March 12, 2023


Why Tucker Carlson still promotes Jan. 6 Capitol attack lies -- and sympathetic audiences believe them (Steve Reilly and Khaya Himmelman, March 7, 2023, Grid)

The repetition of false claims is a method of deflection, experts said. Partisan actors continue to push false narratives about Jan. 6, and sympathetic audiences continue to believe them, because they reframe the blame away from the people responsible for inciting the events whom they view as allies, senior analyst for NewsGuard Lorenzo Arvanitis said.

"Spreading and believing these narratives is both politically and morally expedient," he said.

And, like Carlson, those who spread misinformation about Pelosi and Jan. 6 likely know that what they are saying is not true, said Inga Kristina Trauthig, researcher at the Propaganda Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. It's simply a way for Republicans, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), to try to discredit their political opponents.

"If you want to do harm to your political opponent that is a tactic to discredit main figures," Trauthig said. "And if that works, then you home in on that."

It's also about playing the long game. Repeating these false narratives about the attack on the Capitol is a way for the Republican Party and its allies to prepare for the next election cycle, said Yotam Ophir, professor of communication at the University at Buffalo. While lying is generally considered discrediting to the speaker, when the lie is expedient to political allies the lies can work to discredit the subject of the lie. In this case, it's a strategy to delegitimize figures on the left, and promote the persistent narrative that Democrats are attempting to systematically cheat their way into power, he added.

News organizations like Fox News that work with right-wing figures to amplify lies about Jan. 6 are "conducting an unhealthy, systematically biased relationship between one party and one media channel," Ophir said. For Fox News, he said, these lies are profitable because it's a way to drive engagement. [...]

Fact-checking works insofar as people who see the fact checks are more accurate for having seen it, said Ethan Porter, professor of media and public affairs and of political science at George Washington University. But, Porter emphasized, even though fact checks work in reducing belief in misinformation, they are still limited.

When we speak about misinformation, he added, we aren't simply talking about its effect on the accuracy of people's beliefs, but on other attitudes, too.

"It might be the case that if you if you were exposed to misinformation about Jan. 6, the effects are not just going to be measurable on the accuracy of your beliefs about Jan. 6," he said, "but it might further radicalize you, or it might lead you to become skeptical of democracy, or it might have these sorts of other downstream effects on you."

In other words, the ability of fact checks to influence these other downstream effects appears to be limited.

And then, of course, there are those who more deliberately resist fact checks about Jan. 6 specifically to avoid exposure to anything that might interfere with their partisan predilections. "From the perspective of the average Republican, misinformation persists because fact-check exposure is pretty limited," Porter said.

Posted by at March 12, 2023 12:00 AM