Resolute Square

Americans Are Under MAGA Media Fire

Right-wing and far-right media have become indistinguishable. Lisa Senecal writes that both instill fear and hate with deadly consequences.
Credit: Fox News
Published:December 6, 2022

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Americans are under attack by the American media. Or, to be more precise, we are under attack from right-wing media. Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro, Sabastian Gorka, Charlie Kirk, Nick Fuentes, and their ilk have spread like black mold. These far-right hate-mongers broadcast lies and venom from media platforms with names we all recognize, like FOX News, OAN, Newsmax, and Breitbart, to those less well known but with a massive reach, like Salem Media’s radio network, and Prager University that would more appropriately be named, Prager Propaganda. These verbal attacks have violent, intended consequences.

There is a name for mass media targeting, dehumanizing, and vilifying segments of a population to incite or inspire acts of terrorism against them by fellow citizens: stochastic terrorism. Even if those engaging in it don’t know the term, they know the language, and method, have clear intentions and understand the potentially deadly consequences. A hallmark of stochastic terrorism is plausible deniability.

Tucker Carlson doesn't explicitly direct violence against black and brown Americans, refugees, and asylum seekers, but he inspires it. He peddles the notion that 'black on white" violence is real. It is not. He claims Black Lives Matter supporters are a threat to white people. They are not. He pushes the racist Great Replacement conspiracy theory claiming there is a plan to create a powerless white minority. Another big lie. To hear Carlson tell it, white Americans are already the most viciously targeted segment of Americans subjected to racism. In The World According to Tucker, there is no systemic racism in our country against black Americans. Nope. White people - especially white men - are the real victims. 

Far-right propaganda that targets black and brown Americans, immigrants and asylum seekers, women, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and recently most aggressively, Jewish Americans winds in an infinity loop of hate from right-wing media, agitators, celebrities, elected Republicans, and those looking to make a name for themselves in today’s GOP. Elements of the Republican Party still want to believe this isn’t their party, perhaps because, as individuals, they don’t share the hate-filled ideology and penchant for stochastic terrorism. 

In a brief attempt to pivot after the historically-bad showing for the GOP in the midterms, cries went up that the party needed to eschew Trump and his hand-picked basket of deplorables and take steps to welcome people into the party who are not considered “traditional Republican voters.” They say “traditional Republican,” and I hear white, straight, cis, Christian, and predominantly male. The MAGA base hears the same, but they have a layer of fear, hate, and aggressive rejection of all those who don’t fit that mold, willingly conform to it or acknowledge inferiority to it. That layer makes it politically impossible for the GOP to reach beyond the base. 

Within days, Trump dined with Ye and Nick Fuentes, and any GOP hope of a pivot was crushed as the reality of their radicalized base set in once again. It took days and mounting public pressure for even a few Republicans to issue tepid rejections of Trump’s dinner guests. And yes, of course, Ye is black, and the base likes to point to him as a non-traditional Republican. But, come on. Ye is a non-traditional everything. He is a black man who claims slavery was a choice, expresses admiration for Hitler, and was so vile on Twitter that even Elon Musk was forced to say he had gone too far. I don’t believe those were Musk’s true feelings, but fear of even more advertisers fleeing his $44 billion hellscape. 

The deafening silence from the DeSantis camp on Trump's dinner companions is even more indicative of where the party knows it has gotten itself. Trump 2.0 is well-aware that he can’t afford to alienate the racists, incels, misogynists, antisemites, authoritarians, and Christofascists that make up the loudest and most reliable portion of Republican primary voters. DeSantis knows this so well that he’s spent time in 2022 avoiding the mainstream, reasonably sane media, preferring to sit down in an hour-long interview with Tucker Carlson. Even the Governor’s Mansion was opened to what can be most generously described as conservative media personalities.

The MAGA media can’t ignore the rabid GOP base either because those are their people - their viewers, subscribers, donors, and event-attending-merch-purchasers. So, they’ll continue to sell venom because fear and rage sell. They also kill, as we’ve seen in acts of violence against the very groups that Fox, Newsmax, OAN, and all their spawn target. Tucker Carlson gets his version of stochastic terrorism so right that he’s frequently featured on Russian State TV to bolster support for Russia’s illegal war and war crimes in Ukraine. America’s far-right didn’t invent these methods. Every fascist party needs a chief propagandist. The Nazis had Gobbels. The GOP has dozens competing to take the title from Carlson.

But regardless of who is the best of the worst, the goal of this media hate is the same: to weaken the common bonds of society and turn citizens against citizens. Fear and chaos of not-so-random acts of terror create an environment ripe for an authoritarian strongman to step in, suspend a country’s constitution as Trump suggested just days ago, and install him for the good of peace, stability, and law and order. I don’t have to tell you that the truth of what authoritarianism creates is the opposite of its promise.

Whether these fledglings to fully-formed fascist media mouthpieces are in it for money, power, fame, or even true believers, the resulting violence is the same. It is a frontal assault on democracy and our society. Salvaging and strengthening our democracy and our communities not only preserve America’s potential to deliver on its promise, it saves lives. That power comes from the bottom up. It comes from Americans standing up, getting involved, and, as my fellow Resolute Square Contributor, Dr. Jen Mercieca, says, “doing democracy.”