Fox News complaining about disinformation is so very meta.

Tucker Carlson's Smile Time White Grievance Hour took a very serious look at the topic of disinformation last night, as part of yet another installment in his continuing series "They don't want you to think for yourself, so you should think whatever Tucker Carlson says you should." The part that got the most attention was this snippet posted to Twitter by Media Matters reporter Andrew Lawrence, in which Carlson seemed to insist that the very idea of "QAnon" was itself a figment of the liberal imagination:

Carlson, who has an uncanny talent for lying right down to his facial muscles, explained,

"It's worth finding out where the public is getting all this false information, this dis-information, as we'll call it. So we checked. We spent all day trying to locate the famous QAnon, which, in the end, we learned is not even a website. If it's out there, we could not find it.

Then, we checked Marjorie Taylor Greene's Twitter feed because we have heard she traffics in dis-information, CNN told us, but nothing there."

But wait, maybe there's more context that would make that ridiculous assertion make more sense? Hahaha, this is Tucker Carlson, so don't be silly. There definitely is context, but the joke is that it doesn't help in the least.

The full segment is only loosely about QAnon, but Tucker's larger purpose is to reassure viewers that facts really are simply a matter of political belief, and that liberal politicians and their Big Media Lapdogs are the ones who are actually spreading disinformation. In fact, his weird QAnon claims are mostly tangential to his main topic, which involves yet another attempt to prove that there's actually no such thing as systemic racism in America, and certainly not in police shootings of African-Americans.

Here, have the longer segment, courtesy of Media Matters:

As with any Tucker Carlson bullshit operation, it's just loaded with bad-faith claims and dark hints that the Elites want to wipe out any independent thinking that doesn't conform to liberal diktats, followed by the usual fawning over the brilliance of Fox News viewers, who are precisely the kind of independent thinkers Tucker appeals to, because they don't fall for any propaganda but his.

Then it's a few clips of CNN pundits and guests fretting about the damage that "disinformation" does to our democracy and to norms, though Carlson's producers are careful not to include any examples apart from some mention of QAnon. Certainly nothing about Donald Trump's lies about the election, because the point here is to make viewers mock media gatekeepers like CNN.

Next, it's time for the pivot: Carlson says the real disinformation comes from "the Left," and as proof, offers a study that asked people how many unarmed Black people were killed by police in 2019. About 44 percent of people who identify themselves as liberal guessed the number was 1,000 or more, which is far off the actual number, although the study notes that available data is incomplete, and could be as high as 60 to 100 for 2019. Nonetheless, Carlson insists "we have definitive statistics on this" (no we don't!), and that "only" 27 unarmed Black men were killed by police, and therefore, he implies, there's no problem with racism in policing.

Not mentioned by either Carlson or the study he's citing: While people's perceptions about actual numbers may be off, the percentage of police killings of Black people (and nonfatal uses of force, too) is far out of proportion to African-Americans' share of the US population. The raw numbers — especially for a single year! — don't matter as much as the rates at which communities of color get violent policing done to them.

Now, it's really not especially surprising that people in a survey turn out to be poorly informed (consider the wild guesses folks make about how much the US spends on foreign aid or perceptions of the crime rate). But that's where Carlson sees the pernicious effect of media disinformation. In what surely must have made some irony meters explode somewhere, the Fox News host bemoaned how badly informed Americans are:

"A lot of Americans are completely and utterly misinformed, and that has actual consequences. Public policy can change dramatically on the basis of what people think they know but don't actually know."

Why yes! Like the perception that there's widespread voter fraud, or cheating on welfare, or the belief that certain groups of people are more inherently violent and criminal than others. Not surprisingly, Carlson's example of the ill effects of people being misinformed was itself pure disinformation: "Entire police departments got defunded!" No, he didn't offer any details, but you just know it's happening, right?

Not satisfied with the reality that a lot of people think things that aren't true, Carlson then segued into his weird "there's no QAnon" fugue, explaining he just couldn't find the QAnon website, and neither could his team's "many friends in the tight-knit intel community." CNN's Brian Stelter noted that if Carlson wanted some information on the phenomenon, he could have looked up a Fox News explainer, but that's not quite the point Carlson was going for anyway:

"Who is lying to America in ways that are certain to make us hate each other and certain to destroy our core institutions? Well, none of the above, actually. It wasn't Marjorie Taylor Greene. It was cable news. It was politicians talking on TV, they're the ones spreading disinformation to Americans. Maybe they are from QAnon. You be the judge."

By now it's not even clear whether he means the media is lying about race and policing, or media coverage of QAnon, and the confusion seems deliberate, because suddenly, QAnon vanishes from the story, as Carlson closes with several clips of politicians decrying racial bias in policing, which he just "proved" doesn't exist, if you're an idiot. See? Systemic racism in America is just as mythical as QAnon.

No, it doesn't make a lick of sense, even in "context." Doesn't need to, as long as people keep tuning in. Besides, we looked, and systemic racism in policing doesn't even have a website.

[Media Matters / HuffPo / Center for Policing Equity (Yale)]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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