Donald Trump wants to go after social media because Twitter pointed out one of his lies. And, in fact, social media has done a lot of damage to America and the American body politic, with the most visible example being its help in putting Donald Trump in the White House in 2016.
But even more concerning should be Fox News and right wing hate radio. A new study out of Columbia university finds that when people in any particular ZIP Code experience a 1% increase in Fox News viewership, it “reduces the propensity to stay at home by 8.9 percentage points compared to the pre-pandemic average.”
In other words, one of the reasons that so many people have died in America right now is because conservative media has been repeatedly and consistently promoting the idea that this virus is a Democratic hoax or a “bad flu.“
Right wing media has gone from being the fringe home of crackpots and paranoids to a major influence in American culture and politics.
At the same time, the billionaire owners of this media have successfully avoided any responsibility or liability for the political chaos, destruction, and even the deaths they have caused, while they are laughing all the way to the bank.
Before the coronavirus, you could argue that right wing media has been merely disruptive to democracy and the public good. Now, this new study from Columbia University shows, it is actually responsible for death.
In Rwanda, it was right wing talk radio that incited and lead that country’s genocidal slaughter of its own people. In the 1930s in Germany, right wing radio talk shows were used to identify Jews and trade unionists so that angry mobs could attack them.
Today in the United States people who are heavy consumers of right wing media have threatened elected officials with guns, spat viruses on workers in stores who were simply trying to protect the public, and gone out of their way to provoke police to kill people of color.
A court in Seattle this week threw out an attempt to hold Fox News responsible for some of the deaths in Washington state that resulted from their commentator’s irresponsible statements.
Since Trump and McConnell have packed about a quarter of our federal courts with unqualified, right wing judges it’s unlikely the courts will offer any help to our country with this crisis.
The challenge America confronts today is how to reverse the damage that three decades of right wing media have done to our country and our people.