One of the many noxious developments of Donald Trump’s presidency was the rise of several cable TV outlets that aimed to out-Fox Fox News.
As in, Fox News wasn’t Trump-y enough, so more pro-Trump alternatives were required, with Newsmax and OAN emerging as the preferred options.
Trump, in his final year or so, would regularly call out Fox News for its lack of total fealty to him – and urge his supporters to go somewhere (like OAN and Newsmax) where they could get nothing but good news on him and his presidency.
It worked – for Trump. But a new PRRI national poll shows how corrosive the creation of a media subservient to Trump (and the various conspiracy theories that have grown up around him/he has helped stoke) is for the body politic.
Among those respondents who say they most trust far-right news organizations:
* Four in 10 (40%) agree with the statement that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the US are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.”
* Almost half (48%) believe that “there is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders.”
* More than 4 in 10 say they agree that “because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”
All three of those statements are beliefs held by the QAnon conspiracy movement, which has been completely and thoroughly debunked any number of times.
Worth noting: QAnon has as its central tenet that Trump was installed as president by the military and would eventually arrest major Democratic figures for sex crimes. Trump isn’t president anymore. And those arrests, um, didn’t happen.
Now compare the numbers on those same questions among people who say they trust Fox News most. Less than 1 in 5 (18%) say the government and media are “controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.” One in 3 say a “storm” is coming to sweep out elites. One in 4 (27%) say violence may be necessary to save the country.
Still not great! But slightly less terrifying than the numbers among those who trust OAN and Newsmax most. (Overall, 15% of people believe the Satan-worshipping thing, 20% believe a storm is coming and 15% think violence may be necessary to save the country.)
The Point: The rise of far-right channels like OAN and Newsmax has led to a massive amount of disinformation flowing through American democracy. While espousing this garbage is a business model for these channels, it has massive impacts on Americans – many of whom are living in a conspiracy theory that they have been tricked into thinking is the real world.