Anthony DiMaggio

Fox News could be in big trouble: Dominion's huge defamation lawsuit makes a strong case

Dominion Voting Systems' lawsuit against Fox News is moving forward, despite the cable juggernaut's efforts to derail it. In mid-December of last year, the Delaware Superior Court ruled that the defamation case against Fox would not be dismissed, despite the channel's request.

What's in question is Dominion's allegation that Fox News trafficked in propaganda on behalf of former President Trump, falsely alleging that the election was stolen and that Democratic voters engaged in massive voter fraud. Dominion has also targeted other right-wing media outlets on a similar basis, including Newsmax and One America News, claiming they indulged in a "barrage of lies" against the company by falsely implicating it in participating in voter fraud.

Predictably, Fox News responded to Dominion's allegations by denying any responsibility. The outlet claimed that "Fox News, along with every single news organization across the country, vigorously covered the breaking news surrounding the unprecedented 2020 election, providing full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear-cut analysis. We remain committed to defending against this baseless lawsuit and its all-out assault on the First Amendment."

Despite the channel's categorical denial of wrongdoing, it's been clear for some time that Fox News engaged in all types of unfounded speculation about election fraud. I document the various ways the outlet did this in my new book, "Rising Fascism in America: It Can Happen Here."

For example, in the aftermath of the 2020 election, Fox News host Mark Levin hosted Kenneth Starr, the former special prosecutor who spent years investigating Bill Clinton. Without presenting evidence, Starr accused Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, of engaging in "illegal" and "unconstitutional" acts by counting supposedly fraudulent votes. Lou Dobbs called on Trump to take "drastic action" in relation to the former president's rhetoric about fraud. For Dobbs, that included the Supreme Court reversing the electoral college votes in swing states that cut toward Biden. (Needless to say, an issue well outside the court's, or the president's purview.) Tucker Carlson speculated about voter fraud by claiming that "dead people" voted "in large numbers." Numerous other Fox hosts, including Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro and Maria Bartiromo, linked Dominion to similar claims of fraud.

Judge Eric Davis recognized Fox's role in stoking Big Lie election propaganda in the Dominion judgment. Davis reflected in his legal decision that "Fox News and its news personnel continued to report Dominion's purported connection to the election fraud claims without also reporting on Dominion's emails" to the network in response to those claims, which presented compelling evidence to undermine the fraud narrative. Davis wrote: "Given that Fox apparently refused to report contrary evidence, including evidence from the Department of Justice, the Complaint's allegations support the reasonable inference that Fox intended to keep Dominion's side of the story out of the narrative."

Rather than admitting its role in stoking Trump's election propaganda, Fox News has doubled down on its deceptions. Reporting from January revealed that the channel is "seeking access" to a report from Georgia that was included in a separate lawsuit, from "election security expert" J. Alex Halderman, which the channel believes may vindicate its reporting on voter fraud. Halderman claims, after spending three months investigating Georgia voting machines, that "multiple severe security flaws" make them susceptible to third-party actors who might install malicious software. As with all of Fox's election propaganda, the report, if accurate, speaks to speculation about hypothetical voter fraud, with absolutely no evidence that it actually occurred. In other words, Fox is up to its same old tricks in stoking Big Lie propaganda, this time to extricate itself from the Dominion lawsuit.

Dominion is trying to repair its reputation, in order to protect its work in providing voting tabulation systems across more than two dozen states for both in-person and mail-in voting. But what evidence is there that Fox's election coverage had a significant impact on the channel's viewers? Is it realistic for Dominion to claim it has suffered serious reputational damage?

To answer this question, I examined national survey data from the Pew Research Center, which polled Americans on their media consumption habits and beliefs about election fraud in the period just before the November 2020 presidential election. The survey was conducted from Aug. 31 to Sept. 7 of that year, asking Americans about their news consumption habits and which venues they used as "a source of political and election news." The survey also queried respondents about their opinions of alleged voter fraud, asking them: "As far as you know, how big of a problem has voter fraud been when it comes to voting by mail in U.S. presidential elections?"

Using a statistical tool called regression analysis, I'm able to measure whether there is a significant relationship between Fox News consumption and opinions about voter fraud, after accounting for other factors, including respondents' political party identification (Republican, independent or Democratic), ideology (conservative, moderate or liberal), level of formal education, gender, income level, race and age, in addition to looking at other sources people relied on for their information about the 2020 election, including Trump's campaign, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, print newspapers and news magazines, broadcast news, National Public Radio and The New York Times.

My findings add ammunition to Dominion's claims about the significant role of Fox News in encouraging its viewers to embrace propaganda about voter fraud. Looking at specific media where people got their election information, Fox News viewing, reliance on Trump's campaign and use of social media (compared to print newspapers and magazines) were all significantly associated with a higher likelihood of accepting that voter fraud was a serious concern related to mail-in voting — controlling for all the other variables in my analysis. In contrast, consumption of the New York Times, National Public Radio and CNN were all significantly associated with being less likely to accept claims about mail-in voter fraud.

A Citizen’s Guide to Combating Election Propaganda: Debunking Minimum Wage Myths

Much hand-wringing among political, media, and business elites has followed the decisions by New York and California to raise the minimum wage. New York has mandated a raise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018, while California has mandated a $15 wage by 2022. Support for a higher minimum wage is articulated by Democratic presidential candidates, as Bernie Sanders supports a $15 an hour minimum wage, while Hillary Clinton supports a $12 an hour wage. Their rhetoric aside, however, Democrats have consistently failed or refused over recent decades to prioritize regular raises in the minimum wage. Republican presidential candidates rail against such raises. They predict dire consequences, should government mandate higher wages for the working-class. Donald Trump claims that: “I want to create jobs so that you don’t’ have to worry about the minimum wage, they’re doing a great job and they’re making much more than the minimum wage…I think having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country.” Similarly, Ted Cruz argues: “Every time you raise the minimum wage, the people who are hurt the most [are] the most vulnerable.” Cruz supported a filibuster in the Senate in 2014 to prevent a vote on raising the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, claiming on the Senate floor that “the undeniable reality, the undeniable truth, is if the president succeeded in raising the minimum wage, it would cost jobs from the most vulnerable.”

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A Citizen’s Guide to Combating Election Propaganda: Debunking Anti-Welfare Myths

Political and economic elites’ success in manufacturing mass ignorance represents the largest impediment to democratic empowerment today. Stoking fear of and contempt for the “other” – including minorities and the poor, is a common tactic employed in election to gain voter support. So is the stoking of hubris – as seen in the demonization of the poor, and in the rhetorical glorification of those “who work” against those (allegedly) “who don’t.” Unfortunately, countless Americans fall victim to divide and conquer techniques employed by elites. The goal moving forward must be to create a critical citizen consciousness, so the masses don’t simply “accept what they’re told” once every four years by the pretty faces running for office. What follows is a primer for readers to help in their conversations with friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and family, to fight back against the racist, classist propaganda so often employed against disadvantaged groups in the U.S.

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Noam Chomsky Analyzes the Bushies

Radical professor and prominent social critic Noam Chomsky teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is the author of more than 70 books, the most recent being "Rogue State: The Rule of Force in World Affairs." In a recent interview, Chomsky discussed the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration's current obsession with Iraq, and the Republican sweep of the midterm elections.

Anthony DiMaggio: I've always believed that the Bush Administration's proposed war on Iraq was for two main reasons: to secure the last oil reserves in the Middle East that are not under U.S. control, and to divert Americans' attention from the policies that Bush is conducting at home against the common worker. In your opinion, how much of the war on Iraq has to do with securing Iraqi oil reserves and how much has to do with diverting American’s attention from the Bush Administration's war on the American people? Is one more of a factor than the other?

Noam Chomsky: It’s quite widely assumed, right within the mainstream, that these are the two primary reasons. I agree. Regaining control over Iraq’s oil resources (not access, but control; a very different matter) is longstanding. 9/11 provided a pretext for the resort to force, not only by the US: also Russia, China, Indonesia, Israel, many others. And the need to divert the attention of the population from what is being done to them accounts for the timing. [It] worked brilliantly in the congressional elections, and by the next presidential elections, it’ll be necessary to have a victory and on to the next campaign.

Do you believe the Gulf War was primarily to secure American access to Kuwaiti oil? Did it also have to do with teaching Saddam a lesson for his aggressive behavior with Kuwait? Do you have any insight into which factor was more of a determinant for the Bush Administration?

I think the main reason for the first Gulf War was what’s called “credibility”: Saddam had defied orders; no one can get away with that. Ask any Mafia Don and you’ll get the explanation. There’s good reason to suppose that a negotiated withdrawal would have been possible, but that wouldn’t make the point; again, ask your favorite Don.

The reason for leaving Saddam in place was explained very openly and frankly: As the diplomatic correspondent of the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, explained when the US backed Saddam’s crushing of the Kurds, “the best of all worlds” for Washington would be an “iron-fisted junta” ruling Iraq just as Saddam did, but with a different name, because his is now embarrassing, and since no one like that seemed to be around, they’d have to settle with second-best, their old friend and ally the butcher of Baghdad himself. You can find plenty of material about all of this in what I wrote at the time, reprinted in "Deterring Democracy"; more has appeared since.

What makes the current Administration think they can secure Iraqi oil now as compared to 10 years ago? It seems that the country is just as unstable now as it was then. What’s changed in the minds of the members of the Bush Administration since the Gulf War?

Rogue StatesAt the time, the US was unwilling to risk taking over Iraq. It has nothing to do with stability. The Iraqi dictatorship is very stable. It had to do with the coalition and domestic support, not willing then for a conquest, and as noted, there was no suitable replacement in sight. Now it’s different.

I’ve heard that during the original Gulf War, George Bush had Colin Powell draw up plans to nuke Baghdad. If it is true, how could Americans not realize that American foreign policy doesn’t have even a small concern for humanitarian democratic principles espoused by our “leaders?”

There are no known plans for nuclear bombing, and it wouldn’t have made sense. It was known in advance that Iraq was virtually defenseless. The US preferred biological warfare (what do you think would happen in Chicago if someone destroyed the power, water, and sewage systems?), which is easier for editors and intellectuals to pretend not to see.

Do you think that members of the Bush Administration really are concerned that Saddam may have weapons of mass destruction/chemical/nuclear weapons? Are they legitimately threatened (in their minds at least) by Iraq?

I have no idea what Bush believes, if anything, but Cheney and Rumsfeld know that the external world is really there, and they understand very well why people and governments of the region, though they despise Saddam Hussein, don’t fear him; even Iran and Kuwait, which were invaded by Saddam when he was a favored US friend and ally. No one wants Iraq to have weapons of mass destruction; and no one sane wants Israel, Pakistan, India, the US, Russia, etc. to have them either.

The best way to deal with it is to implement Resolution 687, which calls for disarming Iraq through inspections (which the US has been desperately seeking to block), and also for implementing Article 14, always excised when the resolution is brought up: It calls for moves towards disarmament in the region, a code word for Israel’s huge arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which frightens everyone, including the US Strategic Command.

It seems Bush’s pretexts must be a fraud if control of oil is the real motivation. If this is the case, how can Bush believe he has the right to claim the moral highroad?

Bush is probably irrelevant. But the people around him have a record: They are recycled Reaganites. That’s why media and intellectuals so scrupulously ignore what they did when they were running the first “war on terror” that they declared 20 years ago. Better not to remember the horror stories for which they were responsible.

On human behavior, it’s not hard to figure out what’s going on. Unless you’re an unusually saintly figure, you’ve done things in your life that you knew were wrong. Maybe when you were 7 years old you took a toy from your younger brother, and when he ran crying to your mother, you told her -- believing every word -- that it was really yours, and he’d taken it from you, and he didn’t want it anyway, etc. Did you tell yourself that you’re stronger than he is so you could take it and get away with it?

It’s the same when you’re running a country in the world. It’s interesting to read the archives of Nazi Germany, fascist Japan, the Soviet Union. The leaders are acting from the highest imaginable motives, and probably believed it. It is remarkably easy to come to believe what it is convenient to believe. That’s the secret of being a “responsible intellectual,” someone who serves power abjectly while believing oneself to be an independent thinker.

Do you think the Bush Administration is bluffing about attacking Iraq?

Not at all. I think they are desperately eager to win an easy victory over a defenseless enemy, so they can strut around as heroes and liberators, to the rousing cheers of the educated classes. It’s as old as history.

Bush gave his state of the union address over half a year ago talking about Iraq. Why has it taken him so long to move?

Iraq wasn’t brought up as a matter of immediate significance until September of this year, when the election season started. In the State of the Union it was remote, along with Iran and North Korea and the “world terrorist threat.”

Anthony DiMaggio is a junior at Illinois State University and a writer for the Indy, an alternative weekly publication in Normal, Illinois.