I came to the conclusion a while ago that Donald Trump would’ve been brought to his knees by now if it weren’t for Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, and the rest of the right-wing echo chamber. My reasoning is that congressional Republicans won’t hold Trump accountable because it would alienate them from their own base. Right-wing news feeds those voters a steady stream of lies and propaganda that, combined with the constant drumbeat of how the mainstream media is the enemy, keeps them ignorant and uninformed.
When it comes to the issue of immigration, take a look at how Laura Ingraham fed the racism and ignorance last night.
What she did was basically ignite the kind of white nationalism that other Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson have been peddling on a consistent basis. The message is that “America can no longer be the country we know and love” if white people are no longer a majority. To subtly conflate the idea of American identity with whiteness, Ingraham says, “massive demographic changes have been foisted upon us” that “none of us ever voted for.” I’d like to ask her who “us” includes. The underlying assumption is that it’s only white people. In fact, that entire segment was accompanied by images of white farmers in rural America, but Ingraham doesn’t tell you that they rely primarily on immigrants to harvest their crops.
To make her point, Ingraham has to lie about the liberal alternative. She pretends that the Democratic position is that borders don’t matter and that enforcing immigration law is a human rights violation. Her audience won’t know that the human rights violations liberals object to have to do with separating asylum seekers from their children and putting them in jail, or that the last time Congress took up comprehensive immigration reform, Democrats voted for strong measures to enhance border patrol.
The arguments Trump and his administration often make for their immigration policies tend to be focused on lies about how immigrants are criminals/terrorists, that they are taking away your jobs and that they abuse your tax dollars by soaking up federal benefits. Ingraham skips right past all of that and goes straight to the white nationalism. The truth is, that makes her slightly more honest than Trump and his pal Stephen Miller. The administration merely tells those lies to justify the fact that what they’re doing is based on the same kind of white nationalism that Ingraham is peddling.
People who watched Laura Ingraham’s show last night got a potent injection of racism to rally the troops behind the kind of abuses we’re witnessing from ICE, the need to spend billions on a useless wall and the administration’s mounting attacks on legal immigrants. As long as the people viewing that segment don’t hear any challenge to Ingraham’s white nationalism, they are primed to support what the Trump administration is doing to protect the “America we’ve come to know and love.”
I’m not suggesting that right-wing news consumers come to the table as an empty slate, only to be fed lies about white nationalism. But I do think that the Cambridge Analytica staff captured what is going on with all of this:
The two fundamental human drivers when it comes to taking information onboard effectively are hopes and fears and many of those are unspoken and even unconscious. You didn’t know that was a fear until you saw something that just evoked that reaction from you. And our job is to get, is to drop the bucket further down the well than anybody else, to understand what are those really deep-seated underlying fears, concerns.
Back in 2015, white supremacist Richard Spencer talked about how Trump was tapping into “an unconscious vision that white people have–that their grandchildren might be a hated minority in their own country.” He was absolutely right. Trump taps into that “deep-seated underlying fear”–and right-wing propaganda peddlers like Laura Ingraham tell their viewers that those feelings are justified and warranted. That is how a president like Trump survives, but it is also how democracy dies.