Given the unreality of the Trump Era, it’s nice to see something confirmed that felt true without before looking at any data. There’s no easy way to say it: we have state-run TV in this country that has completely brainwashed a segment of the population into blind fealty to the Republican Party. Fox News viewers are dramatically different in their views of the country than every other news consumer. Thirty-two percent of respondents in this new NBC/WSJ poll say they watch Fox News, and a significant majority of those viewers have diametrically opposite views of Trump relative to the rest of us who don’t spend our days varnishing our brains with propaganda.
Thirty-two percent, extrapolated out, equates to roughly 105 million Americans—a majority who blindly support the most unpopular president of our lifetimes and watch a “news” network explicitly devoted to spreading Trump’s brand of hatred as far and wide as possible. Fox News didn’t break our society—we have always dealt with this kind of uniquely American intransigence from the moment we decided to become a slave-owning nation—but Fox News did provide a safe-haven for the Lost Cause ideology to thrive, and they have absolutely recruited more adherents to the failed cause, as demonstrated by this depressing column by journalist Luke O’Neil where he asked readers to send in stories of what Fox News did to their relatives:
It happened to my dad and my aunt. Last time I saw my aunt she told me there’s an ISIS training camp in upstate New York and it has been there for years. She used to be a new age hippy person. Now she barely leaves her house in the woods in central Massachusetts.
My dad is dead but in the last few years of his life he got totally warped. He went from voting for Gore, then Kerry and fucking hating Bush and the wars to thinking Obama was gonna destroy America. He started working a night shift job and would come home during the day and fall asleep with Fox News blasting. I really think it rotted his brain.
My dad was still pretty nice at the end but it got to us not being able to talk politics at all. I’ve talked to my mom about it and she agreed. She said his lack of sleep really messed with his brain and made him very paranoid. He was getting into survivalist paranoia when he died. For like months after when we were cleaning out his stuff we would find guns hidden in the house. I only got aware of politics a bit before Obama was elected so we could have interesting conversations, but by like 2009 or 2010 he was pretty changed. My whole family avoids talking politics to my aunt these days. Her and her husband, who was a college professor in physics, don’t believe in global warming and all this other shit. They think since I moved to Boston that I’m gonna get murdered or seduced by “evil women.”
Fox News is a literal cancer upon our society. It creates an accelerating feedback loop of anger and paranoia, and through this self-perpetuating narrative, it is able to gain a measure of control over the “fake news media” by constantly browbeating them with the fact that a significant portion of the country opposes their existence. Fox News just lies. Constantly. Journalists like Shep Smith and Chris Wallace are just window dressing to give Fox News a patina of journalistic integrity, while the other 22 hours of the day are filled with enough lies to make a Pravda writer blush.
That Hellworld column by Luke O’Neil is filled with heartbreaking anecdotes of otherwise nice and honorable people turning into absolute monsters, and choosing Fox News programming over their own flesh and blood. This NBC/WSJ polling data proves that many of these anecdotes are not outliers. On the whole, Fox News viewers really do live in a different reality from the rest of us, and it is ripping our actual reality apart.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.