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  • Rick Bonetti

Network Propaganda

Updated: Nov 27, 2022

The real danger to responsible journalism, free speech, and democracy come from within the United States, rather than from foreign intruders and social media technology. And we're not talking about the Google search engine bias or Facebook’s partnership with the Atlantic Council to suppress disinformation threatening democratic elections!

The 2018 book, Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics by Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, and Hal Roberts “finds that the right-wing media ecosystem operates fundamentally differently than the rest of the media environment,” promoting “disinformation, lies, and half-truths.”

For an overview of the book, read the August 28, 2018 article by Jeffrey Toobin in the New Yorker, where he says “The book’s message is almost simple. The two sides [Fox News vs. MSNBC and CNN] are not, in fact, equal when it comes to evaluating “news” stories, or even in how they view reality. Liberals want facts; conservatives want their biases reinforced. Liberals embrace journalism; conservatives believe the propaganda.”

Toobin says the authors’ conclusion is that “something very different was happening in right-wing media than in centrist, center-left and left-wing media.” Accordingly, they wrote the book “to shine a light on the right-wing media ecosystem itself as the primary culprit in sowing confusion and distrust in the broader American ecosystem.”

And there is a self-reinforcing feedback loop between right-wing media and Donald Trump, who increasingly rely on cable news hosts and commentators to make decisions and determine which issues to highlight.

When longtime analyst Ralph Peters left Fox News in March 2018 he sharply criticized the network, denouncing the outlet as a “propaganda machine” devoted to President Trump, and saying that it was “wittingly harming our system of government for profit.”

When President Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning that Google searches were “rigged: against him, he was probably reading PJ Media, a conservative news site, which published a piece with the headline, “96 Percent of Google Search Results for ‘Trump’ News Are from Liberal Media Outlets.

So who is the puppet (the media owners, Trump, or the gullible public?); and who is really pulling the strings?

And by the way, who still watches cable news channels or reads print media to get their news?


At the other end of the spectrum stands the print and digital media bulwarks The New York Times, respected for reporting depth and integrity, and The Washington Post, owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos. Several other regional newspapers, including the Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal have been purchased by very wealthy men. Why do billionaires decide to buy newspapers (and why should we be happy when they do)?

“If the [Washington] Post is like Amazon, happy to sell individual slices of its vertically integrated whole, the [New York] Times is perhaps more like Apple, bringing its ethos and voice to a more diverse array of products.” ~ Austin Smith.

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