What do Sean Hannity and Christian indoctrination have in common?
Both are purveyors and embedders of “fake news.”
Hannity, the host of non-journalistic Fox News’ highest rated TV show, spreads the objectively unverifiable assumption that President Donald Trump is a hugely effective leader who cares about America more than his political image. Christian indoctrination spreads the objectively unverifiable assumption that an all-powerful supernatural being controls our lives.
That is what “fake news” is, unverified ideas people throw around without any solid basis in confirmable reality or commitment to practical verification protocols, as reputable news organizations (unlike Fox New) have.
Divider in Chief
In reality, President Trump has proven himself to be a hugely divisive U.S. leader who obsesses not over making America great again but enhancing his own tough-guy conceit and publicly attacking anyone who questions his greatness. Christian evangelists — including church leaders, clergy and Bible-schoolteachers — do not disseminate objective knowledge that empowers children but rather feed them supernatural fantasies without factual basis that weaken their minds for healthy skepticism.
Why does this matter? Because when people — young and old — do not receive the most objectively verifiable information, they cannot make rational, defensible decisions about anything related to that information.
In short, people who not only watch Hannity (and other right-wing-bias purveyors) on Fox News but believe what he says will likely mark their election ballots with the confidence that a vote for a clearly racist, misogynist, amoralist is somehow best for the country. People who not only are told but believe that an invisible being in the sky is personally and purposefully controlling their lives, cannot be relied upon to view anything rationally.
An unhealthy alliance
Unfortunately, there is now an unhealthy convergence between America’s two most influential “fake news” purveyors — Fox News and evangelical Christianity. Both collaborated to elect the current president, and continue to unethically and immorally collaborate to help him maintain power even as he reels under an avalanche of mounting ethical and legal scandals and credible accusations.
It’s important to note that the Mueller Report did not exonerate anything but legal conspiracy of Trump and his acolytes with Russian agents before, during and after the 2016 election, although several hundred such contacts were reportedly made. So-called “collusion,” which is not a legal term but one bandied about by the president, was not considered in the probe of special counsel Robert Mueller. But Mueller nonetheless found unprecedented collusive contacts between Trump operatives and Russians that were starkly alarming to national security experts.
That is why the FBI launched a counter-intelligence investigation of Russian contacts surrounding Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. (View in video below how Fox News presents such hard information as “fake news”)
Defier in Chief
Today, the Trump administration continues to defy the long-established norms of American democratic government, rule of law, and the basic decency the nation’s citizens have honored for centuries.
Yet, as the president refuses legal subpoenas from the U.S. House of Representatives to release his tax returns and a full, unredacted version of the Mueller report into Russian interference in the 2016 vote, Fox News and the evangelical Christian Right not only refuse to condemn him but aggressively support his manifest assaults on legal precedent.
In particular, evangelical Christians, who supported Trump in vast numbers in 2016, continue to act as though they are unaware of his serial betrayals of his wives (remember “sin”?), compulsive public mendacity (lying), subornation of perjury (secretly inducing underlings to lie in court cases against him), personally enriching himself with emoluments (profiting from his office) and other personal and official wrongdoing.
A crisis of democracy
It is a crisis of American democracy, if not formally a constitutional one.
The reason it is occurring in real time is that people are relentlessly misinformed by “fake news” pundits, who are not mainstream outlets, as right-wing media outlets loudly but speciously insist. The latter outlets are the ones doing real journalism, which, whether you like the real news or not, follows established protocols to help ensure accuracy.
Hannity — who notes defensively that he’s not a real journalist but a “talk-show host” — is, thus, part of the self-unregulated “fake news” biosystem, even though it insists (falsely) that it follows journalistic standards. If it did, another Fox talking-head “host”, Tucker Carlson, wouldn’t be allowed to spout racist nonsense on-air, nor Hannity his laughable, poorly documented conspiracy theories.
An excellent article in a recent edition of Skeptic magazine (“How Science Will Explain and Fix Fake News”) explains what real news gathering and reporting is all about. As a working mainstream journalist over four decades during my career, I can confirm that the information in this piece is accurate, fairly presented and balanced.
It echoes my sentiments exactly regarding the importance of objective information. David Cowan, the Skeptic writer, notes in his article:
“Fake news threatens the institution of democracy itself, because an uninformed [and misinformed] public cannot make sound governance decisions.”
He points out, properly, that for information to be real and not “fake” propaganda, it must be vetted with evidence-based, not bias-based, sources. In brief, this is applying factual, scientific method to information reporting. This is not what Fox News or evangelical religious pontificators do.
Keep in mind that, as Cowan emphasizes, “It is critical to distinguish fake news from news that is simply wrong.” Even trustworthy journalists make mistakes, which standards require them to correct quickly.
Chaff and grain
But many Americans, particularly on the political right, but also on the left, seem to have lost their ability to distinguish between what they simply want to be true from what is actually true. In fact, truth can be separated from fantasy by using rational tools.
Cowans believes all high school students, to be good citizens, need to develop journalistic skills of critical thinking to fairly separate the grain from the inevitable chaff (i.e., Fox News) in public discourse.
Unfortunately, what most American students learn, starting even before kindergarden, is not critical thinking but fantasies of an invisible Christian being who will love them forever unconditionally.
No wonder Fox New is — by far, sadly — the most watched “news” channel on cable TV.
Heaven help us if it metastasizes.
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