No More Oxygen, Please
Amplifying Propaganda Does a Disservice to Everyone
Today I learned that one of my favorite TV talk show hosts, Jimmy Kimmel, has invited the unhinged conspiracy-mongering pillow guy as a guest on his late-night program. It not only made me angry but reminded me of how CNN and the Sunday morning network talk shows regularly play host to others of this ilk who spew falsehoods to mostly unwitting live audiences. Even washed-up politicians are tapped by these news programs to spread lies. (Think Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.)
Who’ll forget Kellyanne Conway manhandling Bill Maher or not be bothered by the parade of right-wing politicians and think-tankers who regularly run roughshod over “PBS Newshour” host Judy Woodruff? Under the misguided guise of providing balance, nearly all of these news/talk program hosts fall short in correcting, in real time, their dishonest, talking-point-laden partisan guests. Why even have them on?
And the phenomenon doesn’t reside exclusively with live or live-taped television. I’m also struck by the large swath of journalists who amplify such propaganda in the social spheres. Many of the influencers I follow on Twitter don’t seem to think twice before retweeting some wacko tweet or link made by circus politicos like Marjorie Taylor Green, Kristi Noem, Ron Johnson, Ted Cruz, or the fully unhinged Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, or Jim Jordan, to name just a few.
Why do those I respect feel the need to amplify such obvious propaganda to their followers who, in turn, share with their followers, and so on and so forth? Why not deprive these untruthful (and un-American) idealogues of the oxygen they already enjoy from Fox News, Newsmax, OANN, and myriad right-wing “news” sites and radio talk shows?
Is there some kind of a dopamine rush from spreading the crazy?
I know it’s unrealistic to think that the ratings-driven TV/radio talk show hosts, producers, and guest bookers, and engagement-driven influencers on Twitter, will pause before exposing their large followings to deceptive messaging. After all, much of what emanates from the unhinged right is so outlandish (by design), it’s hard not to share. Or maybe the amplifiers believe they are performing a service for their followers by further exposing these numbnuts?
Surely Vox journalist Aaron Rupar, with his 674,000 followers on Twitter, must recognize the downside of amplifying such malevolent content, even if he wraps it in a qualifying comment or disclaimer.
But shouldn’t they (and we) exercise more restraint? Just as there is reporting that exposes corporations who still donate their PAC money to the Congressional insurrectionists, and brand advertisers that keep disinformative programs like Tucker Carlson profitably in production, there certainly should be an effort that recognizes the danger and puts an end to promoting disinformation to one’s audience — online or otherwise.
Some hashtags to consider:
Rather than focus on the misbehaving miscreants in the Republican Party, doesn’t it makes more sense to amplify the actual policy steps the Democrats are taking to fix what clearly needs fixing? We all know how misguided and broken the GOP has become as David Brooks notes in his column today:
The level of Republican pessimism is off the charts. A February Economist-YouGov poll asked Americans which statement is closest to their view: “It’s a big, beautiful world, mostly full of good people, and we must find a way to embrace each other and not allow ourselves to become isolated” or “Our lives are threatened by terrorists, criminals and illegal immigrants, and our priority should be to protect ourselves.”
Over 75 percent of Biden voters chose “a big, beautiful world.” Two-thirds of Trump voters chose “our lives are threatened.”
What really needs amplification are the proposed policies from the Biden Administration and the Democrats that will help America re-emerge as “a big, beautiful world.”