Celebrate the Facts!
Corporate media plays an integral role in radicalization. The recent divide in American political culture is fundamental and has placed democratic processes in jeopardy as the American experiment faces its biggest test since 1860. Infotainment programs in primetime television, accurately named Hate, Inc., pose as news programs but are propaganda for various political tribes, reinforce but do not challenge the viewer, and play an integral role in this process. Corporate media makes money creating conflict, but they also make money covering its results.
Radicalization, the process of making somebody more extreme or radical in their opinions on political or social issues, became a central issue after the January 6 insurrection, as a mob of angry, costumed, and armed citizens stormed the United States Capitol building. Before that, there was little concern about radicalization evidenced by anti-government militia movements, domestic terror events such as the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing, American citizens joining ISIS, and the Boston Marathon bombing.
Research suggests various environmental factors destabilize individuals causing them to become more susceptible to extremist ideology, and media and members of their community reinforce such erroneous beliefs. Some experts have proposed that radicalization may proceed through a social contagion process, in which extremist ideologies behave like complex contagions that require multiple exposures for adoption.
The number of terrorist attacks per year in the United States in the post 9/11 era has increased from 33 in 2002 to 65 in 2017. In the United States, terrorists belong to one of the six ideologies:
The far-right movement, which includes white supremacists and neo-Nazis, is the oldest and most lethal domestic extremism in the United States. Despite slightly different ideologies, members of the far-right often advocate for violence to bring about a United States dominated by white people. In the last ten years, the far-right movement was responsible for about 73% of all extremist murders in the United States, and the trend has been accelerating, as by 2018, this statistic rose to 98%. Since 2015, right-wing extremists have been involved in 267 plots or attacks and 91 fatalities, while attacks ascribed to far-left views accounted for 66 incidents leading to 19 deaths.
Radicalization factors include:
Exposure to derogatory language about other groups leads to political radicalization and deteriorates intergroup relations. Infotainment, television programs that present news events in an entertaining propagandistic format, have now displaced common dramas and sitcoms in evening television programming. Three networks dominate Infotainment: Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, but corporate media also includes social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as other biased media outlets owned by corporate interests. Hate-speech proliferation is common in contemporary Infotainment and social media. Frequent exposure to hate speech has corrosive effects on emotional, behavioral, and normative levels and results in contempt, replacing empathy for other groups.
The stated mission of this series of investigations is to remain unbiased and to present facts. There is little to discriminate in journalistic integrity among Infotainment outlets. They take a set of facts and weave them together with conjecture, speculation, and emotionalism to arrive at differing outcomes.
However, a more erudite view is to view MSNBC and CNN as speaking to the same tribal audience. In this compilation, the conservative Fox got 2.12 million viewers, and the liberal combination of CNN and MSNBC achieved 2.16 million viewers, not far off the left/right split of Americans. So essentially, each political tribe has a choice of evening Infotainment to incite, not inform.
A key point is the reinforcing element in radicalization. While there is limited data, what there is confirms there is little crossover in viewership between Infotainment programs, proving viewers consume this media absent alternate and challenging viewpoints. For instance, 3% of the right-wing Fox News ringmaster Sean Hannity fans watched ten or more minutes of the liberal Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, while only about 7% watched the slightly less caustic Anderson Cooper on CNN. Instead, viewers tend to graze and consume their tribal offerings and exclude alternative viewpoints, thereby reinforcing and not challenging already ingrained beliefs.
The CNN parent company is AT&T, the 11th largest corporation on the Fortune 500. Fox Corporation, 39% owned by the Rupert Murdoch family, owns Fox News. Rupert Murdoch, the family's patriarch, owns News Corp with the same 39% share, and News Corp owns the New York Post, HarperCollins, and The Wall Street Journal. The owner of NBC and MSNBC is Comcast. Comcast is the 49th largest corporation on the Fortune 500. The parent company of YouTube is Alphabet, the 9th largest corporation on the Fortune 500. Facebook is the 144th largest corporation on the Fortune 500 rankings, and Twitter trails at number 647.
While corporations, through decades of corporate legal maneuvering, have all the rights of individuals in the United States essentially, corporations feel no empathy, guilt, or remorse. Generating a profit is the stated goal of almost all corporations, and they serve the interests of their owners to make money. Thus, many of the altruistic acts committed by corporations intend to cultivate a positive image with their customers.
An interesting case in point about Infotainment propaganda is the variation of presentation of information about vaccines against COVID, the only effective resolution to the public health issues posed by the virus. Americans have long been compliant with public health measures, including:
Regardless, the media giants have continued to present COVID vaccine disinformation. The social media platforms use Section 230, the two-decade-old law that protects Internet companies from lawsuits about the content posted on their websites, as their protection from legal liability, while they continue to harvest the profits from clicks and views of this propaganda. Fox News has had various takes on the COVID vaccines, while Tucker Carlson has likened the shot to an authoritarian ‘social control’ project. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has demonized anti-vaxxers with her own condemnations.
In this, as in many other tribal debates, Americans are set against one another, and the outcome is messy. The antivaccination movement endangers all Americans’ public health as the propagation of the virus over time increases the likelihood of a mutation that is not only more contagious but might also be resistant to vaccines, ensuring the lengthening of a public health catastrophe. Yet that catastrophe is fungible to corporate media, so they profit because of the controversy and the consequence. Unfortunately for the American population, the cost is in lives. Corporate media, regardless of representation, profits from the conflict it creates.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.