In the first two parts of The Murdoch Virus we have seen how the Murdoch owned media outlets have published outright lies with little or no concern for the damage these lies cause.
In Part 1 – The Virus, it was shown that two teenagers (one in Australia and one in the UK) committed suicide after falsehoods were published about them in Murdoch’s tabloids.
In Part 2 – Hillsborough, we saw how Murdoch’s UK tabloid The Sun published blatant lies about what happened at the Hillsborough soccer stadium where around 100 fans lost their lives, and how the people of Liverpool still hold a grudge against the tabloid for it.
Now in Part 3 of The Murdoch Virus series, we will see how the Murdoch Virus reached its zenith on the odious FoxNews cable TV channel. Everything Murdoch learnt about manipulating people’s opinions in newspapers was brought together in one 24/7 extravaganza.
Dr Cynthia Boaz, in an article entitled “14 Propaganda Techniques FoxNews Uses To Brainwash Americans” on AlterNet, wrote about the techniques that Murdoch’s flagship media outlet spreads the Murdoch Virus.
14 Propaganda Techniques FoxNews Uses To Brainwash Its Viewers
- Panic Mongering – This goes beyond fear mongering. With panic mongering, there is never a break from the fear. The idea is to terrify and terrorize the audience during every waking moment. This of course raises the question: why terrorize your own audience? Because it is the fastest way to negate rational thought. When people are scared, they aren’t thinking rationally. And when they don’t think rationally, they’ll believe whatever they’re told.
- Character Assassination – Fox does not like to waste time debating ideas. Instead, they prefer to quickly dispense with their opponents. Attack the person’s credibility, motives, intelligence, character, or even sanity. Fox also uses ad hominem attacks not just against individuals, but entire categories of people to discredit the ideas of everyone who falls into that category, such as “liberals,” “hippies,” and “progressives”. This form of argument leaves no room for genuine debate over ideas. By definition, this is not only undemocratic, it is just plain crass.
- Projection – This one is frustrating for the viewer who is trying to actually follow the argument. It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you’re using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first.
- Rewriting History – The Downing Street Memo on the Iraq war was a classic example of this, but it happens daily and over smaller issues as well. A recent case in point is Sarah Palin’s mangling of the Paul Revere ride, which despite it being easy to refute, Fox reporters have bent over backwards to validate. Dogmatic minds actually find it easier to reject reality than to accept a differing perspective. They literally rewrite history to serve their own interests. They speak with such authority on these lies that the casual viewer will take their word for it, and even change their minds about things they know are wrong.
- Scapegoating – This works best when people feel insecure or scared. It’s technically a form of both fear mongering and diversion, but it is so pervasive that it deserves its own category. The simple idea is that if you can find a group to blame for social or economic problems, you can then go on to a) justify violence against them and dehumanise them, and b) deflect responsibility for any harm that may befall them as a result. A prime example was the violent rhetoric aimed at Democratic Party members which resulted in the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords being shot at point blank range in Tuscon, Arizona in 2011.
- Conflating Violence With Power and Opposition to Violence With Weakness – There are several concerning consequences of this form of conflation. First, it has the potential to make people feel falsely emboldened by shows of force – it can turn wars into sporting events. Secondly, especially in the context of American politics, displays of violence – whether manifested in war or debates about the Second Amendment – are seen as noble and moral. Violence become synonymous with power, patriotism and piety.
- Bullying – This is a favorite technique of several Fox commentators, especially Bill O’Reilly. That it continues to be employed demonstrates that it seems to have some efficacy. Bullying works best on people with a lack of confidence, either in themselves or the subject being discussed. The bully exploits this by berating the guest into submission or compliance. Often, people will feel shame and anxiety when being subjected to this technique and will often cede authority to the bully. The bully then presents that as a “win.”
- Confusion – As with the preceding technique, this one works best on an audience that is less confident and self-possessed. The idea is to deliberately confuse the argument, but insist that the logic is airtight and imply that anyone who disagrees is either too stupid to follow along. Less independent minds will interpret the confusion technique as a form of sophisticated thinking, thereby giving the user’s claims veracity in the viewer’s mind.
- Populism – This is especially popular in election years. The speakers identifies themselves as one of “the people” and the target of their ire as an enemy of the people. The opponent is always “elitist” or a “bureaucrat” or a “government insider” or some other category that is not “one of us”. The idea is to make the opponent harder to relate to and empathize with. It is often used at the same time as scapegoating. A common logical fallacy with populism bias when used by the right is that accused “elitists” are almost always liberals – a category of political actors who, by definition, advocate for non-elite groups.
- Invoking Christianity – This is similar to scapegoating and populism. With morality politics, the idea is to declare yourself and your allies as patriots, Christians and “real Americans” and anyone who challenges them as not. Basically, God loves Fox and Republicans and America. And hates taxes and anyone who doesn’t love those other three things. Because the speaker has God on their side, any challenge is perceived as immoral. It’s a cheap and easy technique used by all totalitarian entities from states to cults.
- Saturation – There are three components to effective saturation: being repetitive, being ubiquitous and being consistent. The message must be repeated cover and over, it must be everywhere and it must be shared across commentators: Veracity and hard data have no relationship to the efficacy of saturation. There is a psychological effect of being exposed to the same message over and over, regardless of whether it’s true or if it even makes sense. As Nazi Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels pointed out, if something is said enough times, by enough people, many will come to accept it as truth. A prime example of this is the slogan of “Fair and Balanced”, when FoxNews is neither fair nor balanced.
- Disparaging Education – There is an emerging and disturbing lack of reverence for education and intellectualism in media discourses. FoxNews portrays higher education as “elitist”. Having a university qualification is perceived by them as not a sign of credibility, but of a lack of it. Evidence of intellectual prowess is treated snidely and as anti-American. The disdain for education and other evidence of being trained in critical thinking are direct threats to a hive-mind mentality, which is why they are so vehemently attacked.
- Guilt By Association – This is a favorite of FoxNews presenters, who use it to decimate the careers and lives of many good people. Here’s how it works: if your cousin’s college roommate’s uncle’s ex-wife attended a dinner party back in 1984 with Gorbachev’s niece’s ex-boyfriend’s sister’s next door neighbour, then you are a communist set on destroying America.
- Diversion – This is where, when on the ropes, the media commentator suddenly takes the debate in a weird but predictable direction to avoid accountability. This is the point in the discussion where most Fox anchors start comparing the opponent to (insert the perceived enemy here), in a desperate attempt to win through guilt by association. Or they’ll want to “move forward,” as though by analyzing the current state of things or how we got to this state of things, you have no regard for the future. Any attempt to bring the discussion back to the issue at hand will likely be called deflection, an ironic use of the technique of projection.
Read the full AlterNet article by Dr Boaz here: 14 Propaganda techniques FoxNews Uses To Brainwash Americans.
Filmmaker Robert Greenwald made a documentary called “Outfoxed” which covers many of these points amongst others. It features examples of the way FoxNews operates with interviews with media experts and former FoxNews employees.
This documentary is shown below.
(Please note this is a low quality version of the documentary. Copies of the high quality dvd version, which also includes many extras, are available from the official website Outfoxed).
The picture portraying Rupert Murdoch as The Godfather was created by Photoshop Wizard doctornonono (also known on Twitter as George Bludger). You can check out more of his works on flickr here: doctornonono
The Godfather imagery and logo (© Paramount Pictures) and the image of Rupert Murdoch are satire and/or parody and are used under the fair use provisions of various international copyright laws.