Roger Ailes designed Fox news to be a propaganda machine for the right-wing of the Republican Party. He clearly stated that his goal was to make Fox News the most widely watched news station in the country. He also made it clear Fox was not concerned about presenting facts. Their main focus was to tell their audience what they wanted to hear. The Fox News consumer is basically white and conservative, and Ailes and Fox owner Rupert Murdoch made sure they delivered the scripts the audience tuned in to hear.
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have grown and have adopted the Ailes philosophy that pleasing audiences and making money are the only goals of Fox. Ethics and truth are compromised as long as the business is profitable. This business model delivers lies, partial sound bites, conspiracy theories, and one-sided narratives to stoke hatred, tribalism, and mistrust between the parties.
These social media sites claim to have enforceable rules and standards. However, exceptions are made about publishing disinformation because the platforms want to retain customers. People with extreme ideology feel empowered to lie online because lying has become a normalized practice. Social media platforms justify allowing the publishing of false information, citing freedom of speech as their reason. The fake news is so offensive that opposing sides have become hateful and aggressive towards each other. Democrat-leaning social media talks negatively about Trump, but the reporting is based on facts about his behavior they oppose. Conservative platforms and news media resort to name-calling and spreading conspiracy theories without presenting facts to support their assertions. For example, it was reported that Adam Schiff is a liar because he met with the whistleblower and did not disclose it. Adam Schiff says he never met with and does know who the whistleblower is, but Fox and conservative social media continue to report this claim without any proof of it being valid.
Trump has used the pattern of constant lying on Fox and Twitter as a desensitization strategy so he can continue to lie and get away with it. Conservative news outlets use lies, spin, and conspiracy theories to incite fear and mistrust in its viewers towards Democrats. Democratic outlets are labeled exclusively liberal when in truth, many Democrats hold moderate positions on issues.
Liberal-leaning media outlets are also biased towards their ideology. However, the biases are not enhanced by lies and inflammatory talking points. Opinion journalism has a place in the political domain. However, opinions do not have to distort facts and be dishonest. For example, it’s news for a journalist to report a congressman voted for a bill to restrict the sale weapons of war. However, to announce that vote is proof the congressman wants to get rid of the 2nd Amendment is a lie. These lies aim to create a false narrative about an opponent to damage their credibility. Getting consumers to believe negative assertions made by opinion journalists is the goal of propaganda journalism. Trump’s normalization of lying and conspiracy theories has lessened the trust our allies have towards America. His lying has emboldened our enemies to view America as a democracy weakening.
Legislators are beginning to discuss ways in which disinformation can be exposed, punished, and eliminated from social media. Hopefully, bills will be introduced in Congress that will help achieve the goal of returning honesty and civility to diverse political discourse. We need Congress to act because Trump’s weak ego requires that he lies to manipulate the perception of himself as a strong, moral, and qualified to be president. That is the biggest lie of all.