Not only does mainstream media now tolerate gross misrepresentations of fact and history by public figures (highlighted most recently by Sarah Palin's ludicrous depiction of Paul Revere's ride), but many media actually legitimize these displays. Pause for a moment and ask yourself what it means that the world's largest, most profitable and most popular news channel passes off as fact every whim, impulse and outrageously incompetent analysis of its so-called reporters. How did we get here? Take the enormous amount of misinformation that is taken for truth by Fox audiences: the belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that he was in on 9/11, the belief that climate change isn't real and/or man-made, the belief that Barack Obama is Muslim and wasn't born in the United States, the insistence that all Arabs are Muslim and all Muslims are terrorists, the inexplicable perceptions that immigrants are both too lazy to work and are about to steal your job. All of these claims are demonstrably false, yet Fox News viewers will maintain their veracity with incredible zeal. Why? Is it simply that we have lost our respect for knowledge?
The good news is that the more conscious you are of these techniques, the less likely they are to work on you. The bad news is that those reading this article are probably the least in need in of it.
1. Panic Mongering. This goes one step beyond simple fear mongering. With panic mongering, there is never a break from the fear. The idea is to terrify and terrorize the audience during every waking moment. (Always be afraid, terrified people never think clearly.)
2. Character Assassination/Ad Hominem. Fox does not like to waste time debating the idea. Instead, they prefer a quicker route to dispensing with their opponents: go after the person's credibility, motives, intelligence, character, or, if necessary, sanity. No category of character assassination is off the table and no offense is beneath them. (I was personally subjected to this back in 2009, after my Splitsville story, when Bill O'Reilly essentially called me a pervert and child molester on the air.)
3. Projection/Flipping. This one is frustrating for the viewer who is trying to actually follow the argument. It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you're using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first. (Now WHO is famous for this tactic?)
4. Rewriting History. This is another way of saying that propagandists make the facts fit their worldview. The Downing Street Memos on the Iraq war were a classic example of this on a massive scale, but it happens daily and over smaller issues as well. A recent case in point is Palin's mangling of the Paul Revere ride, which Fox reporters have bent over backward to validate. (This also includes the tactic of convincing Americans that this is a "Christian nation" as if every other belief, or lack thereof, invalidates that individual as citizen of this country.)
5. Scapegoating/Othering. This works best when people feel insecure or scared. It's technically a form of both fear mongering and diversion, but it is so pervasive that it deserves its own category.
6. Conflating Violence With Power and Opposition to Violence With Weakness. This is more of what I'd call a "meta-frame" (a deeply held belief) than a media technique, but it is manifested in the ways news is reported constantly. (A favorite tactic of the NRA and its supporters. If you ever notice Fox reports more incidences of home invasions, or violent attacks, than any other news outlet. And it is also no coincidence that many of their advertisers offer identity theft protection, alarm systems, and investment opportunities in gold, for when the economy collapses of course.)
7. Bullying. This is a favorite technique of several Fox commentators. That it continues to be employed demonstrates that it seems to have some efficacy. Bullying and yelling works best on people who come to the conversation with a lack of confidence, either in themselves or their grasp of the subject being discussed. (Bill O'Reilly has made this into an art form.)
8. Confusion. As with the preceding technique, this one works best on an audience that is less confident and self-possessed. The idea is to deliberately confuse the argument, but insist that the logic is airtight and imply that anyone who disagrees is either too dumb or too fanatical to follow along. (Easy to do when your audience is made up of older Americans not apt to run to Goggle in order to check your "facts.")
9. Populism. This is especially popular in election years. The speakers identifies themselves as one of "the people" and the target of their ire as an enemy of the people. The opponent is always "elitist" or a "bureaucrat" or a "government insider" or some other category that is not the people. (Smart people are unethical, government is corrupt, and ethnic groups are just trying to live off of the tax dollars of white people.)
10. Invoking the Christian God. This is similar to othering and populism. With morality politics, the idea is to declare yourself and your allies as patriots, Christians and "real Americans" (those are inseparable categories in this line of thinking) and anyone who challenges them as not. (Sort of self explanatory I believe.)
11. Saturation. There are three components to effective saturation: being repetitive, being ubiquitous and being consistent. The message must be repeated cover and over, it must be everywhere and it must be shared across commentators: e.g. "Saddam has WMD." Veracity and hard data have no relationship to the efficacy of saturation. (Have you ever noticed that when one segment of Fox News reports a story, ALL of the shows report that same story? Think about this ongoing "Fast and Furious" bullshit. It is literally reported 24 hours a day, on an endless loop, until THEIR version of the truth about it is embedded in the viewer's mind.)
12. Disparaging Education. There is an emerging and disturbing lack of reverence for education and intellectualism in many mainstream media discourses. In fact, in some circles (e.g. Fox), higher education is often disparaged as elitist. (In the world of Fox News the individual who is the most knowledgeable on a given topic, is the least believable on that very same topic.)
13. Guilt by Association. This is a favorite of Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart, both of whom have used it to decimate the careers and lives of many good people. (Andrew Breitbart did this by associating Joe McGinniss with me after the discovery of an e-mail between the two of us.)
14. Diversion. This is where, when on the ropes, the media commentator suddenly takes the debate in a weird but predictable direction to avoid accountability.
The article I used for this post is about a year old (That is why there are references to Palin's Paul Revere revisionism, Glenn Beck who longer works at Fox, and Andrew Breitbart who is now deceased.), however the tactics have not changed one little bit and in the run up to this next election you can bet they will be cranked up to an insane level in an attempt to defeat our President and allow Fox to place yet another of their puppets into the White House.
Even if you don't watch Fox News their propaganda will still affect you as it is picked up by CNN and other supposedly reputable news organizations. However being forewarned is being forearmed.