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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Boyd: Separating the real from the fake for democracy’s sake

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I know it seems like ages ago, but Jan. 6 wasn’t even a year ago.

Typical of America’s short attention span, many have moved on and forgotten all about the day democracy almost fell. I don’t say that hyperbolically because that was the intent of the insurrectionists.

After the shock wore off, the spin began almost immediately. Many of those on the right started placing blame at antifa, Black Lives Matter, other left-wing activists and Nancy Pelosi for the attempted coup.

It worked.

A poll by Public Religion Research Institute released in September found 61% of Republicans blame the liberals and left-wing activists for the Jan. 6 insurrection. Now, we watched this unfold.

We know why people stormed the Capitol: They wanted to overturn the election in favor of former President Donald Trump. They thought the election was stolen, and in their minds, they were there to right a wrong and felt starting a revolution is the American way. Yet, a significant number of Americans choose not to believe what they saw and heard but what someone told them. A testament to the power of persuasion. If you say something enough it becomes true even if it’s not.

Fox News hosts played a major role in spinning the story. Early on they planted seeds of infiltration by antifa and the FBI. They played on people’s intelligence and gaslit Americans at every opportunity.

It turns out those TV personalities over at Fox knew what this was all along — an insurrection — and they pleaded with Trump to put an end to the madness.

Thanks to subpoenaed documents from former chief of staff Mark Meadows, we know several Fox TV hosts sent text messages to Meadows illustrating they were clear the events happening on the Capitol were wrong and needed to be quelled — immediately.

“Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home,” texted Laura Ingraham, host of “The Ingraham Angle.” “This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”

Sean Hannity, who hosts an eponymous show, wanted to know if Trump could come on the air and give a statement to encourage people to leave the Capitol.

He did encourage them to go there, imploring supporters to “march” to the Capitol and “fight like hell.”

“Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade’s text to Meadows read: “Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished.”

Fox is already playing mind games, saying these people are TV personalities not journalists. This is true. I know this, but most Americans don’t make that delineation. These people are on a news channel, so they’re journalists. I can’t say 24/7 news is at fault because C-SPAN doesn’t have this issue, but I will say this is part of the problem with news as entertainment. Keeping people entertained 24/7 is a hard job, and this is where personality comes into play.

The fact that they want to entertain more than inform is the difference between a TV host/personality and a journalist. A journalist’s job is to inform the public of what government is doing. Does that mean there aren’t entertainment journalists or a journalist can’t have personality and be entertaining? Of course not, but there’s a line, real journalists know it and endeavor not to cross it. Media oversight of government and an informed public are hallmarks of democracy.

The lack of actual journalism has consequences. Americans don’t receive the news they need, and the news they do receive is filtered through political bias. It’s why this idea of a stolen election hasn’t dissipated. It’s just as strong as ever. It’s why this country feels more divided than it has in a very long time. You have those purporting to be journalists fanning the flames of discontent while real journalists are standing up for democracy for all.

Who will win this war for America’s soul? Only time will tell, but I’m glad I’m on the right side.

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