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EDITORIAL: From merely partisan to outright propaganda

York Dispatch

It is far from arguable that Fox News long ago abandoned any pretense to living up to the second word of its name.

While its opinion programming has always been unapologetically — and profitably —conservative, the station at one time argued that it played it straight during news shows.

Those days, if they ever existed, are long gone.

The station has skewed so far to the right in terms of not only its commentary but its roster of news-show analysts, its selection of topics (one refrains from calling them “stories,” so far from the menu of legitimate news coverage do they veer) and its predictable defense of President Donald Trump and his White House, that it has become little more than a propaganda machine.

That’s not us talking; that’s a Fox News veteran.

The network’s longtime “strategic analyst” Ralph Peters raised eyebrows — and, likely, a few heart rates inside the Fox News boardroom — earlier this month when he quit his post and denounced the network.

“Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration,” the retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel wrote in an email to a few of his former colleagues.

And here we thought we’d never agree with a Fox News analyst!

“Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association,” Peters continued. “Now I am ashamed.”

And here we thought Fox News talking heads were shameless!

A word about Peters: He’s no fence-straddler. A staunch conservative, he was once temporarily suspended following a Fox Business News interview in which he called President Barack Obama a word we can’t repeat here.

So when he airs grievances that question the network’s motives, as he does elsewhere in his letter — “Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers” — he is worth heeding.

Peters is pulling the curtain back on one of the network’s most nefarious — if effective — distortions: That its unabashed rightward leanings are simply a corrective to the left-tilting, mainstream media.

And that is what Fox News and its architects have always been at war with: the mainstream (which, it need hardly be pointed out, is far different from the far left).

The Fox News definition of liberal — encompassing, as it does, the mainstream — is “anything that is not conservative.” It’s an us-against-them mindset that has long played to the suspicions of a largely white, largely male audience that refuses to accept, let alone embrace, the changing demographics of the 21st century.

The network provides a platform for conservative ideologues who tend to one-up one another in terms of mean-spiritedness (think Ann Coulter) but almost never challenge conventional conservative wisdom (give or take an occasional detour into reality by news anchor Shepard Smith, who is then urged by the Fox faithful to move over to CNN).

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Were Smith to do so, he would find a network that, like other legitimate news outlets, provides a more varied panoply of perspectives. CNN’s panel of 2016 presidential election analysts, for example, included not only Trump’s most energetic on-air supporter, Jeffrey Lord, but a woman who would go on to serve as the Republican National Committee spokesperson, Kayleigh McEnany. You’ll find no such fairness or balance at Fox.

But then, that was never the point. Fox lures viewers by offering manufactured issues ranging from the imaginary (“war on Christmas”) all the way to the nonexistent (Obama’s birth certificate). Its alternate version of reality is only a few aliens and a Loch Ness monster from that found in the pages of the National Enquirer.

Insulating viewers from reality in the age of Trump may be at once more complicated (the foibles and failures of the administration are on display for all to see) and more effortless (their biggest enabler and cheerleader sits in the Oval Office), but it is also more obvious.

Thus, even longtime foot soldiers for the conservative cause are calling shenanigans and turning tail.

In slamming the station for its propagandizing, Ralph Peters is simply pointing out the obvious. Fox remains a viable forum for political and current events entertainment, if one is of a certain perspective, but its content can hardly be called fair, hardly be called balanced, and hardly be called news.