Faux News agreed to pay millions of dollars to the family of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staff member who was murdered in Washington, D.C. in 2016. As part of the legal settlement, the details of the case were kept quiet until after the election and the resounding defeat of Don Trump.
Ben Smith, media columnist at The New York Times has more:
Why did Fox care about keeping the Rich settlement secret for the final month of the Trump re-election campaign? Why was it important to the company, which calls itself a news organization, that one of the biggest lies of the Trump era remain unresolved for that period? Was Fox afraid that admitting it was wrong would incite the president’s wrath? Did network executives fear backlash from their increasingly radicalized audience, which has been gravitating to other conservative outlets?
No, and no again. Faux News is not afraid of Don or its own viewers, who are clearly hooked on its fabricated “news” narcotic.
Faux News is not about to alter its programming or find a new set of company guidelines. The challenge for Faux News is all about keeping its corporate sponsors who pay for the mountains of disinformation and media tripe passing as news. It’s the same problem that GOP Senators and Representatives who voted to overthrow the election face.
No brand with a desire for mass appeal can afford to be associated with anti-American and anti-freedom sentiments. Nevertheless, Faux News, like the GOP, persists and manages to convince its fanboys that its mental garbage is mind candy.
Place Your ‘Hidden Hands’ on the Table
It is a good idea for media and marketing pros to periodically pause and take a hard look at themselves and the practices that we tend to take for granted. Because it’s our job to appeal to our clients’ prospects and customers, we funnel their money to Facebook, Faux News, and other unconscious media parties. It’s not hard to understand why. We go where the customers go.
We need to be honest with ourselves. For years, we have been hiding behind the skirts of Facebook and other online platforms.
While these companies have taken the heat, it has been largely unrecognized by the public that it is for the sole benefit of the advertising and marketing industry that Facebook and others do their squalid work. We are the hidden hand that guides and finances these dangerous practices.
I run Facebook ads for my clients. I must be a monster.
The reality of advertising on Facebook is pretty simple from my POV. If the ads didn’t work, I would not recommend the media spend. But the ads do work. And do you know why they work? It’s not just Facebook’s doing or the power of our ads.
For all the anti-FB hype and noise, we, the people, continue to open Facebook on our phones and laptops and desktops in order to see what’s up with our friends and family. What other sites on the Internet have this kind of lasting power and pull? Googles’ search page does, but no one lingers there for more than a minute. People digitally dwell on Facebook.
What Does Real Reform Even Look Like?
Industry self-regulation is a joke. The incentives are simply not in place. Government regulation is also a joke, or it would be if it existed at all. The only real power is the power of the purse. That’s why Marriott and other consumer brands are making bold pro-America statements today while depriving the anti-freedom forces of more funding. For now. But just like last summer’s ad ban on Facebook, marketers soon return to the well for the reasons stated above. We go where the customers go.
The strongest media companies provide environments where people feel included, supported, and consistently entertained. This is the industry’s operating principle. Now, imagine how well a fact-based news program (or online platform) would do in today’s media mess. Facts alone don’t make enough people feel included, supported, and consistently entertained. Do they?
The pressures to change (and to remove propaganda) must come from every direction—from the federal government, from within the media companies themselves, from the marketers who make it all possible, and from the end-users, also known as the customers. It will take this collective effort to overcome both inertia and the myriad of built-in disagreements. It’s a tall order and it seems like a distant possibility.
Common Sense and Media Literacy Are Missing (And Badly Missed)
The federal government wants to enforce privacy laws on the public’s behalf. At the same time, millions of individuals continue to visit Facebook on a multiple-times-a-day basis. Some of these same Facebook users are concerned about privacy violations and the proliferation of hate. Does that seem odd to you? To me, it’s like chewing gum and walking at the same time.
The Internet is a dangerous place. Your identity can be stolen. You can be bullied and harassed. You can make money, or lose every penny. Even tame activities like checking email can be a hassle and a conduit for cybercrime. Media literacy is what’s missing here and its almost total absence is tearing us apart. I believe we need to teach media literacy in our primary schools, high schools, during Sunday School, at home, and in the media. It is one of the reasons I invest time here, and one of the things that I care most about today.
When I was young, I thought brands were the ones who played make-believe. Now, I know better. Brands with real products and services to sell can’t afford to mislead their audience. Sadly, media brands and political brands operate in another arena where beliefs that reinforce personal identity reign supreme. We must know this as consumers of (and makers of) media and as conscious and concerned citizens of the United States.