Noise vs. News

The media are failing us, making it more important than ever for Americans to work together to defeat fascism

Noise vs. News

Democracy’s bleeding to death and the planet’s on fire. But hey, wasn’t it funny when Marjorie Taylor Greene said “Gazpacho” instead of “Gestapo”? CNN covered it at least THREE different ways!

If you’re like most Americans, you’ve probably heard more about MTG’s brain farts than you have about the work of her fellow GOP representatives Don Bacon, Gus Bilirakis or Brian Fitzpatrick, the three Republicans in Congress ranked by the Common Ground Committee as the “most likely to seek common ground on important issues and solve problems.”

MTG is best known for being a racist, anti-Semitic, QAnon-believing, insurrection-promoting conspiracy theorist who gets her kicks out of encouraging the assassinations of political rivals and bullying young survivors of school shootings. She rails against “groomers” and “pedophiles” while hanging out with unrepentant child-abusing perverts Matt Gaetz and Donald Trump. Like the other thugs in the GOP’s Putin Caucus, her only role in Congress is to set off the metal detectors while trying to make America fail at every level. If there were any chance of unseating her at the ballot box, she might be worthy of some media attention. But—spoiler alert—there isn’t. She won her last election by 32 points.

The shittier she acts, the more the news media love her

According to new research by Starts With Us, in partnership with the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University, loud, dumb Marjorie Taylor Greene—safe in her Dark-MAGA-red Georgia district—got TEN TIMES the press coverage in the ten top national news and media sites in the month before and after the 2022 midterms than Don Bacon, who was locked in a tight re-election battle in Nebraska. MTG got TWENTY-EIGHT times more coverage than Republican Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania. And if you’ve never even heard of GOP Rep. Gus Bilirakis it’s because he wasn’t even mentioned at all.

All in all, the major media cover the most “hyper-partisan” politicians more than four times as much as they do the most “bipartisan problem solvers.”

Coverage in top 10 news sites 10/8-12/8, 2022 (one month before/after midterms)

According to Starts With Us, 87% of Americans are “frustrated with extreme political and cultural divisions.”

But at corporate and/or partisan media companies, coverage of people working on solutions doesn’t drive enough clicks to max out the executives’ bonuses. So they’re sticking with the tried-and-true: acting as stenographers for America’s most hateful and most rage-inducing idiots.

Murdoch, Musk and MSNBC all reward bad behavior

Of course, Fox News and the ever-mutating brain-eating Cordyceps of right-wing hate media are to blame for putting America on course toward its ultimate, democracy-ending fascistic finale.

That effort is now being supercharged by Saudi-backed supervillain Elon Musk, who is using Twitter to spread misogyny along with misinformation.

But MSNBC and other top news and media brands—including The New York Times, CNN and People—are all playing along too, giving political performance artists the attention they crave, while mostly ignoring the quieter work of bipartisan politicians trying to save us from our worst selves.

Says Tom Fishman, CEO of Starts With Us:

The sheer scale of the coverage imbalance is shocking. We understand that media is a business, and partisan voices warrant a place in the coverage. But when the crucial work of bipartisan problem solving gets this dramatically overlooked, citizens despair and disengage. We’re rallying our community to let the media know there’s a hunger for the full picture, and we’re committed to amplifying those stories.

As the late Eric Boehlert once said, “we can’t fix America if we don’t fix the press.” Nearly a year after his tragic death, Boehlert’s commentary is missed more than ever. Because the problems he documented are only getting worse.

The power of a “Fox Detox”

As viewers of Jen Senko’s 2016 documentary “The Brainwashing of My Dad” may recall, the film ultimately “provides light and hope—it tells the story of how my mom saved my dad from the clutches of right-wing media and in his last years was once again himself.”

By simply stopping her husband consuming right-wing media, Jen’s mom turned Jen’s dad back into a normal person.

Last year a study by Yale University reinforced the power of a Fox detox. After one month:

The people who switched to CNN became more negative in their appraisals of Trump, including his management of the pandemic, his intelligence, and his honesty, according to the study. Switching to CNN also made people more aware of bias in Fox News’ coverage. For example, the switchers were less likely to agree that “If Donald Trump did something bad, Fox News would discuss it.”

As the Dominion lawsuit has proven, Fox News can’t be trusted to do the right thing any more than Donald Trump can. And getting people to abandon their Fox News addiction for a more fact-based alternative is near impossible. The only way Yale’s researchers were able to complete their research was by paying their study participants not to watch Fox.

As Kevin Drum wrote for Mother Jones in 2021:

Fox News stokes a constant sense of outrage among its base of viewers, largely by highlighting narratives of white resentment and threats to Christianity. This in turn forces Republican politicians to follow suit. It’s a positive feedback loop that has no obvious braking system, and it’s already radicalized the conservative base so much that most Republicans literally believe that elections are being stolen and democracy is all but dead if they don’t take extreme action.

Starts With Us is one of those initiatives that hopes to make America see sense before it’s too late. But so far their “movement” is only 1.4 million strong (including a Facebook page with 1,000,000 likes.) They have a host of seemingly reasonable people listed on their website as “partners,” including Chef José Andrés of World Central Kitchen fame, Lonnie Ali, founder of Muhammad Ali Enterprises, NFL star Kelvin Beachum, and actor and author Alan Alda. But it’s hard to imagine their current “ask”—that top websites and shows feature a few bipartisan problem solvers—will do much to stop the steamroller of fascism’s inexorable progress.

Newsflash: Defeating fascism does start with us

Unless we stop that steamroller we’ll all eventually get crushed. That means actively rejecting the Christo-Fascists’ plan to rewrite history, control women, erase LBGTQ identities, ban books and promote hatred against minorities, refugees and immigrants. That means speaking up, standing up, and connecting with others, even in places where you might otherwise feel like a blue dot in a red sea.

The forces of Christo-Fascism want you to think that the loudness of their extremist media “stars” combined with the belligerence of their brainwashed “base” makes them stronger than they really are. But they remain a weak minority. Through their antics on the news and social media they’re hoping that sensible majority will despair, disengage—and stop showing up.

But that hasn’t happened yet.

As I’ve said here before: From cities to suburbs, schools to libraries, churches to C-suites, we must continue to reject fascism—forcefully—everywhere it raises its head.

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