Ray McEvilly: Right-wing media has left us with braindead Trumpers

(Leah Millis | Pool via AP) Rush Limbaugh reacts as first Lady Melania Trump, and his wife Kathryn, applaud, as President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020.

Many keep asking the question: How did we ever end up with a Republican Senate and a significant percentage of voters continuing to support Donald Trump?

Several ideas have been put forward, but I think we are missing a key factor that is at the heart of this mess — unrestrained ultra-conservative media: radio, cable and the internet.

In no particular order, the following issues were and continue to be divisive: the sexual revolution, birth control pills, Roe vs. Wade, gay rights, R-rated cable TV, women’s rights, guns, health care, all issues that are troubling to conservatives, especially religious conservatives.

Conservative media, starting with talk radio, distorted these issues and blamed Democrats. The seeds of our current discontent took root.

But our nation has survived other extremely contentious times without becoming so divided. So what is the difference that has allowed our country to be so hostile, so divisive? Why are so many still supporting an incompetent, unlawful president?

I believe that ultra-conservative media has exasperated these issues. In the 1980s, the Federal Communications Commission eliminated the “fairness doctrine” and made journalistic standards optional, thus creating the beginnings of a perfect political storm that we are now trying to survive.

When Fox News started in 1996, there was a waiting audience that had been created by right-wing talk radio. These entertaining radio personalities talked about political issues and provided half-truths and simplistic answers to complex problems.

Reliable sources, who cares? The answers they offered always put the blame on liberal Democrats. They were so effective that liberal became a dirty word. Slow news day? Just go with, “They are taking away your guns,” or, “They are pushing socialistic health programs and creating death panels.”

Within six years, Fox News was leading in the ratings.

With the FCC deregulation, there were no rules. So what format is more likely to generate ratings? Detailed analysis covering both sides of an issue? Or charming attractive personalities providing simple emotional answers and half-truths that blame the Democrats, including outrageous personal attacks such as that Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

Ratings soared, generating big bucks. Over 30 years, this information pollution has been effective, creating a voting block that scares GOP office holders. It has actually devolved from half-truths to out-and-out lies. Whatever works for the moment, because by the time the truth is put forth, we are on to something else more sensational with, of course, more lies.

Just keep the ratings up and the money flowing. Fox and Trump are a perfect match for making money. What’s best for the country, not so much.

How do we ever recover? How does democracy function when truth is not valued over propaganda?

A couple of desperate hopes:

Maybe Sen. Mitt Romney’s vote in the impeachment trial will cause some to think, really think, and not accept the right’s propaganda. Maybe they will think about what Romney said and not vote for Trump. Maybe the youth vote will turn out.

Additionally, wouldn’t it be ironic if money saved us? What?

Well, TV news was once a money loser, but Fox News showed how to make it a profit center. Emotional propaganda with personal attacks generates big ratings. And thus Fox News created the braindead Trumpers.

But Mike Bloomberg has more money than most people can even understand. Plus he has the big data infrastructure and staff to use it wisely. He has three things that I like: He’s smart, he’s moderate and he hates Trump. Also he is committed to using his money for anyone who gets the nomination.

As much as I dislike money in politics, I support anything that will save our democracy. Money was effective in corrupting our politics, so maybe it can clean it up.

Ray McEvilly

Ray McEvilly, Millcreek, is a Utah native and retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer.