When it comes to propaganda, sometimes even something innocuous, or even beneficial, can seem menacing if one’s audience is properly conditioned to begin with. Today, a perfect example of this came across my station. A sweetheart of a friend of mine who is kind and smart but just a little vulnerable to the propaganda of Fox “News” found a ‘horrifying story’ about ebola patients being transported to the US for treatment. She did the right thing: she asked me to look into it. So I did.
So Fox runs this piece: “Fox News Obtains Memo Detailing How Ebola Patients Could Come to US”. It starts off with:
“Fox News confirms that the State Department is pushing to bring Ebola patients to the United States for medical treatment, even if they’re not citizens”
Mmmmmmm! I can just taste the panic dripping off of this one. It’s a bold flavor with the undertones of ‘Obama wants to infect us’, and a tincture of ‘OMGZ They’re bringing all the sick Africans here!’. This is a classic Fox lead-in for a story… just goes straight for the panic button and once again stokes their viewers’ fears that the Kenyan-Muslim-Socialist-Communist-Fascist-Anti-Christ is trying to kill off white Americans by shipping hordes of infected darkies to our shores. Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s what Fox is going for here… and you can bet that a more than significant portion of their audience flew into a froth over this story and somewhere, out there, at least a handful of them are repeating the seemingly ridiculous claim about ‘bringing Africans here to infect us’.
Let’s take a look at this first piece of subtle brainwashing. It’s all in the choice of words here. You’ll notice how the state department is “Pushing”, as in ‘applying force’. Not ‘suggesting’ or ‘recommending’, which are usually the terms we apply to one agency communicating a strategy to another. No, in THIS case the state department is so determined to get its way; that it is ‘pushing’ to bring ‘ebola patients’ to the US, ostensibly against the will of the American people. By using the word ‘pushing’ they are framing the potential action as meeting resistance and being ‘bad’ right from the outset.
Then this xenophobic zinger: “even if they’re not citizens”. Again, this suggests that the state department is doing something wrong because they want to do it “EVEN IF”. This is the suggestion that there either is, or should be, a restriction against treating non-citizens here. This is classic xenophobic Fox tactics. But here’s the genius part: Notice how they don’t mention that they’re not talking about infected Africans? The memo actually states that the people brought here for treatment would be medical professionals who were fighting the outbreak. This is Fox letting their audiences’ fear-soaked noggins ‘fill in the blanks’. It’s a long-standing tactic to leave out information so their audience assumes the worst. They’ve already primed their viewers to be afraid, so they just give them a nudge in the right direction and suddenly the invasion of the infected into America is imminent. You could say that they’ve mastered the ‘less is more’ tactic of instilling delusions.
So what has Fox done here? Have they lied? Only if you believe that omission of information is deliberately misleading, in which case, yeah, they lied through every pretty blond orifice they have. But what we find most effective is not the content of this particular article, it is the conditioning that their viewers have been subjected to for years. After all that exposure, Fox doesn’t have to do a great deal of work. Their viewer’s brains practically wash themselves these days. Over the course of the ebola story, Fox already laid the groundwork for panicking their audience. They’ve already had non-experts lie about the communicability of ebola, they’ve had a Republican lie about the reasons the CDC isn’t recommending travel restrictions, and they’ve conveniently left out the fact that it was the Bush administration that set the precedent of NOT restricting travel during what was actually a more dangerous outbreak of avian flu, which is much more transmissible than ebola. Bush’s HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said:
“It’s such an appealing idea, it sounds so easy. But it’s when you get to the second layer of activity and then the third and fourth it gets complicated. For example, imagine a Liberian citizen goes to Spain and in Spain he manifests symptoms and people in Spain get it. Do you now expand the travel ban to include Spain? Somebody from Spain goes to the U.K. and now it’s there, so do you include the U.K.? Now somebody who gets it there turns out to be a U.S. citizen and wants to come home to get treated. Do you let the citizen in?”
He also explains why a travel ban would actually hamper efforts to fight and contain the disease, creating a more dangerous situation for all of us.
So this time Fox lets their viewers anxious imaginations spur them to misplaced outrage by leaving out key pieces of information, including the statement in the memo that:
“The greatest stated impediment to persuading other countries to send medical teams to the Ebola-afflicted countries in West Africa has been the lack of assured medical evacuation and treatment for responders who may be infected with ebola virus.”
In other words: we should encourage people to fight it over there, so we don’t have to fight it here (at least outside of a controlled environment in a state-of-the-art facility). That’s right, it’s MORE DANGEROUS to have medical professionals refuse to join the fight against ebola because they cannot be assured of treatment should they contract it.
But Fox did at least post a link to a copy of the memo (the veracity of which I have not yet independently confirmed, but it seems reasonable). They put that link up so that their viewers could exercise their intellectual diligence and see for themselves what the reasons for the recommendation to treat foreign aid workers here in our relatively secure medical facilities are….
No, Fox knows good and gosh darn well that their audience doesn’t do ‘research’, and that all but a tiny percent of them will take Fox’s fear-mongering at face value. After all, when it comes to deceiving a massive audience, less is more for Fox “News”.