Dominion Sues Fox
It’s about time someone finally did, says "The Brainwashing of My Dad" filmmaker and author Jen Senko
We can be thankful to Donald J. Trump for one thing—and that is for making it super clear there is a serious threat to democracy which was enabled largely by right-wing media—most especially Fox “News.”
Dominion Voting Systems—one of the companies that sold and manufactured voting machines used in the 2020 election—is suing Fox over dishonest reporting by several of its most popular hosts, with Rupert Murdoch’s approval.
The “smoking gun” revelations from Dominion’s $1.6B lawsuit represents “a serious threat to the channel,” say legal experts.
It’s about time
The damage Fox “News” has inflicted on America—and millions of Americans—has been apparent for years.
For my father, it started with Rush Limbaugh, then came Fox. In my 2016 documentary, I likened the change he underwent to the 1950s movie, “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” as my formerly politically liberal father would suddenly explode anytime anyone challenged his now deeply conservative point of view. Then I watched in horror as subsequently his entire personality and relationship with our family changed. When his change was in the early stages, I was a bit relieved when David Brock, former right-wing journalist and later founder of the paid watchdog group, Media Matters for America wrote about being a paid operative tasked with taking President Clinton down. Surely my father would pay attention. He didn’t. Or maybe when Hillary Clinton talked about a vast right-wing conspiracy in ‘96. He, along with most other Americans, still didn’t.
In addition to what he consumed on the radio and TV, my father became inundated with emails that supported all the false claims and blames that Fox and Limbaugh pushed. Years later, when I was beyond wondering where Rush and Fox put my real dad and my poor mom was ready to move out, I determined that “The Brainwashing Of My Dad” was to be my next documentary. It had become chillingly clear to me how these Democrat-hating hosts—who claimed to be ‘fair and balanced’ while they were anything but—all had the same campaign, which was to paint the Democrat and Democratic policies as evil, incompetent and corrupt. Reporting the news of the day was secondary to a dedicated campaign to destroy the Democratic party. I made it my mission to find out why and who was behind it.
So, first I made the movie and years later, I wrote the book.
Certain events in history were designed to pave the way for a right-wing takeover. For example, the creation of the John Birch Society, founded in 1958 and funded in part by Fred Koch. The Birch Society supported far-right libertarian ideas. At the time it was considered loony, which is why Barry Goldwater lost to Lyndon Johnson in a landslide. Goldwater aligned himself with the Birchers, who were considered paranoid, with their ‘there’s-a-Communist-in-every-corner’ mentality. After Goldwater got hammered, the Right was pronounced dead by pundits. The Right panicked. Blaming mainstream media, they decided to hit back with an aggressive attack on mainstream media by painting it as liberal, (a term that they simultaneously intended to paint as lame and wildly wrong). This laid the groundwork for what would become an alternative conservative media (while also painting conservatives as the under-represented victim). Economist and conservative activist, Reed Irvine built a “media watchdog” group called AIM with the sole purpose of painting the media as liberal as loudly and as often as possible. Goldwater, by the way was the first to try to use the Southern Strategy. It didn’t work for him but it certainly helped Nixon become president.
The Southern Strategy was the strategy of division, using coded racism to get the prejudiced Whites in the South to vote Republican. Nixon also had a little help from a 27-year-old genius television producer, Roger Ailes. Back in 1960 Nixon had done exceedingly poorly in his debate with Kennedy. Ailes helped Nixon understand television and how to use it. Ailes saw how Nixon was batted around by the evening news and presented a secret memo to the Nixon White House called “A Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News”. His plan to create GOP TV and present pro GOP policies in a positive light—orginally written in 1970—would come in handy in 1996, when Ailes would be tapped by Rupert Murdoch to create Fox “News”.
One year later, in 1971, there was another secret memo; the secret memo which has had an astounding impact on corporate influence in America today. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hired corporate lawyer Lewis Powell to come up with a detailed master plan on how to push a free-market economy philosophy and how to squelch the dramatic social movements going on at the time. It was basically hitting back against the New Deal.
Then came our 40th president, Ronald Reagan.
Two of the most harmful things Reagan did was to make Rupert Murdoch a U.S. citizen and kill the Fairness Doctrine. The Fairness Doctrine policy and license distribution was based on how well broadcasters were to serve the public. They had to present differing controversial issues of public importance. Diversity of voices and ownership was essential in order to benefit the public and serve democracy.
One year after the death of the Fairness Doctrine, Rush Limbaugh went national. His poisonous show was then able to play across the country. Satellite helped spread his spew. Limbaugh admitted his schtick was to get the listener mad so they simply had to listen again (anger is addictive). Limbaugh essentially defended the overdogs, like big oil or the tobacco company. He insisted there was no danger in smoking; that seat belts didn’t work and it was just the government telling you what to do; that there was no such thing as organic; and that gay people were awful. The list goes on. Feminists were Feminazis; minorities were all the stereotypes; every immigrant from Mexico was taking your job or raping your women; and Democrats were godless scum of the earth who wanted to kill Christmas. Rush essentially kicked the White (especially male) victim mentality into high gear. All these ‘others’ were out to take from you what was rightfully yours. He was a convincing liar. He was confident and entertaining. And he was creating a dangerous division in the country. And that was perfect, so of course, the Republicans had to get him on the Armed Forces Radio to play an hour a day every day where division continued to foster.
Limbaugh bashed Bill Clinton until Clinton got impeached. He crucified Hillary saying at once that she was a lesbian but that she was also sleeping with Vince Foster who killed himself and that it was Hillary who shot him. The contradiction didn’t matter to his Dittohead listeners. They just knew—‘Hillary bad’.
Bill Clinton was a corporate Democrat. He also liked to be liked. He buddied up with the Democrat-is-your-enemy Newt Gingrich and together they signed the Telecommunications Reform Act into law. It essentially destroyed FDR’s brilliant Communications Act of 1934 which in the effort to protect democracy, had limited the amount of ownership a media entity could have. So, a handful of entities gobbled up all the media. Cross ownership was allowed as well. It was a media free for all for the ones rich enough to buy it.
Months later, Rupert Murdoch was able to launch a monetizable tabloid-type network, pushing an ultra-conservative bias. He hired none other than Roger Ailes to create it. Ailes knew his television stuff. He understood the type of propaganda Murdoch wanted and was perfectly suited to deliver. Ailes had even studied the cinematography of the ground breaking Nazi propagandist, Leni Riefenstahl. Her cinematography wasn’t the only thing he understood. He understood how to use these propaganda techniques to get the Fox television audience to vote against their own interests and vote Republican. He understood that you had to create in-groups and out-groups: the Democrats and anything falling under that category such as Black and Brown people, poor people, immigrants, became the ultimate out-group.
Make the audience afraid. That fear turns to anger.
The feigned anger of the anchors was essential. Sometimes they were good actors. Sometimes they weren’t. It didn’t matter though because once people’s amygdalae were in control, rational thinking went out the window. They were addicted to their own anger.
Texts obtained by Dominion show that hosts on Fox, like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, etc. KNEW that the election fraud nonsense that Trump, Giuliani and Sidney Powell were pushing were lies, yet looking right into the camera, they lied straight-faced to their viewers as if it were sent direct from God’s mouth. They feigned anger and indignation and repetition and wore their ‘most serious faces’ to not only convince their viewers this was the truth, but to be the most competitive in the ‘rage-otainmnent’ complex. Dominion had told them countless times none of it was true. But the truth didn’t matter as much as their bottom line did. Their viewers were fleeing to Newsmax. They didn’t want Newsmax, who was spreading the lie, to steal their audience.
While making the movie and even long after the movie came out, Hundreds and hundreds of people have sent me their own heartbreaking stories about them losing their loved one to Fox “News” or some other bloviating angry right-wing host. Studies have shown Fox has changed people. In fact, I firmly believe there would not even be a Trump if not for Fox “News”.
Why did it take so long for some kind of action to be taken against Fox?
That’s a question that I ask over and over as I think of all the harm Fox has done to families, individuals and our country.
Fox “News” played a major role in instigating the January 6 insurrection with their stochastic terrorism. They were responsible for so many deaths as they downplayed and lied about Covid and the vaccines. They drummed up racism and downplayed police violence against Black people by blaming Black people, resulting against this pushback against ‘woke-ism’. And corporate media should have called out Fox more. Wasn’t the harm they were doing and the lies they were telling obvious?
To many of us it was obvious.
So today I am beyond grateful to Dominion for suing Fox. I think to myself, what took so long for someone or some entity to do this? But like all the media focused grassroots groups I’ve seen spring up of late, I am grateful for the action. I just pray that we frogs can still get out of the boiling water in time.
Further reading: The Brainwashing of My Dad, by Jen Senko.
Follow: @jen_senko on Twitter.
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Visit: The Brainwashing of My Dad website.
Richard Hine’s December 2021 interview with Jen Senko: The Brainwashing Machine