Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, and the pandemic's merchants of death

He's a deeply dishonorable man

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Since Fox News is a misinformation empire that revolves around hypocrisy, it was fitting in recent days that while Rupert Murdoch's cable channel often downplayed and minimized the novel coronavirus and assured viewers it was likely a partisan Democratic, "Deep State"  plot to take down Trump just like impeachment, network executives behind the scenes were cautioning employees about the looming dangers of the pandemic.

"Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and network president Jay Wallace warned employees about the risks of COVID-19, and announced steps the network will take to combat its spread, including telecommuting, reduced in-studio guest bookings, and enhanced office cleanings," the Daily Beast reported.

The two-faced operation being run at Murdoch's cable channel comes as the Fox News posts big profits while spreading blatant public health disinformation. And that's why Murdoch and Fox News have clearly emerged as this generation's merchants of death in the U.S., as the right-wing cabal puts its viewers directly at risk with an avalanche of falsehoods about the current pandemic. ("Merchants of death" was an epithet used by 1930's critics in the U.S. to attack industries and banks that supplied and funded World War I.)

As has been noted in recent days, Fox's viewers skew older. According to Nielsen Media Research, the median age of a Fox News viewer is 67, while the Centers for Disease Control has stressed that "older adults" are "at higher risk of getting very sick" from the coronavirus.  And yes, red states are getting hit just as hard by the virus today.

People will die because of Fox News' reckless misinformation, as the channel wallows in partisan conspiracies and ushers on non-experts to whip up paranoia. On Friday, Jerry Falwell Jr, told the "Fox & Friends": “You just didn’t see it on the news 24/7 and it makes you wonder if there’s a political reason for that. Impeachment didn’t work and the Mueller report didn’t work and Article 25 [the 25th amendment to the constitution] didn’t work so maybe now this is their next attempt to get Trump.”

"Watch the Democrats, watch the media, you start to feel like they are rooting for coronavirus to spread," warned “Fox & Friends Weekend" co-host Pete Hegseth.

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Of course, it doesn't have to be this way. "Imagine if the word flowed down from on high that Fox News should communicate to Trump that he needs to take an entirely new tack on the virus," wrote the Washington's Post's Margaret Sullivan. "Imagine if Murdoch ordered the network to end its habit of praising him as if he were the Dear Leader of an authoritarian regime and to instead use its influence to drive home the seriousness of the moment."

That would be amazing — and it will never happen. Because as someone who has watched Murdoch operate for decades, I can assure you that anyone waiting for him, or his children who help run his media empire, to do the honorable thing is going to be waiting a very, very long time. He's a deeply dishonorable man, who's also wildly cavalier and irresponsible, and his companies reflect that.

It's true that in the wake of Trump declaring a national pandemic emergency late last week, Fox News has shifted its talking points, now conceding that the threat is real but insisting Trump has everything under control, and that the federal government has done a herculean job containing the virus.

Wrong and wrong.

Fox News this week claiming Trump has saved us from coronavirus is just as dangerous as Fox News last week claiming the pandemic is a hoax. Both send the irresponsible message to viewers that the unfolding crisis is not a real threat today. And both messages reinforce a parallel universe view of the world that divides the country and makes a common conversation in times of crisis impossible to have.  

We saw this with impeachment. Taking their cues from Fox News, the Trump defense was based on lies and rattled conspiracy theories, which posed a key question: How can America have a national debate about impeachment if one side has been willingly brainwashed by Fox News?

Brainwashing is not a term usually used when discussing mainstream American politics. But as the conservative movement becomes increasingly radicalized, using the media to brainwash its followers has become a key part of the calculation, and the political implications are enormous as we're seeing with the pandemic.

Some folks, particularly in the D.C. press, roll their eyes when that phrase is used in connection to Fox News, and they dismiss it as hyperbole. But countless families across the country have suffered through the pain of losing a loved one to Fox News brainwashing. Today, watching a nation of elderly Fox News viewers buy into the lies about the coronavirus —It's a hoax! It's been fixed! — proves it.

In the 1930s, the U.S. Senate held scores of hearings to investigate the “merchants of death,” and what role armament manufacturers played in the U.S.’s decision to enter World War I. When this pandemic crisis is over, a Democratic Congress should address the oversized role Murdoch and his propaganda entities play in the decay of our public life.

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GOOD STUFF:

I list this under the "good" category because although the Trump is actively misleading the country in a time of crisis with the help of Fox News, it appears that voters can see through the lies:

Americans have little trust in the information they are hearing from President Trump about the novel coronavirus, and their confidence in the federal government's response to it is declining sharply, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

It's truly awful that at a time like this, Americans can't look to the White House for trustful guidance. The good news though, is that Trump's reckless misinformation isn't being received as fact.

FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK

Brandy Clark, “Who You Thought I Was”

Why do I love country music so much? I don't mean the assembly line Nashville stuff that gets cranked out. I mean good stuff. I think in my previous life maybe I was a farmer in Upstate, N.Y., and listened to the "Grand Ole Opry" on Saturday nights on the back porch.

I love this new song from Brandy Clark, which is basically three minutes of country perfection — her sly observations about life and love, some sweet guitar picking, and a melody you can't shake for days.

I used to wanna be Elvis

There's a lot of things I used to wanna be 'til I met you

Now I wanna be honest
Now I wanna be better
Now I wanna be the me

I should've been when we were together