How Propaganda Works

News-Flash: Fox News is a propaganda arm of the GOP.

Ok, so that’s not a news-flash but it is worth repeating that the crown jewel in Rupert Murdoch’s media empire takes every opportunity to ensure that the language they use to frame public debate is guaranteed to push the political will of the Republican party. It is also important to note that while this practice is so prevalent that most people shrug it off as the norm, it in fact represents the apex of unethical journalistic practice.

In his column in today’s Daily Beast Horward Kurtz discusses the leaked policy memo uncovered by Media Matters which shows how Fox News Washington Managing Editor Bill Sammon ensure that focus group tested and Frank Luntz approved language was used to frame the debate about the public option.

As the health-care debate was heating up in the summer of 2009, Republican pollster Frank Luntz offered Sean Hannity some advice.

Luntz, who counseled the GOP on how to sell the 1994 Contract With America, told the Fox News host to stop using President Obama’s preferred term for a key provision.

“If you call it a public option, the American people are split,” he explained. “If you call it the government option, the public is overwhelmingly against it.”

“A great point,” Hannity declared. “And from now on, I’m going to call it the government option, because that’s what it is.”

On Oct. 27, the day after Senate Democrats introduced a bill with a public insurance option from which states could opt out, Bill Sammon, a Fox News vice president and Washington managing editor, sent the staff a memo. Sammon is a former Washington Times reporter.

“Please use the term ‘government-run health insurance,’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible,” the memo said.

Sammon acknowledged that the phrase “public option” was “firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon,” so when it was necessary to use it, he wrote, add the qualifier “so-called,” as in “the so-called public option.” And “here’s another way to phrase it: ‘The public option, which is the government-run plan.’”

The exception was when newsmakers used “public option”: “There’s not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.”

Can we please stop creating false equivalencies between Fox News and the rest of the broadcast news world? This kind of behavior, if found to have existed at MSNBC for example, would most certainly have resulted in a head-exploding right wing outrage orgy topped by a Dan Rather-esque public roasting on a spit of Phil Griffin. Unfortunately this will likely go all but unnoticed by American public as the folks at Fox News are fully aware.

Goebbels would be so proud.

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