The Fox Propaganda Machine in Operation
What about Biden?
I almost avoided commenting on this story because I understand the degree to which discussing these types of things, even in the context of criticism, can amplify them. But given the Trump indictments and his rhetoric about the charges, and specifically about the Biden administration, as well as the violent rhetoric we see already regarding those charges, I think it is essential to understand the general media environment and to specifically see what consumers of FNC and like outlets are seeing.
Some examples of internal communication that came out as a result of the suit, as a basic reminder:
“This has to stop now,” [Suzanne Scott, Fox News CEO] wrote in an email to a network vice-president in early December, referring to anchor Eric Shawn’s fact-checking of Trump. “This is bad business and there clearly is a lack of understanding what is happening in these shows. The audience is furious and we are just feeding them material. Bad for business.”
In an internal message, [Raj Shah, Fox Corporation senior vice-president] shared a survey with colleagues showing that the network’s brand was “under heavy fire from our customer base.” In a different email, he wrote, “We are not concerned with losing market share to CNN or MSNBC right now. Our concern is Newsmax and One America News Network … I’d like to get honest/deeper feedback from Fox viewers on the brand, the handling of the election, if they feel like they have been somehow betrayed by the network.”
In a memo from Shah to Lachlan Murdoch on November 13, Shah wrotethat “Fox News is facing a brand crisis” and “open revolt.” He added that the “precipitous decline in Fox’s favorability among our core audience… poses lasting damage to the Fox News brand unless effectively addressed soon.”
“Our audience doesn’t want to hear about a peaceful transition,” [Abby Grossberg, Maria Bartiromo’s producer] texted Bartiromo, who had asked whether she should have covered the topic on a recent show. Grossberg later added that Fox viewers “still have hope.”
This trip down memory lane is relevant because I think we are going to see, indeed, have been seeing a similar playbook as it pertains to Trump-related corruption. The whole Hunter Biden/ “Biden Crime Family” schtick has been, without any doubt, a way for many Fox viewers to “still have hope” that their guy isn’t the corrupt one. On, no, it’s the other guy.
I would note that the Fox model looks a lot like what we see in Putin’s Russia. Here is a description from a 2016 RAND paper (The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model):
We characterize the contemporary Russian model for propaganda as “the firehose of falsehood” because of two of its distinctive features: high numbers of channels and messages and a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions. In the words of one observer, “[N]ew Russian propaganda entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience.”2
Contemporary Russian propaganda has at least two other distinctive features. It is also rapid, continuous, and repetitive, and it lacks commitment to consistency.
Interestingly, several of these features run directly counter to the conventional wisdom on effective influence and communication from government or defense sources, which traditionally emphasize the importance of truth, credibility, and the avoidance of contradiction.3 Despite ignoring these traditional principles, Russia seems to have enjoyed some success under its contemporary propaganda model, either through more direct persuasion and influence or by engaging in obfuscation, confusion, and the disruption or diminution of truthful reporting and messaging.
This sounds all too familiar as it pertains to FNC’s brand of infotainment.
This all leads me to this FNC story: Joe Biden allegedly paid $5M by Burisma executive as part of a bribery scheme, according to FBI document, which is a pretty incendiary headline.
President Joe Biden was allegedly paid $5 million by an executive of the Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings, where his son Hunter Biden sat on the board, a confidential human source told the FBI during a June 2020 interview, sources familiar told Fox News Digital.
The FD-1023 form, dated June 30, 2020, is the FBI’s interview with a “highly credible” confidential source who detailed multiple meetings and conversations he or she had with a top Burisma executive over the course of several years, starting in 2015. Fox News Digital has not seen the form, but it was described by several sources who are aware of its contents.
An FD-1023 form is used by FBI agents to record unverified reporting from confidential human sources. The form is used to document information as told to an FBI agent, but recording that information does not validate or weigh it against other information known by the FBI.
The confidential source said the Burisma executive told him he “paid” the Bidens in such a manner “through so many different bank accounts” that investigators would not be able to “unravel this for at least 10 years.”
The document then makes reference to “the Big Guy,” which, has been said to be a reference to Joe Biden.
Emphases all mine.
Ok, so what we have is a report that someone has described a document, and that document contains unverified allegations. But it is enough to blast a headline that the president was allegedly (and that word is doing a lot of work here) paid a major bribe. Oh, and it just so happens that the allegation would make Trump look better because it would justify his actions surrounding his first impeachment.
I would note a few additional tells about the story. First, it repeats “FD-1023” over and over and over again. In my view, it is clearly trying to emphasize to the readers how official all of this is. I mean, it’s in a special form! Second, the reference to “the Big Guy” strikes me as a rhetorical flourish because, at least to my recollection, that used to be a phrase associated with China and hints of corruption there. But I do know it has become a sinister-sounding nickname to go along with the whole “Biden Crime Family” rhetoric. Third, the fact that the allegations are linked to a crime so perfect that it would take “at least ten years” to unravel is a great way of allowing the allegations to linger but without any burden of proof being in place.
All of this is important because it will give Fox News talking head a cornucopia of chances to “what about” the Bidens as they have to deal with Trump’s federal indictment (to go along with his NY indictment, his loss in the Carroll case, and potential additions federal and state level indictments). You see, all of those are political hack jobs. Meanwhile, Hillary’s server, Hunter’s laptop, and FD-1023s will be presented as a web of deceit that proves that it is the Bidens who are the nexus of corruption, not the Trumps.
Back to FNC, on Friday we see all of this in action. LARRY KUDLOW: Evidence against the Biden crime family is mounting across the board.
It’s no coincidence that the Donald Trump indictment was announced on the same day the FBI FD-1023 form was finally opened up to the House members of the Oversight Committee. No coincidence!
And speaking of the RAND Corporation analysis cited above notes that Russian propaganda exhibits a lack of commitment to consistency:
Then, of course, the Biden classified documents investigation continues at a snail’s pace. Biden kept classified documents all over the place in Washington, D.C. and Delaware, but here’s the rub: Biden as a senator took classified documents. That isn’t supposed to happen. You can read them in a SCIF in the middle of the National Archives building, but you can’t take them anywhere. That’s against the law.
So, somehow, when Biden has documents, that is a problem. But, not for Trump! And never mind the way that Biden responded (he cooperated) versus how Trump did (he didn’t cooperate–quite the opposite), Kudlow doesn’t need to worry his viewers about that (nor about Pence and his documents).
All of this is important because it makes the odds of political violence higher because it will provide justification for the notion that the DOJ is, in fact, up to no good. It is the same cycle we saw in the build-up to January 6th.
A side note on the consistency issue: the Steel Dossier is practically a satanic text according to FNC, but the FD-1023, which would appear to be of a similar kind of raw intelligence, is practically gospel!
It does not matter that this approach utterly undercuts the rule of law and fealty to the truth. Rest assured that FNC viewers are going to be fed a lot of this over the coming months because that is what they want to see and we know that FNC execs know what they have to do to retain those precious eyeballs.