By Caleb Snider and Kyler Jackson
On Feb. 18 at a rally in Melbourne, Florida, Trump falsely stated that crime was rising in Sweden because their country was accepting a large number of refugees. After drawing questions and criticism from the Swedish government, Trump tweeted the following day, “My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.”
Fox’s response to this? To double-down on the false claims they and President Trump made. On Feb. 23, Bill O’Reilly, host of “The O’Reilly Factor,” had a special guest, Nils Bildt, who was introduced on-screen as a “Swedish defense and national security adviser.”
“There is a problem with crime, (and) there is a problem with areas or hotspots of crime (in Sweden),” Bildt said while on “The O’Reilly Factor.” Bildt said the reason no one has heard about this is because “if you don’t agree with the liberal … common agenda, then you are viewed as an outsider or not even taken seriously.”
The problem with all of this: the Swedish Armed Forces does not even know who this man is. Dagens Nyheter, a Swedish newspaper, said that Nils Bildt, formerly Nils Tolling, emigrated from Sweden in 1994 and had actually been convicted of a felony in 2014 “for assaulting a law enforcement person and for obstruction of justice, after threatening an official.”
So, we have a “news” organization, one of few that happens to be fervently loved by President Trump, bringing on a convicted felon to impersonate a foreign dignitary. All in order to further push a false narrative so that Trump seems correct. This recent scandal is just one of many examples of why Fox “News” is not news. Rather, they are a propaganda machine.
This isn’t just liberals attacking Fox because they are conservative. We agree that every viewpoint should be heard, and there are reliable, well-known, conservative-leaning news organizations that often do fantastic journalistic work. But, Fox is different from these legitimate news organizations.
The definition of propaganda is “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” Fox “News” perfectly embodies all of this, and we’ll explain why.
Fox separates itself by the means in which they tell stories — using fear and spreading patently false lies — and the degree to which they push an extreme right agenda. Going so far as to label people “un-American” and “bad Americans” for holding opposing beliefs.
The first aspect of propaganda is spreading “information … of a biased or misleading nature.” A great example of this with Fox is how the issue of climate change is discussed. According to an article from The International Journal of Press/Politics, Fox “News” takes a dismissive tone toward climate change and frequently interviews a larger number of climate-change skeptics. This makes the viewers more inclined to believe that climate change is not man-made and not as urgent of an issue, compared to viewers of CNN, MSNBC, etc.
Another 2010 study researched Fox viewers and found they were more likely to believe falsehoods like the economy was getting worse, most Republicans were opposed to TARP and even the continued lie that former President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S.
Now, let’s turn to the definition of propaganda as a means to “promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” Again, Fox “News” wholly embodies this. In a 2016 study published by Stanford, titled “Bias in Cable News: Persuasion and Polarization,” Gregory J. Martin and Ali Yurukoglu estimated that “Fox News'” ideology has been moving further to the right in most recent years, and this is well documented.
After the 2012 election, a political scientist from Columbia University said “one of the reasons Mitt Romney was so unable to pivot back to the center was due to the drumbeat at Fox … even after the primary season, when Fox became a big supporter for Romney, the rift between official editorial position and the political feelings of Fox viewers and hosts was clear.”
Fox as a whole is one of the largest and most effective architects of Republican talking points. The leaders of the party don’t create the talking points, they just repeat them. We’ve seen this occur over the years as Fox fueled the Tea Party movement, leaders of which adopted talking points made on shows like “The Sean Hannity Show” and “The O’Reilly Factor.” But, it can be seen even more clearly now with President Trump, who has directly quoted Fox statements in his tweets and repeatedly states he gets his information from Fox.
Again, there are many conservative news organizations that do great journalistic work — The National Review, The Wall Street Journal and Real Clear Politics, just to name a few — but Fox has proved they cannot be taken as a legitimate news organization, as 59 percent of statements made on the network are varying degrees of falsity.
Kyler Jackson is a sophomore in political science and Caleb Snider is a sophomore in public relations. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to [email protected]kstatecollegian.com.