Links and Comments: Speaking Fox; Ideology and Lies; Fear and Paranoia

It’s difficult to get away from the current crisis, and threat.

The Atlantic, Megan Garber: Do You Speak Fox?. Subtitle: How Donald Trump’s favorite news source became a language

Political theorists, over the years, have looked for metaphors to describe the effects that Fox—particularly its widely watched opinion shows—has had on American politics and culture. They’ve talked about the network as an “information silo” and “a filter bubble” and an “echo chamber,” as an “alternate reality” constructed of “alternative facts,” as a virus on the body politic, as an organ of the state. The comparisons are all correct. But they don’t quite capture what the elegies for Fox-felled loved ones express so efficiently. Fox, for many of its fans, is an identity shaped by an ever-expanding lexicon: mob, PC police, Russiagate, deep state, MSM, MS-13, socialist agenda, Dems, libs, Benghazi, hordes, hoax, dirty, violent, invasion, open borders, anarchy, liberty, Donald Trump. Fox has two pronouns, you and they, and one tone: indignation. (You are under attack; they are the attackers.) Its grammar is grievance. Its effect is totalizing. Over time, if you watch enough Fox & Friends or The Five or Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham, you will come to understand, as a matter of synaptic impulse, that immigrants are invading and the mob is coming and the news is lying and Trump alone can fix it.


Salon, Amanda Marcotte: How anti-choice propaganda trained Republicans to accept Trump’s coronavirus denialism. Subtitle: Trump’s new medical adviser peddles a familiar model of deceit: Wrap lies and right-wing ideology in a lab coat.

Donald Trump didn’t like what the experts were telling him about the coronavirus pandemic, so he found a guy with “Dr.” in front of his name who will tell the president the bedtime stories he wants to hear. Dr. Scott Atlas isn’t an expert in infectious disease or epidemiology, as are coronavirus task force advisers Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, whom he has pretty much usurped. Atlas is a radiologist and, more importantly, a senior fellow at the far-right bad-idea incubator known as the Hoover Institution (previously home to the infamous prediction that the U.S. death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic would be around 5,000).

According to the New York Times and the Washington Post, Atlas — who apparently caught Trump’s eye the way so many of his advisers do, by peddling BS on Fox News — is ready and willing to say all sorts of medically unsound things that just happen to align with everything Trump wants to believe about the coronavirus. So Atlas has risen rapidly as a power player and is reportedly even getting venerable institutions like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to echo his unscientific beliefs.


Drilling in to the key issue:

The Atlantic, Peter Wehner: Why Trump Supporters Can’t Admit Who He Really Is. Subtitle: Nothing bonds a group more tightly than a common enemy that is perceived as a mortal threat.

This is just the latest installment in a four-year record of shame, indecency, incompetence, and malfeasance. And yet, for tens of millions of Trump’s supporters, none of it matters. None of it even breaks through. At this point, it appears, Donald Trump really could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose his voters.

Still, in the minds of Trump’s supporters lingers the belief that a Biden presidency would usher in a reign of terror. Many of them simply have to believe that. Justifying their fealty to a man who is so obviously a moral wreck requires them to turn Joe Biden and the Democratic Party into an existential threat. The narrative is set; the actual identity of the nominee is almost incidental.

A powerful tribal identity bonds the president to his supporters. As Amy Chua, the author of Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, has argued, the tribal instinct is not just to belong, but also to exclude and to attack. “When groups feel threatened,” Chua writes, “they retreat into tribalism. They close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us-versus-them.”

That works both ways. Fear strengthens tribalistic instincts, and tribalistic instincts amplify fear. Nothing bonds a group more tightly than a common enemy that is perceived as a mortal threat. In the presence of such an enemy, members of tribal groups look outward rather than inward, at others and never at themselves or their own kind.

All about fear, or rather, paranoia.

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