Tag Archives: Breitbart

Covid And Right-Wing Media

The damage done by America’s loss of truly mass media–and especially the loss of trusted local newspapers–isn’t confined to government and civil society. Health officials are now reporting that people who get their “information” from rightwing media sources like Sinclair and Fox are putting themselves at far greater risk from Covid-19.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is less well-known than Fox, but it operates almost 200 television stations. It has consistently downplayed the severity of the pandemic, and recently published an interview with a conspiracy theorist claiming that Dr. Fauci “created the coronavirus using cells.” 

Meanwhile, Fox News pundits continue to question the seriousness of the virus, and to promote untested “cures” touted by Trump and other non-experts.

It isn’t just Sinclair and Fox. Earlier this week, Trump and Don Junior both retweeted a video they evidently got from Breitbart, in which a group of “doctors” said that masks were unnecessary and that Trump’s favorite drug– hydroxychloroquine–cured the virus. (Real medical experts say hydroxychloroquine is useless against Covid and masks are essential.)

One of the “doctors” quoted by Trump is Stella Immanuel, the spiritual leader of Fire Power Ministries, which the Washington Post calls “a pronouncedly non-orthodox church.”

Endometriosis and other potentially dangerous gynecological conditions are the residue of sexual intercourse with demons, Immanuel teaches. These demons, known as “spirit husbands” and “spirit wives” (you might prefer their pet names: Incubus and Succubus) once walked the Earth in physical form. After they drowned in Noah’s flood, however, they carried on only in non-corporeal form. They visit humans in sexy dreams, which aren’t dreams after all but spirit spouses making a booty call.

According to Immanuel, the demons are responsible for a wide variety of problems, including male impotence, most financial troubles and marital discord.

So who are you going to believe? That downer Fauci, or “Doctor” Immanuel?

There are obviously a number of reasons why the U.S. has fallen so far behind other rich countries in containing the virus. The number one reason, of course, is Donald Trump, and the lack of anything approaching a thoughtful, co-ordinated national response managed by medical professionals who actually know what they are doing. Another is the significant minority of our population who justify selfish (and self-destructive) behavior by braying about “freedom.”

But a not-insignificant cause of our failure to contain the virus is the prevalence of right-wing media sources unconstrained by journalistic ethics or professionalism. Fox and Sinclair are the most pervasive, but millions of Americans also read–and believe–sources like Infowars and Breitbart. 

Crazy people have always been with us, but the Internet and social media have dramatically amplified their reach. Radical news media–left and right–have always been around, but they have rarely exerted the influence of Fox and Sinclair.

As Max Strasser put it in the introduction to a recent New York Times newsletter (no URL), 

Canada, Japan and much of Europe have no equivalent to Sinclair — whose local newscasts reach about 40 percent of Americans — or Fox News. Germany and France have widely read blogs that promote conspiracy theories. “But none of them have the reach and the funding of Fox or Sinclair,” Monika Pronczuk, a Times reporter based in Europe, told me.

Fox is particularly important, because it has also influenced President Trump’s response to the virus, which has been slower and less consistent than that of many other world leaders. “Trump repeatedly failed to act to tame the spread, even though that would have helped him politically,” The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent has written. 

What we are experiencing is a perfect storm: a mentally-ill President receptive to conspiracies peddled by cynical–and profitable– propaganda mills, with few if any local newspapers remaining that could provide non-political, trustworthy information alerting citizens to the dangers of misinformation–or explain that the President is quoting a “doctor” who believes that alien DNA is used in many therapeutic drugs and that government scientists are developing a vaccine to prevent religious faith.

Blood Libel Redux

The term “blood libel” was coined to describe a centuries-old false allegation that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood in the baking of Passover matzo (unleavened bread). Blood libels were invented and used to inflame hatred of Jews, and often led to mob violence and pogroms, many of which decimated entire Jewish communities.

Blood libels are a tactic beloved by–but not limited to–anti-Semites. If you want to arouse public passions against any group you detest, such libels–updated for use in a (slightly) more  advanced age– remain useful mechanisms. (Think of all those accusations about black men “deflowering” Southern white women.)

It’s just so easy in the age of the Internet. Find an accusation you like, or a “fact” you can use to support the argument you want to make, and just cut, paste and forward.

And as Ed Brayton documents, elected officials aren’t above employing these tactics.

Kris Kobach, a first-class bigot and liar who chairs Trump’s voter fraud commission, also writes a column for Breitbart.com. Well, he kinda writes it. What he actually does, as Media Matters documents, is cut and paste from chain emails and racists to justify lying about immigrants and crime.
Brayton quotes from Kobach’s recent column, in which he claims that 75 percent of the people on most wanted lists in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Albuquerque are illegal aliens, and that 53 percent of burglaries investigated in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are committed by illegal aliens.
Kobach cites two sources for these claims: one is the INS/FBI Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants.” and the other is from a piece by “Peter B. Gemma” for the ConstitutionParty.com. The INS ceased to exist in 2003, after the Department of Homeland Security was created, and Gemma is known as a racist who has worked for the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens and has been a “part of the American Holocaust denial movement.”
Other manifestations of this sort of targeted dishonesty are less blatant, but they still serve bigotries aimed at disfavored groups. The Gainesville Times recently referred to one of them as “zombies that won’t die.”

A staple of horror movies popular around Halloween is the ubiquitous “monster that won’t die.” Be they zombies, Dracula, Freddy Krueger, killers in hockey masks or Godzilla, the demons of our imagination never succumb to mortal fate, as least as long as another sequel is in the offing.

Sometimes, bad ideas by politicians stalk the innocent wearing the same ghoulish pallor of the undead, springing back to life whenever we think the coast is clear. One such Walking Dead issue is a religious liberty proposal that some think we can’t live with and others believe we can’t live without, and waits in the bushes for another victim.

The Georgia legislature passed such a law in 2016, stating no individual or business would be forced to cater to the needs of others if doing so clashed with their religious beliefs. Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it, much to the chagrin of social conservatives, over fears it would make the state appear unwelcoming to other views and lifestyles, which could deter companies from locating operations and jobs here.

The editorial went on to point out that–contrary to the “zombie” arguments–Americans remain remarkably free to practice their preferred religions, no matter how incensed some may get over “Happy Holidays” greetings and the existence of laws protecting the rights of other people to their beliefs.

LGBTQ citizens aren’t attacking Christianity. (Actually, as my friends in the clergy have pointed out, pseudo “Christians” are doing a great job of that themselves…) Black men aren’t deflowering white women (okay, so maybe Bill Cosby–but so are Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump.) Jews aren’t using the blood of Christian children to make matzo. (If you’ve ever eaten matzo, you’d know it couldn’t contain  liquid of any kind or it wouldn’t be so constipating…)

A central premise of the American legal system is that we treat citizens as individuals, not as members of a group. People who embrace blood libels aren’t just bigots, and they aren’t just ludicrously wrong. They’re unAmerican.

And that most definitely includes Kris Kobach.