Resolute Square

Part 3: The Story of Fox News: Fox News’s Viewer Radicalization and Exploitation

In Part 3 of his series on Fox, Brian Daitzman covers the alarming methods, such as DARVO, employed by the network to control narratives, sow division, and erode trust in democratic institutions.
Published:April 17, 2024

By Brian Daitzman

Since its inception, Fox News has used subtle and not-so-subtle tactics to shift viewers to the political right. Today, it’s a radicalization factory largely untethered to truth or even reality. Fox long ago abandoned the slogan “Fair and balanced,” which was always good marketing, but never a good mission or commitment.   

Fox News, a dominant force in American media, significantly influences the political landscape and viewer ideologies through strategic topic selection and narrative framing. The network consistently portrays conservative policies and figures positively while casting liberal counterparts in a negative light. This subtle influence over time nudges viewers towards more extreme conservative positions.

The creation of an echo chamber is another of Fox’s effective tactics.. By presenting a homogeneous conservative perspective, the network amplifies and reinforces viewers' existing conservative beliefs, limiting their exposure to opposing viewpoints and leading to more polarized and extreme political stances. Regular viewers often develop a strong identification with the conservative community fostered by Fox News, enhancing their commitment to conservative ideologies through a sense of belonging and alignment with the network’s narratives.

Fox News often positions itself as a counter to the "mainstream media," accusing other outlets of liberal bias. This narrative fosters distrust among its viewers towards other news sources, encouraging a heavier reliance on Fox News and its conservative slant. During political controversies or crises, Fox News emphasizes conservative talking points, validating and intensifying conservative leanings among its audience, especially in how government actions and policies are perceived.

High-profile hosts like Sean Hannity play a significant role in shaping viewer opinions. Their credibility and persuasive communication style make them particularly effective in cultivating viewer trust in their opinions and distrust of non-Fox media sources.

The focus on divisive issues contributes to deeper political polarization. In its infancy, Fox pushed viewers to adopt more distinctly conservative identities. Now, their extreme portrayal of real and manufactured conflicts pushes viewers toward radicalization, sewing fear, and anger while eroding rational political discourse and behavior. The resulting real-world conflict reinforces Fox News’s efforts to create a highly polarized political landscape The resulting real-world conflict reinforces Fox News’s highly polarized political landscape they are working to create.

Fox News Cynically Exploits Its Viewers

Fox News has mastered the art of manipulative broadcasting, engaging in practices that starkly resemble DARVO (Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim & Offender) tactics, a method eerily akin to those used in narcissistic abuse. This cynical strategy is characterized by a systematic denial of facts, aggressive attacks on critics or dissenters, and a manipulative reversal of narratives to falsely position the network or its political allies as persecuted victims in the face of clear evidence to the contrary.

Fox News's utilization of DARVO tactics—Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim & Offender—reflects a manipulative strategy that mirrors patterns of narcissistic abuse. This method manipulates public perception and discourse through a three-step process:

Deny: Fox News frequently denies the veracity of information or events that contradict its narrative or the interests of its political affiliations. This denial isn't just about refusing to acknowledge facts but extends to dismissing reports from other media outlets, experts, or authorities as biased or incorrect. For instance, despite internal acknowledgments among Fox News personalities and executives that claims about the 2020 election being stolen were false, the network continued to deny the legitimacy of the election results to its audience. This denial of truth serves to maintain the network's narrative and protect its relationship with its viewers, even at the expense of factual accuracy.

Attack: Once denial sets the stage, Fox News moves to attack those who challenge its narratives or present contradictory evidence. This includes attacking other media outlets, experts, journalists, or even members of its own team who attempt to fact-check or offer a differing viewpoint. An example of this is the outrage expressed by Tucker Carlson, a prominent Fox News host, towards colleagues who fact-checked or contradicted misleading claims made by the network or political figures it supports. These attacks are often personal, questioning the credibility, motives, or integrity of those presenting the facts, effectively turning the act of seeking truth into a contentious issue.

Reverse Victim & Offender: The final step involves flipping the narrative to portray Fox News, its viewers, or its political allies as the victims of supposed conspiracies, bias, or unfair treatment. This reversal isn't just about evading responsibility; it's a strategic move to galvanize its audience, framing the network and its allies as under attack by external forces aiming to silence or oppress them. This tactic fosters a sense of solidarity among viewers, uniting them against perceived common enemies and reinforcing their loyalty to the network. It transforms the spread of misinformation into a defensive measure, purportedly protecting the "victim" (in this case, Fox News and its aligned figures) from the "offenders" (those presenting accurate information or challenging the network's narratives).

Through these DARVO tactics, Fox News manipulates its audience by fostering an environment where critical thinking is discouraged, and viewers are isolated from diverse perspectives. This strategy not only deepens societal divisions but also erodes the foundations of democratic discourse, perpetuating a cycle of misinformation and division that benefits the network at the expense of public trust and integrity.

The network's approach to news is marked by a calculated omission of facts and selective reporting, aimed squarely at echoing its own ideological biases and those of its audience. This results in a viewer base that is not just uninformed but often misinformed on critical issues effectively cut off from a balanced perspective and deeper understanding of the news. Such a strategy not only stifles critical thinking among its audience but also fuels the fires of societal polarization.

Further deepening the ethical quagmire is Fox News's relentless dissemination of unfounded claims and conspiracy theories, especially concerning the integrity of elections and the functionality of democratic institutions. This deliberate misinformation campaign erodes public trust in the very pillars of democracy, breeding increased polarization and fostering a baseless skepticism toward the electoral process.

Perhaps most insidiously, Fox News exploits the trust and loyalty of its viewers by consistently peddling narratives that, though resonant with their audience's fears and biases, are known within the network to be misleading or outright false. This cynical exploitation is laid bare in internal communications, revealing a shocking disregard for journalistic integrity and a prioritization of narrative control over factual reporting.

The consequence of Fox News's manipulative tactics on public opinion and policy is undeniable. By promoting misguided views on pivotal issues such as climate change, public health, and social justice, the network not only distorts public discourse but also significantly influences policy debates and election outcomes, thereby cementing a divisive political landscape.

In its quest for viewership and control of the narrative, Fox News does not shy away from amplifying extreme viewpoints and normalizing divisive rhetoric. It mainstreams fringe language and ideas that serve to fragment society further. This normalization extends beyond Fox News's immediate audience, infecting the broader public discourse with divisiveness and undermining the foundations of democratic engagement and social unity.

In Part 4, I’ll dive into Fox News as a national security risk and individual stories of people radicalized by the over-consumption of Fox News’s right-wing toxic brew.

Help us take on the right's rage-baiting, misinformation media machine. Support the work of Resolute Square!


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