Right Wing Domination of Media & Politics Keeps Us Stuck in Disinformation and Right Wing Government

Julie Hotard
5 min readJan 2, 2021

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

This is a famous and very true quote often attributed to Mark Twain, as well as to many other authors.

There once was a land without environmental regulations. So various companies routinely poisoned the air, the water and the land. Everyone accepted this as normal. A local water company ran contaminated water into around half of the residents’ houses, because it was easy and cheap to sell water without bothering to purify it first. Many people got sick and some died.

People tried to understand and address the problem, according to the cultural values of the land. The major newspapers wanted to understand both sides of the issue. So they sent reporters to diners to interview people who were getting their water from the poison water company, to ask them why. Some of them said “This water company treats me like I’m special. Their executives talk in public about the problems I have and say they’re going to help me out. The other company never does that.”

The reporters empathized. They went back and published their stories, content that they had a better understanding of why people were drinking poisoned water that made them all sick and killed some of them.

Newspapers assigned reporters to report on the exact poisons and exact levels of the poisons in the water. But a lot of people don’t read the newspaper. So many people still had no idea this was happening.

Universities hired “poison experts” to catalogue the amounts and types of poisons too. They didn’t do anything to solve the problem though, except to advise the poison imbibers to do critical thinking. However, the poison water company told its customers that university professors were elites who looked down on them and lied to them. So none of the poison imbibers listened.

Writers and pundits in mainstream media kept saying that education was the answer. Perhaps if people started being better educated, then in a generation or two, they might be less likely to imbibe poison water without realizing it.

This land was a land of individualism — not a land of big government. The people didn’t want laws to regulate poison, because that might take away some company CEO’s freedom. So if anyone wanted people to stop being poisoned, it was up to that individual to stop it.

Here was the advice given by the esteemed poison experts: Carefully evaluate the water system you are planning to use. But the concerned people were already were doing that. This is why they were concerned to begin with.

Concerned individuals were also advised to go have conversations with friends and relatives who were being poisoned, to understand their points of view, and to try to convince them to stop buying poisoned water. So people did. Once in a great while, someone successfully convinced a friend or relative to stop buying poisoned water. But most of the time the friends and relatives kept buying it, kept getting sick, and some more of them died.

What can the people of the land can do about this problem of poisoned water making people sick and killing them? Can you imagine anything?

Now suppose it’s not the water system but the information system that is poisoned? What if these aren’t poison experts but “disinformation experts” giving you advice to carefully evaluate your own water system, even though you’re already doing that? What if these are “disinformation experts” who are giving you advice to go talk to friends and family who are buying poisoned water, to try to talk them out of it individually? Can you you imagine anything that might solve that problem better than this advice?

Solving the disinformation problem is rather important, because it determines most of our election results. Disinformation just got Trump 74 million votes in 2020. Republicans won far more down ballot races than Democrats did and picked up 10 House seats in 2020.

You don’t think Right Wing media’s lies influenced these voters? Then read this Data For Progress research about what Republicans think their party stand for vs. what its policies actually are.

Here is an essay about the various forms of Right Wing disinformation that the U.S. is immersed in right now. When people believe lies and vote accordingly, that’s not a legitimate democracy.

What’s the solution? Standard texts on disinformation or propaganda, such as Linebarger’s Psychological Warfare, a World War II era reprint, point to counterpropaganda as the remedy. The military has fought propaganda in effective ways.

Civilians too — if we ever expect to solve the problem — need to stop expecting individuals are going to solve it by using critical thinking or by persuading Right Wing neighbors or relatives to become lovers of facts.

Instead we should use the same solution the military uses — counterpropaganda. The military doesn’t fool around with timid “solutions” like talking about how individual soldiers ought to learn critical thinking, or waiting for the next generation of soldiers to get better educated so they can avoid being conned, or hoping that soldiers’ family members will talk soldiers out of being conned.

The military doesn’t believe protestations by enemy groups or organizations running radio stations that spread propaganda — protestations claiming that the intentions of those groups are benevolent. The military doesn’t ask or toothlessly “demand” that outside groups regulate themselves so as to stop the spread of propaganda.

When faced with propaganda, the military spreads counterpropaganda at scale — at the same scale and to the same audience that is being targeted with the lies.

In response to civilian propaganda, we should spread the truth at scale — at the same scale and to the same audience that is being targeted with the lies.

That means we need truth-spreading radio, TV, newspapers, news web sites and social media “troll farms.” The truth needs to be expertly aimed at the same audience that consume Right Wing disinformation TV, radio, newspapers, news sites and social media right now. Nonprofits could fund them.

Why would they fund them? Well, right now, numerous nonprofits are wasting their time, money and the talents of their staffs, preaching and fact checking to the choir. Other nonprofits spending hundreds of millions of dollars “putting out fires” like our pandemic public health problems, that were set by Right Wingers in government — who would never have been elected, had it not been for Right Wing propaganda media lies and fear/hate mongering about Democrats.

If these nonprofits would spend just a fraction of this money on keeping propagandists from setting fires of lies and hatred — that is, if nonprofits would set up effective counterpropaganda — they would save a bundle of money there in the long run.

The only organization I see trying to do anything remotely like what I am suggesting is https://www.anotheracronym.org/ . They are on Twitter at @anotheracronym

Time will tell exactly what approach they will take and how effective it will be. It’s not clear yet what they are intending to do — and whether it will be mostly more ineffective debunking/preaching to the choir, rather than spreading truth to the same audience to whom the lies are targeted.