Brainwashing Our Troops
As Ukrainians fight for their lives, it's time to permanently remove pro-Putin propaganda from US military bases
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We’ve known for years that extreme right-wing propaganda is being pumped into U.S. military bases around the world in an effort to poison the minds of the troops who are supposed to serve us all, regardless of which party is in power.
In recent years, as the GOP has embraced white nationalism and authoritarianism—and as Tucker Carlson and Fox News have become passionate boosters of tyrants like Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán—the danger of allowing the enemies of democracy to brainwash our troops has only mounted.
The effort to #BanFoxFromBases got a boost on February 25th when The Lincoln Project launched the hashtag as a way to get more email signups for their cash-guzzling but generally ineffective operation.
But the fact that any of Putin’s poison could still be being pumped into the brains of our troops by Tucker or Laura Ingraham or TFG himself is alarming. So I asked Jen Senko to answer a couple more questions about the situation and where things stand.
Follow-up Q&A with filmmaker and author Jen Senko
In December you mentioned that the GOP has been “radicalizing our men and women whose purpose was supposed to be protecting the entire country” since they first started getting Rush Limbaugh aired on military bases. How big a problem is it that Fox News is still playing on military bases?
It’s bad enough that Fox Propaganda Network is the station of choice in many police and fire departments across the country, but for Fox to be on in the military is beyond all reason.
Incredulous as it is, Fox News is still airing on military bases and it is even more of a grave issue now, at this moment, than just a week ago before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Many of us, including Secretary Hillary Clinton, think that Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham are actually aiding and giving comfort to the enemy nightly on Fox News. Clinton very intentionally used those words on Morning Joe last Friday, repeating them often. “Giving aid and comfort to the enemy” is one of the two ways treason is defined in the constitution. I’m not an expert on the constitution but like any rational person could see, in the least, it is a “national security emergency.” As Clinton also said: “The national security emergency for democracy starts here at home where we have to be much more united in the face of what is a very real threat from Putin and his imperialistic ambitions.”
Tucker Carlson was echoing Kremlin talking points for a week before the actual invasion. Tucker Carlson’s rants being replayed with subtitles on the state-run Russian television, like he is a hero, should’ve been more than enough (the icing on the cake!) for our military leaders to see that Fox News is not on the side of the U.S.
Based on the ongoing anti-invasion protests in Russia it’s evident the Russian people are smart enough not to buy what Comrade Carlson was saying. But after a week of heaping praise on Putin and defending the invasion of Ukraine he suddenly changed his tune. He said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is actually a “tragedy” and that it’s Putin’s fault. Interestingly, it just happened to be the evening before Hillary Clinton repeatedly talked about “giving aid and comfort to the enemy” on Morning Joe—as if to remind Carlson and the other traitors on Fox News that their hate-for-profit entertainment could be considered treason. (She probably knew that it wouldn’t sink in or stop Trump from his own lavishing of praise on Putin.) I suspect she also was hoping the Biden administration was listening.
Tucker Carlson, especially, has lurched toward white nationalist extremism in recent years, criticizing the US military for being too feminine while embracing “macho” leaders like Orbán and Putin. What game is he playing? How dangerous is his message now that Russia has invaded Ukraine?
It’s not a coincidence that Putin talks against “cancel culture,” gays, trans rights and western liberalism and that Tucker Carlson admires Putin. Carlson has been anti-gay since college—having been a member of the “Dan White Society.” Dan White is the guy who, in 1978, assassinated Harvey Milk, the gay rights pioneer. If that’s not bad enough Carlson was also a member of the “Jesse Helms Foundation.” Jesse Helms was the openly bigoted and anti-gay senator.
As we know, Tucker thinks nothing of making stuff up and making false inferences. He supported a claim that hate crimes are hoaxes and with “more women changing their gender” the human species was in danger. Mind you, there is no evidence of any of that. He famously criticized women being in the military and disparagingly compared us to China, saying that their military is becoming more masculine while ours was becoming more feminized. In the assumption his audience will take his word for it, he disregards the fact that China’s history has always had women warriors and today almost 5% of China’s total military are women. And of course, he wouldn’t say the women who join the military here are trained with the same standards as the men. And if they want to do the job, god bless ’em.
Russia is leading all the nations in white supremacists. As Casey Michel wrote in Quartz in 2016, Richard Spencer believes Russia is the “sole white power in the world.” And David Duke believes Russia holds the ”key to white survival.” So you can understand Tucker Carlson pushing lies about Critical Race Theory and stirring up hysteria in trans folks’ participation in sports. He is spreading the white supremacist notion that their white power is being stripped away from them.
In the last couple decades, our society has largely evolved to understand that sexuality and gender is not black and white (or non-binary). The growing tolerance has allowed more non-heterosexual people to “come out” and reveal their truth to their loved ones when previously most had to hide who they were their entire lives. This has created even more tolerance as more people see that their own loved ones do not fit into the stereotypical roles that society formerly demanded of people. That’s a very positive thing as if there are more happy people in the world, the healthier our society is for all.
The danger in trying to bring us back to the 1900s when white men ruled and people had to fit into very narrowly defined roles, is that those people who didn’t fit those roles are in more danger of being attacked and being discriminated against. Words matter. What he does is stochastic terrorism. And he can do it because Fox News, in gaining ratings from the righteous and addictive anger he produces, gives him license to unleash his darkest self. He is a miserable human being who has been given a soap box that millions and millions of people listen to. How can this be seen as anything other than terrorizing a sect of people other than people like him?
We humans are easily influenced by media. One of the five methods of brainwashing is isolation. If this is all people take in, their brains gradually change and too many become raging angry believers.
Violence in general is on the rise. Motorists are taking revenge on anyone that they perceive wronged them. Asians, Blacks and the LGBTQ community are being targeted. People are angry and I believe it is largely due to the purveyance of right-wing media feeding viewers and listeners the excitement of anger and victimization. It only further divides us. And simply put, a house divided cannot stand. Putin loves this and emboldens him to play havoc on the rest of the world by trolling us in the most horrifying and appalling of ways.
Beyond tweeting hashtags and/or giving The Lincoln Project our email addresses, what advice do you have for people who want to get Fox News and its pro-Putin propaganda banned from US military bases?
As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” But it will take a lot of us. It will take a swift movement. We all must raise our voices in order to be heard among the right-wing cacophony who will cry “free speech”.
One thing you can do is write postcards to General Milley and Secretary Austin saying if the EU is banning Russia Today/Sputnik from their airwaves than we can stop broadcasting Russian propaganda (i.e. Fox “News”) to our troops. Here are their addresses:
Lloyd J. Austin, III
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-1000
General Mark A. Milley
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
9999 Joint Staff Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20318-9999
A grassroots group called Truth Tuesdays, every Tuesday at noon, stands in front of Fox News headquarters in Manhattan to protest Fox. You can join them or do your own thing on Tuesdays. Activists have carried the message in Seattle and Philadelphia and in northern NJ.
You can talk about the absurdity of allowing an anti-American, pro-authoritarian, Putin-loving propaganda entertainment station to poison the minds of our military, our police and our fire departments to anyone willing to listen. Get them to speak up, too.
I say, do it all to be heard. Too much is not enough.
You can tweet Secretary Austin @SecDef and @thejointstaff and tag @POTUS while you are at it. Use the hashtags: #UnFoxOurMilitary, #BanFoxOnBases, #SpeakUp.
You can follow: @TruthOverFox, @FixMediaNow, @stopdisinfo24_7 @brainwashingdad and tweet at and call, your representatives to bring this issue to the forefront.
And finally, it won’t hurt to sign Robert Reich’s MoveOn petition to get Fox Out of the military: https://sign.moveon.org/petitions/remove-and-ban-fox-news-from-all-u-s-military-instillations-and-federal-buildings
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Buy the book: The Brainwashing of My Dad, by Jen Senko.