Fox News, OANN and Newsmax need to be held to account for spreading The Big Lie about the 2020 election, and for the network's ongoing role in spreading outright lies as truth. For America to heal, there must be oversight of media that violate minimal standards of impartiality and accuracy.
January 22, 2021

Fox News, Newsmax and OANN need to be held to account for spreading The Big Lie about the 2020 election and for their ongoing role in spreading outright lies as truth. For America to heal, there must be media oversight that requires minimal standards of impartiality and accuracy. For our democracy to function, we must be able to agree or disagree on facts. On Jan. 6, 2020, the violent insurrection happened because we have millions of citizens who have been radicalized and truly believe the 2020 election was stolen.

The Fox News 24/7 spew of hateful misinformation continues to feed our country's division. The network was one of the chief enablers of The Big Lie that Joe Biden "stole" the 2020 election. Fox News amplified the outright lies spouted by former President Trump as "news" daily. Trump is gone, but his weapons that convinced millions of Americans that the election was stolen and the coronavirus was a hoax---are still in place. The state of Wyoming is talking about secession!

Tucker Carlson and other Fox News hosts reported this week that Democrats want to put Republicans in "reeducation camps," and the network continues to stoke outrage, even after the attack on our U.S. Capitol incited violence. Max Boot wrote an insightful column in The Washington Post, outlining why Trump couldn’t have incited sedition without the help of Fox News:

But while holding Trump to account is necessary, it is also insufficient. There is a whole infrastructure of incitement that will remain intact even after Trump leaves office. Just as we do with foreign terrorist groups, so with domestic terrorists: We need to shut down the influencers who radicalize people and set them on the path toward violence and sedition.

To its credit, Fox News acknowledged that Joe Biden won. But, reports Media Matters for America, “in the two weeks after Fox News called the election for Biden, Fox News cast doubt on the results of the election at least 774 times.” According to NPR, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs said Trump’s opponents in the government were guilty of “treason” and that it would be “criminal” for Republicans to recognize Biden’s victory. Fox News host Mark Levin told viewers: “If we don’t fight on Jan. 6 on the floor of the Senate and the House — and that is the joint meeting of Congress on these electors — then we are done.”

Fox News and other right-wing media need to be held to account, but that is just the first step in reaching the Americans who live in another reality.

Moving Forward

The outright lies and partisan propaganda must stop, or our democracy will not function. We can agree or disagree on topics, but there must be a shared set of FACTS. Molly Jong-Fast interview with Anne Applebaum on Thew New Abnormal podcast gave insight on how we can move forward after the U.S. Capitol attack.

Anne Applebaum is a writer for The Atlantic, a Senior Fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and author of the new book, Twilight of Democracy: the Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism

Applebaum offered historical examples where societies were able to come together after insurgencies and civil wars.

“We need to find some way to reach people who now live in this in an alternate reality,” she said. “In December, something like 35 percent of Americans said they had doubts about who won the election. More recently, something like 21 percent approve of the storming of the Capitol. So somewhere around those numbers, we have many people who don’t accept that the election was won by Joe Biden. Therefore, they don’t accept the rules of American democracy. Therefore, they think it’s OK to commit violence against the institutions and people who compose that democracy.”

In my opinion, Applebaum's recommendations on solving the American misinformation crisis are brilliant. She outlines in more detail the road forward after millions of Americans like in an alternate reality, in The Atlantic:

Drop the argument and change the subject. That’s the counterintuitive advice you will hear from people who have studied Northern Ireland before the 1998 peace deal, or Liberia, or South Africa, or Timor-Leste—countries where political opponents have seen each other as not just wrong, but evil; countries where people are genuinely frightened when the other side takes power; countries where not all arguments can be solved and not all differences can be bridged.

The United States government cannot govern, our democracy cannot function properly unless we solve our misinformation problem. Applebaum's Atlantic article gave me more hope than I've had in a long time about the misinformation crisis. She said that studies on peacebuilding and conflict prevention show that people working on constructive projects that benefit the community allow people to work alongside people they hate.

But first, we have to hold the propagandists to account. Because next time the insurrectionists might succeed.

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