This article is adapted from “Foxocracy: Inside the Network’s Playbook of Tribal Warfare” by NY Times bestselling author and 14-year Fox News contributor and guest host Tobin Smith.
Once again I ask you to consider this recent consumer polling research by my firm Transformity Research from 1000 highly targeted Facebook polling responses which concludes:
- America has a massive epidemic of addiction to Fox News’s unique brand of tribal hate propaganda video porn programming. Your Fox News addict family member is likely one of 80 million Americans for whom someone in the family is estranged from over their hyper-partisan nuclear powered scorched earth political intensity
- Many Americans, who have witnessed this Fox News addiction “rapture” firsthand (whereby an agree-to-disagree loved one is transformed into raging tribalized hyperpartisan nutjob), have come to refer to Fox News as “Foxycontin” because of the addictive nature and massive size of its tribal hate porn audience
- 85% of Fox News fans and viewers we polled are tribal hate media illiterates who fail to possess the bare minimum amount of basic psychology and social science self-awareness required to consume Fox News’ white tribal identity activation propaganda content in a mentally healthy manner.
All of which begs the question
What is the bare minimum self-awareness recuired to become a healthy consumer of Fox News (or MSNBC for that matter) tribal hate porn programming?
What the polling research from my firm Transformity Research found is that IF a person has
- A simple understanding and self-awareness of the most basic cognitive psychological strategies and tactics embedded and used by Fox News tribal hate video content to
- explicitly hack the easily manipulated emotional vulnerabilities of their mostly white >65 age viewer/social media streaming audience then
- THEY and not Fox News maintain control over their tribal hate media experience and will prevent the mental collateral damage that has come to tens of millions of Fox News addicts from their tribal hate media binge-watching habit.
The corollary this principle is its inverse; if a tribal hate media consumer remains unaware of and illiterate to the basic trial hate tribal hate media emotional manipulation tactics and techniques,
then Fox News and NOT YOU controls you and a future of significant emotional collateral damage is virtually certain.
Now you ask of course “What are the simple key elements and requisite factors to becoming an awoke and healthy tribal hate media consumer?”
Our research finds healthy tribal hate media consumers have and maintain a basic level of self-awareness about
- the blinding instinctual power of our innate cognitive dissonance reflex which triggers an involuntary “change the channel/change the website” reflex in order to avoid or not cognitively process evidence of their self-identified political/cultural tribe’s inferiority and
- the powerful instinctual drive to find and consume tribalized confirmation bias content which innately drives them to find and consume evidence that reconfirms the superiority of their self-identified political or cultural tribe relative to their mortal tribal enemy
- Their innate need to connect with individuals and groups of individuals they feel emotionally bonded with to
- gain emotionally vital doses of positive self-esteem and ego gratification by blindly hating on the tribal enemy of their self-identified political or cultural tribe.
Coming into 2020, for many Fox News tribal hate media consumers who self-identify as a “proud Deplorable” or “Proud Conservative,” they sadly have become ensnared in the downward gravity of our society’s new 21st-century digital feedback loop of “identity fusion” whereby their political or cultural tribal identity comes to dominate their existing self-identity.
In other words,
they have become a “tribalized” hyper-partisan and unfortunately for them yet another set of much more powerful innate cognitive social identity instincts and reflexes kick in including:
- Actively seeking information that proves the inferiority of their social identity outgroup aka mortal tribal enemy
- Consuming ever higher “doses” of content which, in their eyes, proves the righteous and obvious superiority of their chosen political and or cultural tribe
- Which is many cases becomes their primary source of positive self-esteem feelings and emotional human connection nourishment
In short, they have now fallen down into the Fox News addict rabbit hole and become what I have come to recognize as a full-blown Foxhole.
With the latest polling data by GOP pollster Frank Luntz confirming at least 80 MILLION American adults report they are estranged/not-speaking-to at least one close family or long-time friend over their tribalized political intensity, that means in America 2020 we will have tens of millions of Foxholes/Trumpholes in America.
Now I can hear you saying “So you are saying my mom/dad/uncle/aunt/relative/friend is a victim of Fox News?
Yes. What I am saying that in most cases, their Fox News addiction is not their fault per se — that your parent, relative or long-time friend who fell into the Fox News addict rabbit hole was not by mistake. America’s Foxhole syndrome is a direct result of multiple highly powerful and emotionally predatory strategies and tactics I learned to master at Fox News. They are produced into all Fox News tribal hate video content — a fact of which the tribalized Fox News addicts are clueless and unaware.
I know this because I performed or hosted over 2000 segments of Fox News’ tribal hate propaganda. I, like other long-timers in the Fox News “fair and balanced” charade, know that our secret superpower over our audience is not our amazing personality, looks, and charm. Our real superpower at Fox News is that 85%+ of our audiences are just absolutely clueless to the powerful cognitive manipulation techniques that are baked into every 7–8 minute Fox News opinion segment.
For instance, the overwhelming number of views, comments, and feedback I received to my recent NY Times op-ed piece “Why Fox News Slimed a Purple Heart Recipient” overwhelmingly supports my own direct Fox News audience research data. Everything I see and read says that like OxyContin, the vast majority of the 80–90 million Americans who consume Fox News’ emotionally predatory tribal hate propaganda content have no idea about how or why it is so insanely powerful and addictive for tens of millions of Americans.
Why is America’s tribal media literacy problem so pervasive?
First off, it appears most Americans missed the memo about how the evolution of our DNA encoded human psychology instinctively impels us human-animals to divide the world into us and them or better said “the safe and secure” and “the risky and threatening.” With only 33% of Americans adults who graduated from higher education and far less holding any behavioral psychology 101 credits or working knowledge of behavioral psychology in general, the Americans we interviewed via survey simply don’t know what they don’t know.
Moreover, no one has any control over this involuntary automatic cognitive process that resides in our subconscious unless we are cognitively aware of its existence and power and we purposely and cognitively override our tribalized instinctual reflexes and behaviors.
This cultural and political sorting behavior is not optional. Social psychologists have repeatedly told me that during our entire lives, we will instinctively seek to build a symbolic and ideological structure and a personal narrative about who we are by most importantly defining who we are not — it’s a drive and a need that comes from our basic human survival and personal safety instincts.
Next, Fox News tribal hate propaganda segment producers and tribal hate televangelist hosts deeply understand that human psychology is not and never has been about “reality” — it is about perception and it’s all about our tribally accepted narratives (i.e., contagious stories) factual or not. Certainly, Fox News incarnate Donald J. Trump has demonstrated that he innately understands these ruling concepts of human psychology better than anyone ever thought possible.
But like feral Trumpism, this is also why the Fox News tribal warfare production playbook feeds its 80–90 million monthly users (combined cable/website/social media platforms and YouTube) a steady stream of audiovisual tribal identity activation propaganda narratives and reality perceptions complete with
- a universe of tribal symbols (read white MAGA hat-wearing rally-goers)
- narrative tribal ideological structure (read “taking our country back”)
- non-stop hate or conspiracy theory propaganda and
- the classic dehumanizing asymmetric tribal motives narratives e.g.,
“Our tribe is motivated by love, care, and affiliation” while the tribal outgroup is “sinister and motivated by hate!” or “Black Lives Matter means that White Lives Don’t Matter” to name just a few of these motive attribution asymmetry narratives.
Thus, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the dark “secrets” about the dark psychology of Fox News’ to most of its user base is that FNC’s powerful brand of tribal identity and superiority porn is carefully designed and produced to trigger and manipulate our most ancient base psychology. The whole idea of a Fox News “fair and balanced” political talk show is to manipulate and leverage our innate native hard-wired instinct and reflexes to form, build, maintain and most importantly defend our self-identified cultural and political tribes.
The other aspect of what I came to describe as Fox News’ tribal hate porn superpower is that by delivering compelling new evidence of right-wing tribal superiority and more reasons to righteously and morally hate and demonize their binary existential tribal enemy (or “out-group” in social science speak), we get our tribalized viewers and streamers high.
Why? Because at your subconscious level, tribal hate media is simply a powerful exercise in tribal ego-gratification because the act of hating on your tribal enemy is self-congratulatory. Look — when you consciously or unconsciously say “God — how could those stupid libtards be so ignorant” all your sub-conscious ego hears is “And look how smart you are relative to those idiots, Big Boy!”
The same automatic subconscious relative self-congratulatory psychic pat-on-your-own-back reflex is what reality show “pity porn” like watching Hoarders or Housewives of Beverly Hills is based upon. A carefully produced, choreographed and the contrived ego-gratifying happy ending and a righteous dose of the most powerful brain neurochemical dopamine from every “fair and balanced” Fox News opinion segment is exactly what Fox News opinion content is produced to deliver.
The whole emotionally predatory production premise of tribal hate media is for the Fox News tribal hatred televangelist (aka as talk show hosts) to hit one or more of the audience’s most vulnerable tribal emotional hot buttons that, in turn, trigger a cascade of tribalized and pleasurable emotional responses (actually the involuntary release of pleasurable neurochemical rewards injected into your brain) in return for keeping your eyeballs on FNC content.
Then digital surveillance-based social stalking platforms like FB and YouTube identify the digital content you spend the most time engaged with (that is the ones that deliver enough emotion to release more addictive dopamine) and so they give you incrementally more emotionally incendiary content with its endlessly scrolling technology. There is even a social psychology term for this endless escalating emotional manipulation: “The YouTube rabbit hole effect.”
The YouTube rabbit hole effect is so emotionally powerful that in YouTube crazed Brazil (80% of Brazilians watch YouTube weekly), the rabbit hole effect turned an unknown Brazillian right-wing activist with only 15% polling into the winner of the most recent Brazillian Presidential election.
Tobin Smith’s original Fox News expose article “Confessions of Fox News Hit Man” on Medium.com in 2017 has over 130,000 reads and was selected Top 100 Journalism articles by Time Warner media critics.