As the Trump administration swiftly approaches its final moments in power, attention is being turned towards what the lasting legacy will be.
Four years of incompetence, corruption, collateral damage and democratic erosion seem to be the majority of what remains in the wake of this outgoing President — yet there is one particular element of the Trump years that appears to herald a strange and dangerous new entry into the national conversation.
Much has been written and discussed concerning the disinformation and lies at the heart of the 2016 - 2020 time period, especially as far as Facebook, Q-Anon and the outgoing President himself is concerned. But when it comes to the televised landscape, Fox News finds itself being usurped by a competitor.
More malevolent, less factual, and without any shame — there is a new shadow falling across the land, and its here to take the very worst of Fox News and make that poison its primary selling point.
The one America News Network, or OANN, came onto the scene hellbent on scraping up the bile that even Fox News refused to touch.
Despite Fox News' flaws, and there are many, the network still retains a fact-checking apparatus and has many actual journalists filling the ranks of its news output. Special mention should be made of Shepard Smith, who was a consummate newsman until the end of his tenure with the company. However, this observation does not include their opinion shows, which are a cavalcade of soul-eroding falsehood.
As Fox News settled into the Trump presidency, it became clear that even they were unprepared for the sheer unhinged nature of the now all-powerful leader of the free world. Slowly but surely, you cans see the light fading from the eyes of Fox & Friends unholy trinity as the President calls in once agin, and refuses to cease spouting insanity for hours on end.
Here is where OANN and Fox News diverge - when Fox News began limply looking for an exit ramp, OANN wanted all in.
The network, which began broadcasting in 2013, has dragged itself from humble origins in San Diego to being the primary sycophantic receptacle for all the Presidents fevered conspiracy daydreams. He says it, they agree with such vigor that a vertebrae may snap, then drench it in enough shameless faux-journalism dust just in time to feed it back to him in an endless feedback loop of madness.
It is an origin that begins with Robert Herring Sr who, after selling his family's business in 2000 for $122m, launched a luxury travel and lifestyle network called, and this is not satire, "Wealth TV".
Fast forward to 2013, and Mr. Herring's son, Charles Herring, attended CPAC to announce the birth of OANN. "It is getting really hard to find just the reliable, credible, fact-based news with substance," Charles Herring told The Daily Beast in 2013. "The second component is to provide a platform where more voices can be heard, voices that are ignored, libertarian and conservative voices."
They are now a platform that exists, even at the dusk of his administration, purely for the defense of Trump, the criticism of his enemies, and to relentlessly, as Steve Bannon so eloquently describes, "flood the zone with shit."
This includes their insistence on the dark "globalist agenda" of George Soros, Bill Gates, and others, as well as promoting the discredited Seth Rich conspiracy theory, and even advancing the baseless notion that the coronavirus was created in a North Carolina lab. More recently, one of the networks main personalities, Chanel Rion, traveled with Rudy Giuliani to Europe with to make a "documentary series" that pushed the debunked theory that Joe Biden used his office to help keep his son Hunter out of legal trouble in Ukraine. The resulting documentary series was a laughable, yet sinister presentation that amounted essentially to propaganda for the outgoing President.
So the question evolves naturally to just how many Americans are inhaling these fumes? While the network claims it is "available in 35 million American homes", it managed about 14,000 viewers from April 1, 2019, to June 11, 2019. Compared with Fox News averaging 630,000 viewers; MSNBC and CNN had averages in the hundreds of thousands as well.
However, the network has benefitted from Facebook's seemingly nerve deep inability to handle disinformation - with OANN gaining more than 800,000 Facebook followers. The network also boasts over 1 million twitter followers, as well as their prized audience of one.
OANN has benefited from the outgoing President's repeated praise, often involving him hinting that he may even prefer the far-right network to Fox News, which has recently culminated in an outright rejection of Fox News due to their refusal to regurgitate his baseless assertion that the 2020 election has been riddled with voter fraud.
Enter OANN, salivating to come to the Presidents aid - and thus picking up the torch that Fox News refused to touch.
Now the standard bearer for the MAGA movement, OANN is the beneficiary of the Trump-induced mass exodus from Fox News — and with Trumpism taking hold of the Republican party for the foreseeable future, it appears OANN will not be going anywhere soon.
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