Ralph Peters, who offered regular military analysis on Fox News for a decade, finally concluded what many of us had long ago realized — and, having done so, he quit the network in disgust in March. On Wednesday, he went on CNN to explain himself further: The network, he said, was doing a “great, grave disservice to our country” and had become a “destructive propaganda machine” for President Trump.
On Thursday, Alisyn Camerota, a former Fox News anchor, said that Peters’ experience mirrored her own. “I too was upset about the blurring of the lines between propaganda and journalism,” she said, according to the New York Times.
Both former Fox regulars are right, of course. Fox has become a loyal Trump mouthpiece, a purveyor of conspiracy theories, an attack dog for the president in his effort to undermine mainstream institutions.
But it would be a terrible mistake to think that Fox alone is the problem — or even that Fox and Trump are the whole problem. The crisis facing the nation is much bigger and broader.
We live in an era in which Americans are being encouraged to disregard or dismiss factual information, research and established sources of information in order to stay in ideological comfort zones. Trump encourages this, as does Fox, but Republicans in Congress do it too.
We live in an era in which the line between truth and opinion is being blurred; this happens on the left as well as the right.
We live in an era of media polarization, in which too many people get their information from one-sided sources — and as a result, the shared acceptance of even the most basic facts is disappearing. Obviously, if people can’t agree on basic truths (such as whether climate change exists or whether vaccines are dangerous or whether immigrants are a net benefit or net loss for the country), they can’t work together toward substantive solutions. Bipartisanship and cooperation become devalued.
This is a recipe for an increasingly divided country in which political, social and cultural differences grow deeper and rational compromise becomes impossible.
The nonpartisan Rand Corporation recently released a study of what it called “Truth Decay,” in which it concluded (without discussing Trump) that the nation was facing a blurring of opinion and fact, an increasing relative volume of opinion over fact, a declining trust in respected sources of information, a declining trust in facts and historically high levels of political polarization.
The consequences of these trends, according to Rand, could include the erosion of civil discourse, political paralysis, disengagement of individuals from political and civic institutions and uncertainty about national policies.
Fixing this problem will require more than the resignation of a few Fox News employees.
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