The Vast Reach of Right Wing Disinformation

In one of my previous essays, I explained how very much in denial most Americans are about the extent to which our nation is immersed in Right Wing propaganda, and about the immense harm it does. Here it is, in case you haven’t yet read it.

I keep seeing more and more evidence of our immersion and of how it harms us. We’re all aware of Fox News. Not so many people are aware though of how often Fox is the station turned on at many military bases, health clubs, sports bars fast food joints, community gathering places and cruise ships. This has its effects. It gives the impression that Fox is a real news station, rather than a disinfo outlet. Its being turned on in a large number of places a person frequents, leads many people to feel familiar with it, and to become comfortable watching it at home also.

Fewer people are aware of Right Wing disinformation outlets like Sinclair, whose 193 stations broadcast over the chyrons of other station names, fooling viewers into thinking they’re not watching a Sinclair network. They are the largest owner of stations affiliated with Fox, ABC and The CW Television Network. They own many other outlets also. They buy up local stations and keep the same names as the stations had before — deceiving viewers into thinking they are watching mainstream news.

Most people are unaware that there are hundreds of Right Wing radio stations across the nation. People listen to them daily while at factory and construction jobs, and as they drive to sales calls. Here are a couple of articles on that.

Here is what Thom Hartman, our most popular liberal radio host, has to say about Right Wing radio propaganda, which is being spread in both English and Spanish.

Right Wing disinformation in social media is also a large problem. See the recent film The Social Dilemma and also whistleblower Christopher Wylie’s book Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America.

https://www.amazon.com/Mindf-Cambridge-Analytica-Break-America/dp/1984854631/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1603163304&sr=8-1

The human brain is not built to function properly in an environment of more lies than truth. Yet a lot of Americans live in such an environment, at least within the area of politics.

Not many people are aware that sites on the Internet claiming to be local news sites are part of the country’s largest newspaper chain, which is Right Wing.

Here is a tweet with a New York Times article contained within it about our nation’s largest “newspaper” chain, which is run by Right Wingers.

One reason there is so much empty space in the news arena for Right Wingers to fill up, is that the Right Wing pressures social media companies into elevating Right Wing disinformation — and also nearly driving Left of Center media organizations into bankruptcy.

Some Right Wing disinformation is aimed at particular groups of voters, for example Spanish speaking voters.

There was disinfo aimed at Black voters in 2016, described here. It would be naive to expect this isn’t being continued to this day.

Also, there is the influence of social groups — even on people who don’t consume much news. Below is an Atlantic article by Sarah Longwell, founder of Republican Voters Against Trump, about why people stick with Trump. Here is a quote from the article.

“Some meaningful number of voters who are clear-eyed about Trump and his manifest failures — even those who think he is plainly doing a bad job — will stick with the president because they believe Democrats are worse and the media aren’t to be trusted. And these aren’t voters who are glued to Fox News and reading Breitbart News. Often they don’t think about politics at all — and they certainly don’t follow the daily machinations of Washington. They’re typically not on Twitter. Instead they swim in a cultural soup of Trumpism, surrounded by friends, family, and social-media acquaintances who do live more exclusively in a right-wing-media ecosystem.

“Even if Biden pulls off a landslide victory, that ecosystem will remain. And so will the dislike of Democrats and distrust of the mainstream media. Getting rid of Trump won’t end the opposition’s problems.”

Dislike and distrust of Democrats and of mainstream media may be the largest and longest lasting effects of Right Wing disinformation. As Longwell notes above, these effects extend to many low information voters who don’t even consume much Right Wing media.

Also, voters will stick with Republican candidates, even when they hate them if Right Wing TV and radio — or their relatives who listen to it — have thoroughly convinced them that Democrats are the Second Coming of Mao and Stalin. If Democrats don’t start getting our message out about who we really are, to people who live in or adjacent to the Right Wing disinformation bubble, there will be more and more Right Wingers as the Right Wing bubble grows.

One more issue that few people are aware of is disinformation aimed at children. Children are even more vulnerable than adults to disinformation because their brains are still in the process of developing, and they also have less experience than adults, that they can use to evaluate propaganda. Here’s a tweet with an article contained within it about PragerU’s “new push to get into K12 schools.” PragerU is a Right Wing propaganda organization.

Medium now is refusing to link to tweets any longer. So go to Twitter.com and cut and paste this sentence below into the search bar, to find the tweet I am referring to here.

An Ohio school has been assigning kids PragerU videos for class. The site has videos like ‘the left ruins everything’ & ‘playing the black card’

Speaking of schools, Charles Koch, the 11th richest man in the world, has been taking over college campuses for years, to have them spread his Right Wing free market trickle down economics philosophy.

A lot of Right Wing propaganda also makes it into mainstream media like New York Times and Washington Post. One way this happens is that mainstream media often use what is trending on social media to determine what news they should cover. Facebook and some of the other social media sites are dominated by the Right Wing, so what is trending on them often consists of pro-Trump or Right Wing biased viewpoints and lies.

Media are eager to find Right Wing pundits and viewpoints. Mainstream media have a habit of “covering both sides” — believing that this means they are being fair and objective. So, to cover the Right Wing side, mainstream media hire, invite on TV and publish the writings of Right Wing liars and propagandists. It’s easy to find such people. People willing to spread Right Wing lies are elevated and made famous by both Right Wing media, and by social media — which gives into pressure from the Right Wing to spread disinformation. By contrast, truth tellers are mostly on their own, when trying to draw attention to their work.

How Mainstream Media Destroy Truth and Democracy through Both Sides Reporting

Those are just a few of the many different areas which many people are unaware of, in which the already massive Right Wing propaganda network is expanding and spreading its tentacles. This is why I have written that liberals need to create a well funded extensive infrastructure like the Right Wing has. Otherwise the Right Wing will eventually immerse us all in its disinformation and almost everyone will believe it.

Here below, I wrote about the need for liberal philanthropists to fund liberal infrastructure. Once large donors have started this kind of structure, there will be room for smaller donors to donate also.

Open Letter to Liberal Donors: Please Consider Donating to Create Missing Liberal Institutions

Although there is a place for debunking Right Wing media lies, a lot of bright journalists’ minds are being wasted on disinformation reporting beats. We’re not going to counteract Right Wing disinformation just by debunking it to the choir — to liberal readers. The people believing the Right Wing disinformation don’t read Vox.com or MediaMatters.org or CNN’s Daniel Dale’s Twitter thread. The people who read these sources already know Trump and Right Wing media constantly lie, so those journalists efforts change nothing about our political information environment.

Liberals can’t just passively react to Right Wing propaganda in communication with one another. Liberals need to actively broadcast liberal messages and vision in ways that appeal to a wide variety of audiences.

The problem isn’t that no liberal organizations actively pursue liberal goals. Many of them do, within the limits of the shoestring budgets they usually have. It’s just that organizations aren’t connected to one another and coordinated into a massive infrastructure to carry out all the necessary functions for liberals. Conservatives have had such a structure for decades. Because Democrats don’t have that, people at the highest levels of liberal power e.g. Democrats in Congress, are not well supported and are often overwhelmed.

For example, there is no Democratic equivalent to the Federalist Society which picks conservative judges. It’s well past time for Democrats to finally wake up about this, now that it looks like we’re going to have a conservative majority SCOTUS that, if it remains, could overturn Democratic legislation for decades and destroy voting rights and minority rights.

Another example of why more liberal infrastructure is needed, is that we can’t solve the problem of the massive Right Wing disinformation system, plus the disinfo added by foreign powers, solely by individual solutions — by telling individuals s to evaluate their info sources and to use critical thinking.

We need a system to solve this systemic problem. For example, the social media problem likely needs to be addressed through truth spreading “troll farms” that would counteract the lies in which social media is immersed. Such efforts would need to be organized, fully funded and aimed at as many different audiences as is the Right Wing propaganda it seeks to counteract. Organizations on shoestring budgets would be limited in what they could achieve.

There are only two organization I see doing anything remotely like what I am suggesting. One is https://realityteam.org/ They’re not targeting the audience that believes the disinformation already. , but for an audience that hasn’t been drawn in yet, that doesn’t pay much attention to news but is looking on social media for information.

Another organization is https://www.anotheracronym.org/ . They are on Twitter at @anotheracronym . There is also https://couriernewsroom.com/ which is @CourierNewsroom on Twitter.

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 an audience to whom the lies are targeted.

Apparently a group of fans of Korean pop music have also been carrying out a small amount of this sort of function. It doesn’t seem to have an organization or funding, or to go beyond dealing with Twitter hashtags related to QAnon and Black Lives Matter. But we have to start somewhere. Every little bit of spreading truth or fighting the spread of lies helps.

The article I linked to above, on liberal donors creating missing liberal institutions, is about forming the needed infrastructure. Such an infrastructure can coordinate efforts to achieve Democratic goals. It can do so on a large scale that will eventually match the vast scale of the Right Wing messaging empire that created the foundation for Donald Trump and his Right Wing enablers to get so much power and to carry out so much corruption.

Even though people were tired enough of Trump in 2020 to vote him out of office, the Right Wing disinformation empire won’t be pausing its well funded massive efforts toward electing Right Wing candidates. Democrats have to become strong enough that our efforts can win control of government, pass progressive legislation and keep it from being destroyed by SCOTUS. To achieve that, our infrastructure and our efforts will have to match and exceed the what Republicans have and do in those areas.

In addition, we do need to reach out to Trump voters and bridge the divide — though not in the ways that are usually being suggested.

The choices are clear. If Democrats and liberals don’t want to continue being divided and conquered, we have to unite and fight for human rights, justice, truth and the liberal vision of progress.

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