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Firewalls of Ignorance and Disappearance: Corporate Media in the Age of Fascist Politics

Deceit, ignorance, and the death of civic responsibility now function as the perfect storm enabling fascist politics. America is no longer ashamed of its ignorance; it is now a matter of fondness and serves as a measure of loyalty.

If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.

– Malcolm X

Bearing witness is a crucial marker of a responsible press and media. It brings to light the unnecessary suffering and hardship of those rendered voiceless and disposable, as well as the underlying forces that produce such conditions. It also serves to challenge those who “wallow in willful ignorance.”[1] Shattering the lies concealed by claims of innocence is a powerful weapon for holding power accountable, making it visible and subject to exposure and resistance. Bearing witness does not guarantee justice, but it provides the awareness necessary to turn propaganda against itself and mobilize people to function as a collective force of resistance.

The corporate media undermines moral witnessing by often prioritizing the discredited notion of balance over the more crucial goal of seeking truth in the service of accountability and democracy. This retreat from holding power accountable not only discredits the pursuit of truth in the service of justice and the strengthening of democracy but also tends to fall prey to the seductions of corruption, political theater and entertainment.[2]

The dialectic within journalism encompasses what could be termed, on one hand, a politics of erasure and distortion, and on the other, a politics of moral witnessing. The politics of erasure is apparent in how corporate mainstream media disproportionately covers Israel’s aggressive actions in Gaza and portrays Trump as a conventional political candidate rather than an authoritarian threat to democracy both domestically and internationally. This erasure is also evident in how far-right journalism consistently distorts the truth when reporting on issues that conflict with reactionary conservative politics.

Conversely, the pursuit of truth and moral witnessing is exemplified by journalists from sources such as The Intercept, CounterPunch, Truthout, LA Progressive, and other alternative media platforms. These journalists engage deeply with critical social issues and consistently hold power accountable. Despite their commitment to journalistic integrity, these outlets are often marginalized within the media landscape dominated by corporate control.[3]

In what follows, I will comment briefly on how these two modes of journalism operate. First, I will briefly focus on the reporting of Scahill and Grim in The Intercept, which exposed how The New York Times and several other major newspapers underplayed the despair, suffering, and death that Israel is brutally imposing on Palestinians. On the other hand, I will examine how corporate-controlled media failed to address historically, contextually, and critically both Trump’s delusional ramblings and his clear and dangerous threats to democracy.

Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Grim reported in The Intercept that an internal memo from the New York Times “instructed journalists covering Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip to restrict the use of the terms “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” and to “avoid” using the phrase “occupied territory” when describing Palestinian land…The memo also instructed] reporters not to use the word Palestine “except in very rare cases” and to steer clear of the term “refugee camps” to describe areas of Gaza historically settled by displaced Palestinians expelled from other parts of Palestine during previous Israeli–Arab wars.”[4]

Scahill and Grim also note that major newspapers such as the New York TimesWashington Post, and Los Angeles Times“reserved terms like ‘slaughter,’ ‘massacre,’ and ‘horrific’ almost exclusively for Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians, rather than for Palestinian civilians killed in Israeli attacks.”[5]

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This is more than mere style guidelines; it is censorship in service of partisan reporting and moral irresponsibility. Instances of war crimes, the horror of genocide, and the reality of Israel’s violence against Palestinians are being distorted and erased. Critical of the babble of balance, Scahill and Grim highlight the importance of reporting on Israel’s savage war against Palestinians while making clear that the mainstream press represses such reporting, enabling the slaughter to continue.

 Rather than “hating the people who are oppressed,” CounterPunch is another truth-seeking media source that has covered the war on Gaza in great detail, providing both personal accounts of the suffering while placing the conflict in a broader history and political narrative.

The punishing state now wraps itself in censorship, propaganda, and cruel invective parading as a mix between political theater and both sides journalism. Americans are bombarded with the babble of liberals who are too cowardly to name Trump as a budding fascist or as a racist, treating him as either a normal candidate or a bullying clown rather than as a symptom of a deeper malaise of fascism, echoing a pernicious and frightening past. Corporate media normalcy bias treats Trump as simply another choice in the run for the presidency. Under the false insistence on balance, Trump and Biden are treated as two candidates with simply different views, rather than treating Trump as a dangerous and unbalanced threat to democracy itself.

Meanwhile, the corporate-controlled press focuses on the release of thankfully freed hostages and the unfounded charges of antisemitic politicians, who use the guise of antisemitism to undermine free speech and transform higher education into centers of indoctrination. Almost no coverage is given to the indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip.”[6]  Bombs explode, and blood flows freely over the bodies of more than 37,000 Palestinians, including thousands of women and children in Gaza. Ten children in Gaza lose a limb daily to war; according to the World Health Organization some “citizens in Gaza are now reduced to drinking sewage water and eating animal feed.”[7] These horrors disappear from mainstream news in their cycle of erasure, misrepresentation, and politics of balance.

It is truly alarming to see and hear how Trump’s frequent lapses into babble and gibberish are either ignored, barely commented on in a serious way, or treated as normal. It has become uneventful in the eyes of the corporate media to acknowledge critically that at his rallies Trump substitutes meaningful discourse with oratory that suggests he has “fallen off one verbal cliff after another, with barely a ripple in national consciousness.”[8] He has spoken incoherently about sharks and electric boats in the same sentence. He rants about Taylor Swift, claiming she is beautiful, but liberal and that he is “more popular” than her. He has made cruel remarks about Nancy Pelosi’s husband, joking about the violent attack he suffered at the hands of a right-wing conspiracy theorist. He has attacked Jack Smith and his wife. In a “bizarre, moment. Trump called Pelosi’s daughter a ‘wacko,’” and referred to the Department of Justice as “dirty no-good bastards.”[9] Rarely do these comments get the coverage they deserve in the mainstream media. There is little commentary about how unfit he is emotionally and what the consequence for the country might be if he is elected to the presidency. As Tim Nichols noted in The Atlantic, Trump’s delusional behavior should “terrify any American voter, because this behavior in anyone else would be an instant disqualification for any political office, let alone the presidency.” He further adds:

I am not a psychiatrist, and I am not diagnosing Trump with anything. I am, however, a man who has lived on this Earth for more than 60 years, and I know someone who has serious emotional problems when I see them played out in front of me, over and over. The 45th president is a disturbed person. He cannot be trusted with any position of responsibility—and especially not with a nuclear arsenal of more than 1,500 weapons. One wrong move could lead to global incineration.[10]

A dangerous right-wing firewall protects Trump and his delusional ramblings and reactionary policies from being identified as a dangerous authoritarian who poses a serious threat to democracy at home and abroad. The cowardly politics of normalization shield him from the criticism and exposure the public deserves. Additionally, he is protected by a right-wing echo chamber that legitimizes, propagates, and celebrates his lies, corruption, and criminal convictions. They also lie for profit. But there is more at work here than a politics of disappearance, there is also a relentless barrage of lies and distortions. Thom Hartman refers to the dominant right-wing echo chamber as “The GOP’s MAGA lie machine,” one that represents “dark side of politics.”[11]  False claims by mainstream conservative media became more visible with Fox News’s nearly $800 million dollar settlement with Dominion for lying about the 2020 presidential election. Unfortunately, the distortion machine continues with impunity. For instance,  Judd Legum recently reported that the Sinclair Broadcast Group is engaged in a systemic campaign of presenting misleading stories about President, which are then distributed on a range of social media. He writes:

This month, Sinclair Broadcast Group has flooded a vast network of local news websites with misleading articles suggesting that President Biden is mentally unfit for office. The articles are based on specious social media posts by the Republican National Committee (RNC), which are then repackaged to resemble news reports. The thinly disguised political attacks are then syndicated to dozens of local news websites owned by Sinclair, where they are given the imprimatur of mainstream media brands, including NBC, ABC, and CBS.[12]

 Trump has transformed the Republican Party into a cult of morally vacuous and politically maligned sycophants who are complicit in his actions and cover for him. Trump and his followers live in a bubble of deceit, hidden through a powerful and expansive culture of ignorance and hatred. This is a party that spreads false and deranged stories about Jewish space lasers, voting machines corrupted by alleged Venezuelan communists, and Democrats who drink the blood of kidnaped children, among other insane conspiracy theories.

The mainstream and right-wing media have emptied language of any substantive meaning, turning it into a poisonous cacophony of lies, bigotry, and deranged conspiracy theories. One crucial caveat must be made. While Trump’s bizarre ramblings rightly suggest an unstable and unhinged mind, this criticism should not but used to overshadow his fascist politics and the conditions that have given rise to Trumpism. The latter is a historical and political issue that cannot be reduced to psychological language.

More to the point. There is more at play here than Trump’s delusional ramblings. There is also his attack on the justice system, his lies about the election, his role in the assault on the Capitol on January 6, his history as a sexual predator, his support for Project 2025 and its planned subversion of democracy, and his history leading up to his thirty-four felony convictions. While these events receive critical commentary, they are rarely analyzed as part of a larger program that supports an upgraded fascism. Deceit, ignorance, and the death of civic responsibility now function as the perfect storm enabling fascist politics. America is no longer ashamed of its ignorance; it is now a matter of fondness, provides a sense of community, and serves as a measure of loyalty.[13] What does it take under these circumstances for struggling to prevent democracies from dying? What questions do we need to ask to rethink the meaning of politics, struggle, and collective resistance?

How do we account for this dramatic refusal by liberals and others to name and recognize the ongoing threat of fascism in the U.S.? What institutions under the regime of gangster capitalism have surrendered their educative, political, cultural, and economic responsibilities? How has white supremacy, with its logic and politics of hate, exclusion, and violence once again been able to define who counts as a citizen in the United States? What conditions have allowed the collapse of civic culture into a culture of commodification, surveillance, and punishment? What will it take to develop a world where democracy can breathe again? Where are the public spaces calling for a revolution of values that challenge the war machines and expansive militarized propagandistic cultural apparatuses? What kind of mass movement is necessary to shift public consciousness and the centers of corrupt politics in American society? How can these questions be answered within a broader understanding of the connection between neoliberal capitalism and fascism?

Where is the language we need to bear witness to resist the country’s death drive while affirming the need for justice? How can the language of compassion and solidarity overcome the discourse of institutionalized neoliberalism, rancid individualism, greed, and self-interest? Where are the spaces,  emerging institutions and social movements that will create the conditions to say yes to justice and no to cruelty, systemic racism, mass ignorance, and unfettered greed? What will it take to cultivate a willingness to say no, and the energy necessary to put our minds and bodies on the line for a future in which our children can experience dignity, justice, and joy? What might it mean to inhabit what James Baldwin called a “despairing witness” and, at the same time, to be prepared to lose everything in order to struggle for a world in which economic, political, and social rights are guaranteed for everyone?

All of these questions pose challenges that need to be addressed given the historical crisis facing the U.S. Baldwin never despaired of the struggles and potential danger of being a moral witness, and his words offer hope in the ongoing individual and collective efforts to be strong, brave, and willing to continue the fight for a radical democracy. His words are more urgent and powerful than ever:  “Not everything is lost. Responsibility cannot be lost, it can only be abdicated. If one refuses abdication, one begins again.” In the age of emerging fascism, there is no other choice but to begin again to fight the ghosts of a fascist past that have returned with a vengeance.


[1] Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons For our Own (New York: Crown, 2020).p.53

[2] This issue has been discussed in great depth by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in their landmark Manufacturing Consent. See also the work of  Jason Stanley’s  How Propaganda Works, and Robert McChesney’s Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times, and too many other critical sources to mention.

[3] Sonali Kolhatkar, “When Corporate Media Fail, Independent Media Rise Up,” Counterpunch (June 15, 2023). Online:

[4] Jeremy Scahill, Ryan Grim, “Leaked NYT Gaza memo tells journalists to avoid words ‘genocide’ ‘ethnic cleansing,’ and ‘occupied territory.’’ The Intercept (April 15, 2024). Online:…

[5] Ibid.

[6] Jon Quellay, “93 Nations Back ICC as Israel Faces Charges for War Crimes in Gaza,” Common Dreams (June 15, 2024). Online:

[7] Cited in Jeffrey St. Clair, “Whoops, They Did It Again–The Scourging of Gaza: Diary of a Genocidal War,” Counterpunch + (June 8, 2024). Online:

[8] Tom Nichols, “Let’s Talk About Trump’s Gibberish,” The Atlantic (June 12, 2024). Online:

[9] Annie Grayer, Melanie Zanona, Lauren Fox and Kit Maher, “Inside Trump’s gripe-filled meeting with House GOP and his reunion with McConnell,” CNN (June 13, 2024). Online:…

[10] Ibid. Tom Nichols.

[11] Thom Hartman, “The Dark Side of Politics: The GOP’s MAGA Lie Machine,” The Hartmann Report (June 17, 2024). Online:

[12] Judd Legum, “Sinclair floods local news websites with hundreds of deceptive articles about Biden’s mental fitness,” Popular Information (June 17, 2024). Online:…

[13] Mark Slouka, “A Quibble,” Harper’s Magazine ( February 2009). Online:

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and is the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy.

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