Linda Schuyler Horning: Network for a flat Earth
Memes are concepts or behaviors that spread through belief systems, stories or fashion. Memes may go viral over the internet, thus establishing them as a thing. One of my column readers introduced me to a concept I think begs to be a meme. Let’s call it Fox’s flat Earth.
It appeals to me because the idea that Earth is flat has been debunked for centuries. Aristotle (384–322 BC) figured it out when he traveled to Egypt and observed different constellations of stars. European navigators sailed around Earth in the 16th century. No person accepts the notion of a flat Earth without intentionally denying the truth, just as the Fox News commentators do.
Fox News has become enormously successful at spreading lies and misleading the public with false news and preposterous conspiracy theories. These are not mistakes. They are purposeful attempts to sew mistrust among the viewing public, because, when voters are poorly informed, they make mistakes at the polls.
According to The Washington Post, “democracy is less likely to survive in a poor informational environment.” This is one way minority parties are able to garner more votes for the election of incompetent, corrupt and self-dealing leaders.
Aristotle would be rolling over in his grave at the thought. His homeland, known as the birthplace of democracy, harbored those who celebrated their most knowledgeable citizens. His contemporaries in Greece were the first to believe all adults should participate in their government.
The word democracy comes from two Greek words: demos, which means people; and kratos, which means rule. Later years saw Muslims and Christians respecting Aristotle’s teachings, which ranged from physics and biology to economics and politics.
It is no wonder, then, that those who oppose democracy today reject science and institutions of authority in favor of conspiracy theories. A Flat Earth Society actually exists. It’s been around for decades, with over 200,000 followers on Facebook. A newer version of flat-earthers, around since 2019, holds its own Flat-Earth International Conference, where as many as 600 adherents bond over shared conspiracy theories.
Don’t get me wrong. Americans are entitled to believe whatever they want, but I don’t like to see false narratives being spread over the airwaves. The problem we face is that real money is being made by people who spread lies. Tucker Carlson is worth over $30 million, and Sean Hannity more than eight times that much.
One would think telling lies is the only way for top commentators to make a living, but, sadly, some do seem to operate in a league of their own. Truth tellers Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow conduct their business without deliberately misleading their viewers, yet their salaries pale by comparison to those who have willingly sold their souls.
Perhaps I’m a bit naive. After all, I’m fighting an uphill battle here. Fox News is worth over $21 billion and during the Trump administration began to operate very much like an arm of our government.
Conservatives have always craved this type of control over the way people think because there is no surer way to gain power.
The concept of state TV is not new. China Central Television is a state-controlled broadcaster and central to that nation’s propaganda network. It was established in 1958 to be a state-owned news and public opinion steering agency to act on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.
In the same fashion, Rupert Murdock established Fox News as the mouthpiece of the Republican party in 1996.
So, what would a Fox’s flat Earth meme accomplish?
Well, memes can act as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices. If the idea catches on that Fox embraces the concept of our Earth as flat, then their news service may begin to lose credibility. A mimicked theme of Fox as a perpetrator of falsehoods might go a long way toward breaking its hold on the American electorate.
Some viewers may stop listening to Fox News commentators altogether, and, with any luck, choose to think for themselves. We can always hope.
Feel free to spread the Fox’s flat Earth meme as far as you can. Be creative. Play with the graphic, make it funny, and enjoy the process. I look forward to sharing your success.
Linda Schuyler Horning lives in Nevada City.
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Is that how I wanted to spend my birthday? Yes and no. The original plan was to take a weekend trip to the coast for a few days of relaxation.