts to claim voter fraud where there is none, “has offered no evidence that the election’s integrity has been compromised, and none has been found. In fact, cybersecurity experts in the Txxxx administration and local officials say the process has been smooth despite the unusual historic circumstance of a deadly pandemic.”

That did not stop the misinformation on the news network. On Wednesday evening, Laura Ingraham—who had spent part of the day in the White House with the Txxxx campaign—claimed that Democrats were trying to “destroy the integrity of our election process with this mail-in, day-of registration efforts, counting after the election is over, dumping batches of votes a day, two days, maybe even three days after an election.”

The election results trickled in as they did because the pandemic has changed the logistics of how Americans vote: New circumstances led to new systems, as they should. And the lag in vote counting is partially attributable to Txxxx himself: His campaign, operating on the conventional wisdom that in-person and same-day voting favors Republicans, spent months telling its base not to vote by mail. [And as noted above, Republican legislators in some states made sure the counting would be delayed.]

None of that was explained to Fox’s viewers. In fact, if you watched only Fox to get election results, as so many Americans do, you could reasonably forget that America is currently living through a steadily worsening pandemic. Instead, on Fox this week, “fraud” has been a refrain. Political actors who have various vested interests in a second term of Txxxx have filled the network’s air with baseless claims of Democrats’ malfeasance and, consequently, the wide-scale failures of a free and fair election.  . .  Fox’s viewers were . . . told, again and again, that an election whose outcome they might not like is the same thing as an election that has been stolen.

Senator Ted Cruz: “What we’re seeing tonight, what we’ve been seeing the last three days, is outrageous. It is partisan, it is political and it is lawless. We’re seeing this pattern in Democratic city after Democratic city, with the worst in the country right now is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich: “You have a group of corrupt people who have absolute contempt for the American people, who believe that we are so spineless, so cowardly, so unwilling to stand up for ourselves, that they can steal the presidency … No one should have any doubt: You are watching an effort to steal the presidency of the United States.”

Senator Lindsey Graham: “The allegations of wrongdoing are earth-shattering … So Senate Republicans are going to be briefed by the Txxxx campaign Saturday, and every Senate Republican and House Republican needs to get on television and tell this story.”

[Their statements] worked to create a fog of uncertainty and indignation around the election. During an exceptionally fragile week in America, [they are] taking a line from Steve Bannon’s old playbook—flood the zone with shit—and modifying it for the present circumstances. They are flooding the zone with “fraud.”

They are also, in the process, undermining the “news” element of Fox News. [The] news-side anchors who have been leading much of the network’s election coverage this week, have spent much of their own airtime pushing back against daytime guests who have echoed the Txxxx campaign’s baseless claims of fraud. They have repeated the need for evidence when it comes to validating those claims; they have emphasized, as well, how absent that evidence has been. . . .

But those most basic efforts at checking the president’s lies mean little when, on the same network, powerful members of the United States government, encouraged by Fox’s opinion hosts, are talking openly about arresting poll workers and staging coups. . . .

Data Analysis, Surprising and Not

Surprising news from The New York Times:

— Actual Coronavirus Infections Vastly Undercounted, C.D.C. Data Shows —

The prevalence of infections is more than 10 times higher than the counted number of cases in six regions of the United States.

The analysis is part of a wide-ranging set of surveys started by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to estimate how widely the virus has spread. Similar studies, sponsored by universities, national governments and the World Health Organization, are continuing all over the world….

“This study underscores that there are probably a lot of people infected without knowing it, likely because they have mild or asymptomatic infection,” said Dr. Fiona Havers, who led the C.D.C. study. “But those people could still spread it to others.”

She emphasized the importance of hand-washing, wearing cloth masks and social distancing to stop the spread of the virus from people without symptoms. [Getting tested is an excellent idea too, even if you have no symptoms.]

The numbers indicate that even in areas hit hard by the virus, an overwhelming majority of people have not yet been infected, said Scott Hensley, a viral immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania….

“Many of us are sitting ducks who are still susceptible …,” he said.

Not surprising news (not surprising at all) from The Washington Post:

Three serious research efforts have put numerical weight — yes, data-driven evidence — behind what many suspected all along: Americans who relied on Fox News, or similar right-wing sources, were duped as the coronavirus began its deadly spread.

Dangerously duped.

The studies “paint a picture of a media ecosystem that amplifies misinformation, entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others,” wrote [The Post’s] Christopher Ingraham in an analysis last week.

Here’s the reality, now backed by numbers:

Those who relied on mainstream sources — the network evening newscasts or national newspapers that President Txxxx constantly blasts as “fake news” — got an accurate assessment of the pandemic’s risks. Those were the news consumers who were more likely to respond accordingly, protecting themselves and others against the disease that has now killed more than 123,000 in the United States with no end in sight.

Those who [like the “Leader of the Free World”] relied on Fox or, say, radio personality Rush Limbaugh, came to believe that vitamin C was a possible remedy, that the Chinese government created the virus in a lab, and that government health agencies were exaggerating the dangers in the hopes of damaging Txxxx politically, a survey showed….

“That’s the real evil of this type of programming,” Arthur West of the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics, … told the Times of San Diego. “We believe it delayed and interfered with a prompt and adequate response to this coronavirus pandemic.”

Unquote.

Mass manslaughter, anyone?