By: Margaret Henoch
Every effective autocrat needs an equally effective propaganda arm that convinces the citizenry to believe the rantings of the autocrat rather than rely on their own eyes, ears, and brains. On July 28th, 2021, Laura Ingraham, once again proved her value as the propaganda arm of Trump and his GOP.
On the opening day of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol (January 6th Committee), four police officers, Pfc. Harry Dunn and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell of the U.S. Capitol Police, and Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department testified under oath about violence used against them by the Trump-inspired mob that attacked the Capitol. They gave context and detail to the pictures and videos the whole world watched on January 6th. They talked about their families, their fear, and the lasting physical, emotional and mental effects of the violence to which they were subjected as they tried to protect Congress. Listening to the testimony, and watching videos of that day — many of which showed these same men being beaten, tased and bear sprayed — brought back the horror of that day. Except, it appears, to Laura Ingraham, and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox network.
Like all effective propaganda machines, Ingraham, and many of her Fox compatriots want their viewers to believe Fox’s “truth” rather than their own eyes and ears. The Ingraham machine urges its viewers to ignore what they saw taking place at the White House on the morning of the attack: pretend you didn’t see photos of Trump, Trump Jr., et al. speaking to the crowd and urging them to “fight,” for their country; pretend you didn’t see hundreds of hours of film of mostly white men carrying Trump flags, wearing MAGA hats; pretend you didn’t hear tapes of men calling for “Nancy” (Pelosi); pretend you didn’t see men with Trump flags building a gallows, chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” Ignore your own senses, and believe that this was the work of Antifa; ignore your own senses and believe that this was the result of a Pelosi effort; ignore what your eyes and ears tell you and believe that Trump is innocent; ignore your own senses and believe what Laura Ingraham says. That is the definition of a propaganda machine. Any successful effort to install an autocrat relies on the autocrat’s ability to convince citizens of an alternate truth; the propaganda machine is the tool to do that. A propaganda machine can be more effective than an army against the national security of a country.
On July 28th, 2021, Ingraham gave an “Angle” award to Michael Fanone, stating that he was “acting,” when he testified about the attacks he survived on January 6th, implying, but not saying directly that Fanone was being dishonest about how badly he was injured during the attack. This is dictator-lite; propaganda at its most effective. Ingraham never actually said that the attack wasn’t violent, that Fanone wasn’t hurt. She allows the listener to infer that no matter what Fanone says, the incident wasn’t that bad — he was acting and acting well. In so doing, Ingraham told her viewers not to believe what they saw and heard, first on January 6th, 2021 and then on January 28th, 2021, but to understand her wink, wink, nod, nod inference. She hasn’t committed libel or slander; just embellishing and extreme cowardice. An autocrat’s best friend.
For years, Ingraham and her Fox cohorts have presented possible options to reality, which have been damaging both to their audience and to the authority of anyone who isn’t Trump. Notably recently, Ingraham suggested that Hydrochloriquine would cure COVID-19. It wasn’t anything supported by science or medical authorities, but it also wasn’t a proven falsehood — and, it gave her an opportunity to put her favorite autocrat in a stronger position, while entertaining and enraging her audience. While it was complete nonsense, it wasn’t something that anyone could see and hear as a fact; it wasn’t don’t believe YOUR eyes. It was don’t believe those people who don’t support Trump.
Her award to Officer Fanone is different: she isn’t asking her audience to believe an alternative possibility; she’s asking the audience not to believe what they can see and hear. It demands that everyone ignore the truth that they saw and heard and believe that Officer Fanone is a fraud. The award is propaganda — a complete falsehood, perpetuated to advance a position. And, it cements Ingraham’s position as today’s Tokyo Rose.
When asked how he felt about the award, Officer Fanone provided the most accurate analysis of Ingraham and like commentators. During an interview on CNN, he described them as entertainers. He noted that when lawyers resort to theatrics, it’s because “they had no facts, so they have to insult…” Officer Fanone noted, further, that he didn’t care what these entertainers said about him, but that he is disturbed by their impact. “Those entertainers have an audience, and that audience takes their words…as more than just entertainment. They think it’s real, and that thought process has real world consequences. We saw that on January 6th.”
Officer Fanone’s analysis is spot on. Ingraham is a very well-paid entertainer who says anything to engage, enrage and entertain Fox viewers, most often in support of the GOP in general, and over the last four years, of Trump. And it works, Fox viewers have resisted vaccines, supported Trump’s “BIG LIE,” and now turn on police officers, whom they otherwise pretend to support. This latest performance — the “award” to Officer Fanone elevates Ingraham from danger to people who listen to her to larger propaganda danger. She’s following in the footsteps of Charles Lindbergh, who in the 1930s and 1940s moved from flying ace to Hitler supporter. She is supporting an attempted overthrow of a free and fair election. She is encouraging her audience to do the same. She has become a national security problem. Somewhere, Tokyo Rose must be proud.
Historical Context: The label Tokyo Rose connotes a person delivering propaganda. In fact, Tokyo Rose was not an actual person, but the name given by Allied soldiers in the South Pacific to several English-speaking women who made propaganda broadcasts for the Japanese government, under different aliases.