In the superb PBS documentary series, 'The Brain', Neuroscientist Thomas Eagleman provides critical insights on how human brains are adversely affected by propaganda. The origins of the latter are actually embodied in our desire to "seek out alliances" with friends, family and hopefully others who share our same interests, convictions and even political leanings. In Eagleman's words:
"It gives comfort to belong to a group"
This "group" could be an actual social club, a social media enclave (Facebook sub group) or political alliance. It could also be an assembly of millions of viewers all watching the same cable channel at the same time who are led to believe they share a virtual alliance or core set of beliefs with other viewers. This is particularly cogent in the sphere of political agendas. Thus the political agendas around us, can actually manipulate the brain activity inside us.
How to get around it and stop it? That usually must entail the victimized brain stepping outside its own 'box' to see the propaganda for what it is. The trouble is that most brains are not trained to do that so often need an outside interlocutor who is able to recognize the infection for what it is and 'unpack' it for the affected brain or brains. The goal of a propagandizing medium or broadcast is to discourage people from stepping outside their seemingly real and "truthful" cubbyholes, to see how their brains are being molded in the service of others.
Given this, FOX alumnus Tobin Smith has delivered one hell of a revealing look (in Daily Kos) of how FOX News was designed to grab the brains of the unwary, jack them - and convert them to zombies or zombie fodder for RIGHT Think.. We've known this at least since 2004 when multiple polls showed FOX viewers inhabited a different fact universe from the rest of us. Two thirds of them actually swallowed the hogswill that Saddam was an agent of al Qaeda and that justified Bush Junior's invasion of Iraq.
But the terrific thing about Tobin Smith spilling the goods is that the arch Conservatives cannot complain that he's an anonymous source or a "radical leftist". Even better, they can review old Fox News videos and see for ourselves the veracity of Smith’s claims.
The Kos piece begins with Smith asking FOX über Brain jack maestro Roger Ailes:
“So Roger tell me…who is your Fox News target audience and what turns ’em on?”
Ailes reportedly replied:
“What does our viewer look like?
To which Ailes replied:
“They look like me…white guys in mostly Red State counties who sit on their couch with the remote in their hand all day and night.”
“They want to see YOU tear those smug condescending know-it-all East Coast liberals to pieces . . limb by limb . . . until they jump up out of their LaZ boy and scream “Way to go Toby…you KILLED that libtard!”
Thereby, in effect, Fox turned political opinion into hard core political propaganda delivered via the appearance of performance art. Thus, we beheld cretins like O'Reilly literally getting red in the face onscreen as they bellowed a barrage of bombast over the air and into the ears (and fertile brains) of their captive audience. The captivity, of course, ensured by the performance. Hence, the art of the performance and emphasis at the right time with the right trigger words ("liberals") compounded the addictive process - which btw, is standard for all great propaganda.
By careful design and staging Fox News manipulated (and ultimately addicted) the most vulnerable people in America to the most powerful drug cocktail ever: Visceral gut feelings of outrage relieved by the most powerful emotions of all . . . the thrill of your tribe’s victory over its enemy and the ultimate triumph of good over evil.
The video below is instructive in seeing how Josef Goebbels mastered the Nazi propaganda machine:
Of course, both Trump and Hitler were also masters of performance art propaganda - especially at campaign rallies or general political rallies. See, for example, this video mix comparing the speeches of both here:
Each mastered emotional affect to reel in ever more supporters, spectators who then became integrated into the brain-jacked matrix. As a cable station the same performance art techniques have been perfected at FOX. The redder Billo's face got as he got vexed at some liberal "pinhead" the more the peanut gallery felt compelled to watch. Thereby FOX became a pinnacle propaganda medium and efficiently sold the soul of America to the highest bidder in return for 2 minute ad sequences aired during the performance intermissions.
Obviously, the fix was always in with Facts and Truth given the lowest priority. But what the mostly older, trusting, small city/rural living Fox News fan never seem to understand about Fox’s partisan performance art programming was this, in Tobin Smith's words:
"The outcomes for Fox’s “panel debates” have ALWAYS been carefully fixed by the producers so that the home team (i.e, the conservative panelists like me) ALWAYS won."
In other words, the FOX producers always fixed the segments in advance to ensure the conservative side always bested the black-hearted libs. To that end, actual facts offered by the latter inevitably had short half lives - maybe half of those proffered by conservatives (if they emerged at all). Or, if one on one, the conservative always had been programmed to prevail over the putative liberal (such as the late Alan Colmes) who then served as the tackling dummy.
The shtick worked like a charm and convinced millions of rubes via the set piece propaganda that conservatives had the superior arguments on any topic, from health care to defense budgets, to welfare and climate change. Well, of course they did, if the facts and truth were carefully excised from the programs - whether O'Reilly's Factor, or Sean Hannity. The design was intended to be one of addiction and it worked. Fox practically guaranteed their consistent high ratings because they were feeding a blatant propaganda addiction.
How so? Since most FOX viewers from the demographic noted were already in a state of constant rage and grievance, e.g. against "the government", "welfare queens" and "the Left" - it merely required reinforcement. Thus, FOX deliberately, according to Smith: "fed the viewer’s rage to set their brain’s pleasure giving dopamine delivery system into high gear " Smith completing the point started:
"Then when their conservative protagonist tribal hero (aka me 'the hitman') turned the liberal’s own words against them and vanquished the sniveling apostate into living hell on live TV…WOW…the pleasure chemical rushed through the Fox viewer's brain like a deep hit of crack cocaine (btw its the dopamine system in the brain that cocaine stimulates and makes it so addictive)."
How good does that get? Well, neuroscience has known for years that “news junkies” or “political junkies” were in fact addicts…junkies…who got their addictive dopamine hit from the emotional roller coaster of unbridled outrage followed by the dopamine releasing experience derived from the thrill of watching the victory/denouement of the ideological apostate, i.e. the "liberal" or "raical leftist". This is exactly why FOX news and political junkies are the most brainwashed .
Smith observes that any contributor who suddenly acquired integrity in the FOX realm and discoursed objectively realized their error too late. One such example was Linda Chavez, a long time Fox conservative contributor. She basically became a nonperson when she advocated for more legal immigration — even though her position had been consistent for 30+ years and is based on her belief in markets over central planning. Alas, chief FOX porker Ailes didn't like it and showed his dissatisfaction with her veering off the propaganda train. According to Smith, quoted in the Daily Kos piece:
As Linda tells the story “One producer basically told me that it was “confusing” to have me on to discuss the subject because conservatives were supposed to be for less immigration and liberals for more.What about "saving" one's family members from this brain poison? It's almost always hopeless because by the time you try an intervention it's like they've been on crack or opioids for years. As Smith related (ibid.):
"I tried to save my own mother, but I could not break through. She pooh-poohed my facts,and told me that Bill O’Reilly was the only person she trusted. I was incredulous. “Even more than me, Mom?” Yes, because my “once excellent” critical thinking and judgement had been clouded by the media I chose to consume."
A question that often arises and which Smith also addressed is why we basically have two distinct nations accepting different facts, on terror threats, climate change, the Trump -Russia associations etc. to the extent each calls the other a "fake news" source. As Smith informs us:
"...one part of the Fox News strategy is the tried and true conservative media narrative to insulate their audiences from opposing views — in part, by continually denouncing the mainstream media(i.e., other news sources) 24/7/365 as “liberal, biased, and not to be trusted.”
To Smith's point, I have only succeeded in turning one family member, relative away from FOX. That was my brother-in-law, Anthony. This was after I discovered he'd been hooked in by O'Reilly in Trinidad (watching via his subscription TV). After Janice and I gave him the lowdown on Billo and his past exploits, and showed him real news sources - like CNN - he broke the habit cold turkey. But let's be honest, that was an exception to the rule and Anthony is a retired mechanical and electrical engineer who could be reached. That is, via cogent reasoning you could actually get past his programmed lizard brain and replace the degenerate, false FOX memes.
If it were only that easy for the rest of the FOX-Trumpy lot!