Almost 50 years ago Guinness decided to sell alcohol in the American market. It put up billboards with the slogan: “Guinness is good for you.“
That was OK in Ireland but not necessarily in the United States. Guinness couldn’t really prove that it was the truth.
So in fear of being sued in American courts for “misrepresentation,” they changed it to ”Guinness is for you.”
For the last four years, President Trump has used Fox and social media to build his base with willful misinformation. And after he lost the last election, he claimed the election stolen was from him, a claim repeated endlessly by him and others on Fox and social media.
He could not prove it was the truth, because it is not, but maybe he doesn’t have to.
The question is: was Trump’s misinformation worse than a Guinness hangover?
Trump used this misinformation to encourage his supporters to come to Washington on January 6th to disrupt the Electoral College certification of our election.
The House of Representatives and the Senate were attacked and our elected officials were put at risk. Five people died.
American courts recognize and award damages for the dissemination of misinformation in commercial maters in the form of false advertising and in personal matters as defamation (formally libel and slanderer). But when it comes to misinformation delivered as political speech, it gets more difficult. The 1st Amendment largely protects that speech because it is political, but let’s follow the money.
Is free speech political? Or is it property, which can be sold to make money even if it is misinformation?
On October 12, Fox paid millions to the family of Seth Rich for repeatedly publishing the lie that he had been involved in leaking the DNC emails during the 2016 presidential election when in fact a Russian intelligence officer had hacked and leaked the emails. There was no truth or factual basis for the Fox story. Fox continued to broadcast it anyway. Fox settled the case before Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity were set to testify under oath.
What makes this interesting is that part of the settlement required that it could not be disclosed until after the election in November.
Doesn’t this Fox settlement requirement both confirm that their reporting was political and acknowledge that it was false all along?
If you can afford to pay for the lie and even profit from it, it’s OK? Is the difference between the settlement and the profits generated for Fox from the marketing of misinformation the fair market value of propaganda in America?
It is business. It is politics. The business of American politics. But what is for sale?
The influence over the American voter is for sale, but is the country at stake? Is the price tag for our country the cost of the propaganda it would take to buy it?
Can this really be what the framers intended? The revolution? The Constitution? The freedom of the people from King George? And then give King George complete immunity and absolute power if he becomes the president?
It is amazing how we rationalize the truth. Over the last four years, maybe Guinness has been good for me.