There was a time not so long ago where living in America was a vastly different proposition from living in authoritarian strong arm regimes world wide, because of one essential difference: truth. We prided ourselves on a free press that reported fact. People, being people, had different opinions as to what those facts might mean or where cultural trends might lead and that line of thought was encouraged as well. Democracy was seen as a climate where both truth and robust debate on the facts could exist and was in fact a healthy thing.
But those days are gone. Under the auspices of free speech, we now live in a scenario which is not unlike that of communist regimes, namely that right-wing media is running a different version of basic facts from the rest of the world — not just other American media outlets, but the rest of the world. On any given day, the Toronto Star or the Guardian will publish a version of a story which markedly differs from Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax.
The late and now lionized, Rush Limbaugh, took advantage of a loophole in the law after the Fairness Doctrine was taken off the books and began his hate mongering radio show, which spawned an entire empire and sub-culture of right-wing media copycats. Then tabloid owner Rupert Murdoch went into business with media consultant Roger Ailes, a man with a dark vision, to say the least, and created their powerful disinformation organ, disingenuously named Fox “News.” That reached its apogee in the years of Donald Trump, and also spawned competitors and copycats.
So the news sphere we live in today resembles the Tower of Babel, with right-wing outlets producing content that rivals the pink kimonoed lady on North Korean TV, while the rest of the media reports facts and is vilified for their alleged bias in doing so. Fact and opinion have become jumbled together and the low information, no information people are all in a tizzy and armed for combat. It’s a madhouse and that’s what it’s like in communist countries, according to journalist Tomas Klvana, who lived there. He said, upon coming to this country, “I remember how much I wished Czech and American media and politics were alike. And now they are. A significant portion of U.S. politics and media slid down the sewage to be as bad as ours were back then.” The Bulwark:
The sorry state of American politics is not due solely to Republicans, but they are by far the more responsible party. It is frankly astonishing how closely today’s GOP resembles in mentality the Communist party of my youth, right down to Donald Trump’s brownnosing to Moscow. It is incredible to see Fox News, let alone Newsmax and OANN, use the same methods as Czechoslovak TV and Rudé právo (Red Right), the official Communist paper, in the 1980s. […]
Lying about democracy, a mainstay of the old Communist press, has also become standard for American media outlets aligned with Trump’s GOP—as witness the months of lies about the “stolen election,” for which there is no evidence. At least in the United States, some of those outlets have had to issue retractions and disclaimers.
And then there are the verbal pirouettes of whataboutism. They formed the bedrock of Commie propaganda. Whenever the Communists were forced to acknowledge errors and imperfections in running the economy (which they eventually ran into the ground), they ramped up their propaganda about racism and homelessness in the United States to create the mirage of moral equivalence. Does that sound at all familiar?
The lies of moral equivalence and both siderism rage on, unchecked. It’s an Us v. Them, knock down, drag out, siege mentality fight. And that’s how the right-wing media wants it. That’s where they thrive, is by magnifying differences, or creating differences that don’t exist.
There was also lots of wishful thinking and willful misperception of the world outside the conservative ramparts. Bill Clinton, as crystal-clear a centrist as there ever was, was often portrayed as a socialist. The same, and even worse, happened to Barack Obama, a mild-mannered center-left liberal. The man who is nothing but tolerant was depicted as Saul Alinsky II spiced with Jeremiah Wright. There can be nothing more distant from a real conservative sentiment than guilt by association, yet there we were. But what the heck—why not? The libs were evil, right?
A curious thing happened. At the same time that the rise of the internet, smartphones, and social media weakened elites through the 1990s and the early 2000s, conservative media grew in importance and influence. Yet the siege mentality did not abate. Indeed, on less intellectual right-wing platforms it became par for the course. Government was no longer just a problem but an enemy. Democrats and their allies in Hollywood, the universities, and the news media were not just wrong but bent on destroying America.
Since the GOP and conservative media let the unhealthy inclinations on their extremes grow unchecked, they became especially vulnerable to the mass overthrow of sanity, responsibility, and conscience we are witnessing today. The extremes moved to the center, took over and became hugely profitable, both economically and politically.
And of course profit and power are the names of the game. That’s another thing that occurred in the ascension of Trump, was the laser focus on exactly how much money can be generated when dismay, panic, and the fear of the immediate dissolution of society and life as we know it, are at stake. That was how he conned the rubes out of $30 Million between the election and January 6, to defend a proposition that was not only a losing one, that of keeping him in power, but one that was totally lost.
But be that as it may, do not underestimate the power of the Big Lie, because the erosion in the faith in our elections is a terrible, terrible thing. It’s also the one thing that takes us closer to being like a communist country, more so than anything else that has happened in recent years.