If you wake up this morning not feeling frightened, you clearly haven’t spent enough time watching local news stan for Donald Trump.
Last month, CNN’s Brian Stelter revealed that Sinclair Broadcast Group, operator of nearly 200 local television stations across the United States, would be recording promotional content about “irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country.” Deadspin has since found that content and compiled it all into a terrifyingly synchronized montage.
All of my childhood dystopian YA fiction has come true.
Here are the most upsetting lines from the script, transcribed by ThinkProgress:
“But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.”
“More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.”
And another one:
“Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.”
Regardless of what you think of opinion or advocacy journalism, the potential consequences of such a systematic campaign are frightening. Since Trump began popularizing “fake news,” authoritarian leaders from around the world have made use of the term to defend themselves from critics, in Syria, Turkey, Philippines, Venezuela, and elsewhere.
On Monday morning, Trump even backed Sinclair in a tweet that also hit his usual points of deriding outlets that have covered him critically as “fake news.”
So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2018
Sinclair is the largest owner of local television news stations in the country. In 2004, it required affiliates to air an anti-John Kerry propaganda film. And, yet, it’s standing by this new script, calling it a, “corporate news journalistic responsibility promotional campaign.”
According to CNN, Sinclair’s senior vice president of news Scott Livingston penned a lengthy internal memo that criticized coverage of the video, referring to this new approach as “our well-researched journalistic initiative focused on fair and objective reporting.”
But that’s hardly what it should be called.
John Oliver outlined the network’s reach and the danger it represents in a monologue here:
Sinclair Broadcasting reaches an estimated 75 percent of all American homes.
Nothing to panic about here, folks! Just good ol’ fashioned pro-government propaganda.
I’m ashamed to even type this, but Jimmy Kimmel, we’re going to need you to lean in and cry about this like you did before.
Regretfully, this is probably the only thing that can save us.
UPDATED April 2, 2018, 8:28 a.m. ET An earlier version of this story was topped by a photo noting that WGN-TV, a Chicago-based network, is a Sinclair-owned station. That was an error. Sinclair acquisition target Tribune Broadcasting still owns WGN-TV. If the sale goes through, Sinclair will eventually be in a position to own WGN-TV. But for now, due to FCC ownership limits, a third-party will have to purchase the network. You can read more about the situation here.
A tweet from President Trump and information from an internal Sinclair memo was also added.