Fox News owes its viewers an apology
John Douglas Wright of Plain Township will serve 49 months in a federal prison as a result of his participation in the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, ginned up by a false narrative that the 2020 election was rigged with help from Dominion Voting Systems.
Though Wright initially claimed he only smoked a cigarette inside the Capitol, he was captured on video breeching barriers to the building which was closed that day to public tours because of the pandemic and for the certification of the election results.
To reiterate, the building was closed to the public, meaning that the tourists, as they've been called, should not have been in it.
At the time, Wright described Jan. 6 as "a practice run," but at his recent sentencing he apologized to the judge presiding over his case.
It would be surprising, a shock, really, if Wright wasn't an ardent consumer of Fox News, which relentlessly promoted the rally in the days leading up to Jan. 6.
Evidence emerging from Dominion's $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox has exposed the network's cynical manipulation of its viewers, who trust it to report the facts.
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This is more than P.T. Barnum hustling folks out of money to see a two-headed goat. Gaslighting and disseminating falsehoods under the mantle of a legitimate news outlet poses a clear and present danger to democracy itself.
Fox has monetized outrage for years because it works. Following the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, the network's embrace of affirmation rather than information has been a golden goose.
Dominion's lawsuit is laying bare that lying for ratings and priming the pump of resentment is a feature, not a bug. As someone put it: "Fox is made up of rich people trying to convince poor people that other poor people are the problem."
The lawsuit includes a sworn deposition in which Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch confirmed he personally rejected conspiracy theories about Dominion rigging the election, even as his network ran them. But many Fox viewers haven't heard about it because until last week, the network reportedly refused to let its correspondents report on the story.
That's because they're afraid of the very audience they've created.
The ratings juggernaut created by Ohio native Roger Ailes touted American values, even as he sexually harassed female employees. He also pushed false narratives about Barack Obama, from "terrorist fist-bump" stories to his citizenship, knowing it all was false, but also knowing it would appeal to some viewers' primordial fear of a Black president.
The problem with propaganda is at some point, it always goes too far. Fox host Tucker Carlson's recent broadcast of a few selected videos to disprove that we didn't see what we saw on Jan. 6 was an eye-rolling stunt on the level of a magician sawing a woman in half.
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It's the latest version of the old Groucho Marx joke, "Are you gonna believe me, or your own eyes?"
Reasonable people, regardless of their politics, see it for what it is. It's not some patriotic push for transparency, it's about keeping viewers glued to the tube by keeping fed the lie that nothing much happened on Jan. 6 and that even if something did, the Democrats did it.
The Dominion case evidence also includes host Sean Hannity demanding that a Fox News reporter who fact-checked him be fired, and a text by Carlson on Jan. 4, 2020, in which he disparages Trump:
“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait. I hate him passionately. I blew up at Peter Navarro today in frustration. I actually like Peter. But I can’t handle much more of this.”
There's no blaming that on Hunter Biden's laptop.
The fear of a Fox-fan backlash is so great, some Republicans are now pointing to the selected videos and disavowing their own previous statements condemning the insurrectionists.
But viewers deserve better than to be patronized by people too craven to stand behind their own words.
Americans who thought they were defending their country on Jan. 6, 2021, are landing in prison in part because of the deep and systematic damage done by a media outlet which doesn't respect its own audience enough to tell them the truth.
Charita M. Goshay is a Canton Repository staff writer and member of the editorial board. Reach her at 330-580-8313 or email@example.com. On Twitter: @cgoshayREP
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Charita Goshay: Fox News owes its viewers an apology