A Republican strategist is starting to notice some unsettling parallels between Fox News and Nazi propaganda.
William F.B. O'Reilly, a Newsday columnist and the nephew of conservative icon William F. Buckley, Jr., found a YouTube documentary that told the history of World War II from a pro-Nazi perspective -- and he recoiled at the positive responses many viewers shared.
“I don’t know what to believe anymore," one viewer wrote. "Public schooling is so Americanized."
O'Reilly said the online splintering of historical realities opened a disturbing new direction in political discourse that he believes has already been exploited by President Donald Trump and his allies at Fox News.
"They’re playing with fire," O'Reilly warned. "A square, Joseph Goebbels told the world, can be proved to be a circle if you say it enough times and understand your audience: 'They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.'"
He noted with alarm that nearly half of Americans believed that a 'Deep State' conspiracy of military, intelligence and government officials were secretly pushing their own agenda, and he worried about how readily it had been accepted.
"Think about that for a minute, even if you buy into it," O'Reilly wrote. "Consider how quickly that 'Deep State' narrative crystallized and took hold. In a period of months, legitimate concern about tenured bureaucrats in Washington was weaponized into a broad-stroke concept with the power to discredit almost anything or anyone, including the forthcoming results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe."
O'Reilly said "the internet had made that possible," and he worried whether shared reality was even possible anymore.
"If hard evidence emerges in 2018 that candidate Trump and his team conspired with Russian intelligence to help win the 2016 election — and it very well may not — America could have a real problem on its hands," he warned. "A significant percentage of us might genuinely not accept whatever evidence is presented. Certain cable news hosts are laying down a narrative in anticipation of that possibility, recklessly and unpatriotically tossing the word 'coup' around on live TV."
Fox News commentators such as Sean Hannity, Jesse Watters and Jeanine Pirro have accused Mueller and various government officials of attempting a "coup" against the president, and O'Reilly said their efforts to undermine objective facts presented a threat to democracy.
"The question for us as a nation isn’t whether we can survive the Mueller probe. We will," he wrote. "The question is whether our faith in one another as Americans can endure in the age of the internet. The months ahead may test the question."