The Fox Political Cult

Probably the most infamous cases of mass mind control involves religious cults, with the People’s Temple Jonestown Massacre in Guyana, South America being the most tragic.  In 1978, Jim Jones, most likely suffering from megalomania, forced 912 followers into committing mass suicide. Attempts to rescue the followers, ultimately by a member of the US House of Representatives, ended in the representative’s murder and the deaths of all sect members.

The totality of Jim Jones’ control was blamed on a religious extremism administered through a charismatic leader with a regimen of 24/7 control of mind and body. In today’s world, religious cultism is not dead, but is still a problem.

There is a more extensive form of mind control involving millions of Americans, not in the religious sense but in the political sense. There is no immediate threat of death for humans but, in effect, a deadly threat to a democracy founded well over 200 years ago, the American experiment in democracy.

We are speaking of Rupert Murdock’s News Corporation, which has potential access to a global audience of 4.7 billion people, three-fourths of the world’s population.  Its Fox News Channel acts as the ultimate political cult in the United States.

Unlike religious cults, it does not hold your body captive, only your mind. It is not the dystopian world with a totalitarian superstate that we see depicted in the movie or novel called 1984, but one using many of its tools, like doublespeak and saturation learning. A form of bizarre doublespeak is 1984’s Ministry of Truth, the total opposite of truth, which in turn reminds us of Fox’s claim of “fair and balanced.”

Like families of a religious sect which controls mind and body, many of us would like to rescue friends and loved ones, whose minds are under Fox News’ capture. However, its impact goes beyond family.

It is part of a conservative undertaking implemented in a modern democracy utilizing political, economic, and coercive psychological systems through the media. It is a coercive system tailored for a modern democracy, enhanced by slowly erasing democracy’s checks and balances, including unbiased jurisprudence, a neutral media, government checks and balances, unimpeded voting, and equal representation.

In all fairness, Fox News tactics have changed all news business into one where news and commentary is nearly the same. But Fox is as extreme in content as it is in method. Its president since 2005, Roger Eugene Ailes, media consultant for Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr., and Giuliani, knows the ropes in using media for propaganda purposes.

Coercive persuasion, a term that replaces propaganda in a politically correct culture, is so pervasive on Fox News – and so far, so successful — that other networks imitate and copy its techniques and too often content. The essential strategy used by those operating such programs of persuasion is to change views or ideologies to match their own, this done over continuous periods of time.

Accordingly, techniques and news content are stage-managed and focus-group-driven. Fox portrays one consistent ideological perspective that carries only the Republican right-wing view and selects only news content that lauds conservatives and demonizes progressives. Accordingly, positive achievements of the opposition are spuriously misrepresented as failures.

The cumulative toll we see is the vast audience who are everyday subjects of mind control. The effect is curious. Vast swaths of Americans take for truth an enormous amount of misinformation: Saddam Hussein had WMDs; all Arabs are terrorists; Obama is Muslim and not born in the US; immigrants are both lazy and about to steal your job; those in poverty are lazy takers; Obama doesn’t love America – it goes on and on.

The question is, “How is this done?”

It was not done overnight. In preparation, safeguards of democracy have been dismantled. The FCC used to guarantee fair and balanced until the Reagan administration. Now Fox News deceptively claims, “fair and balanced” news. The Supreme Court used to rule by law; now it’s by corporate bias. Furthermore, polarization is an established fact.

Fox uses a number of mind control techniques.

Panic mongering uses fear, overstatement, misinformation and such to terrorize the audience. All media does it, but Fox does it with an agenda. Keep your audience fearful of something every waking moment through threats against your livelihood, threats to your life, threats to your job, and so on. If it isn’t ISIS or Ebola at your border, it’s the American military planning takeover with defense exercises in Texas.

Greg Abbot, the Texas governor, wastefully called up the Texas National Guard to oversee the exercises. This was prominently reported on Fox News. Fox News scare tactics even migrate to mainstream for minor maladies with a threat scenario: a pollen tsunami has struck America; a perfect storm of allergies; rather than a polar vortex, it’s a pollen vortex. Everything is characterized as a crisis.

Character assassination dispenses with opponents through attack, not debate. Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, for example, when outflanked by liberal guests, often tell them, “Shut up,” that is, after yelling and browbeating is not effective.  President Obama is always a target but O’Reilly’s interview of him was an opportunity to interrupt and instruct him some 80 times in a 15 minute interview. Government and higher education are disparaged, those defending the former and those representing the latter are usually enemies anyway.

Projection or Flipping involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you’re using and then accusing your opponent of doing it first, skillfully utilized by Karl Rove.  For example, anti-racists are accused of racism – as Obama has been against whites, or climate change advocates do not have science on their side.

Rewriting history involves propagandists making the facts fit their worldview. Anything involving Benghazi was twisted to fit the Fox view of conspiracy, or actually fabricated, as was an eyewitness view presentation on Sixty Minutes. More and more, mainstream news seems to try to outdo Fox News saturation reporting, in this case on a Benghazi conspiracy. On their paid expert staff, Dr. Keith Ablow claimed that Obama did not defend Benghazi because of a strategy of psychological warfare.

Scapegoating or Othering is used to replace true villains like Wall Street for the Great Recession, and transfer blame to others. The more outrageous the transfer of blame (the bigger the lie), the more believable it seems to be, especially for angry, victimized Americans. Fox often attacks unions, the unemployed, the impoverished, black real estate borrowers – they are the other which doesn’t fit the established Fox mold, a mold composed of mostly white Americans.

Bullying and a show of force, the style often displayed by the last Bush administration, is preferred over negotiation, whether domestic (never compromise with Democrats) or foreign affairs (Putin is strong; Obama is weak and naïve, negotiating with Iran).

Confuse the argument by saying or implying that anyone who disagrees is too dumb or too fanatical to follow, or if a woman, too emotional. Fox News is always right. You are wrong. Never apologize, and if totally necessary, only in measured, blameless terms. Always invoke the Christian God and declare yourself a patriot.

Saturation will keep the fearful mind of the audience reinforced. The three components to effective saturation is being repetitive, being ubiquitous and being consistent. Talking points are prescribed and rehearsed each day to make the message universal in all conservative outlets. Daily meetings by Roger Ailes definitively outline the main points to be repeated each day and they are orchestrated by all conservative sources. The Fox commentators and staff will lose their jobs if Ailes is not followed and if precepts are violated. If you ever wondered why conservative talking heads always mouth the same message, a unified front is the reason.

Top all this off with lying with statistics. Classic and new graphical techniques are used: truncate the y-axis, use numbers that don’t add up, change units of comparison, change the magnitude of units for x-values, and use misleading chart titles. Fox can afford to pay well for good statisticians who know the tricks.

There are many victims. First of all, employees of Fox News are in straitjackets of Fox conformity. Their pay and livelihood depends on following the Fox line, as told by Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer, whose contract as a paid expert after 9/11 was cancelled when he strayed from the Fox line. It is evident with Richard Clarke, former Bush aid, demonized by Fox only after he spoke the truth about Bush administration Iraqi War lies.

But mostly, the Fox audience and their families are the victims. Often unwittingly, they belong to a cable-based cult with ubiquitous reach broadcasting a consistent ideological perspective. Often families brainwashed by a religious sect, could be, in effect, kidnapped, deprogrammed and eventually returned to normalcy.

Victims of the Fox News cult are voluntary subjects, programmed for decades. They appear to be functioning members of our society. Their programming is relentless, repetitive and reinforced daily. Without even realizing it, victims repeat Fox talking points in their daily conversations, as though they have been briefed by Roger Ailes himself that very morning.

Deprogramming Fox cult members is a daunting task which involves shutting out a relentless cult infrastructure with roots in sometimes hidden places.  That is far more difficult than removing your victim from one religious cult setting.

James Hoover is a recently retired systems engineer. He has advanced degrees in Economics and English. Prior to his aerospace career, he taught high school, and he has also taught college courses. He recently published a science fiction novel called Extraordinary Visitors and writes political columns on several websites. Read other articles by James.