Nobody on the political left wants to share stories from Fox…but we should. The idea naturally rankles. Why should we boost a news outlet that consistently distorts our views and actively turns people against us? For one reason: sharing Fox News stories can help us reach Americans who would otherwise tune us out.
Most grassroots conservatives take it as an article of faith that liberals lie to them, a sentiment encouraged by Fox News itself. But progressives can use the fact that Trump supporters have been trained to ignore information produced outside the right-wing bubble to our advantage. When we can find stories in conservative media that include something beneficial to our work, sharing the Fox version of story or even a clip of Rush Limbaugh can help us connect with people who won’t pay attention to anything else.
This idea came up repeatedly during ACRONYM’s post-election debrief a few weeks ago. Before the election, their team used the reactions to their own digital advertising to identify themes resonating with conservative voters from week. When they found a topic that worked, boosting relevant news stories to potentially persuadable people, including articles and videos from Fox, often performed better than other content. For example, they might create a video ad from Fox News clips or share a relatively straight-news Fox story about the economy or the pandemic. One ACRONYM staffer described Tucker Carlson as their “golden goose” — when they could promote one of his videos, their engagement rate went through the roof. Stories from the New York Times, MSNBC or CNN simply did not perform as well with the voters they needed to reach.
Since content from Fox News or right-wing talk radio comes from a trusted source, it creates a “permission structure” for conservative audiences. Wrapped in familiar paper, the package won’t be ignored automatically as it would when it’s in a story from an outlet they’ve been told to dismiss. Naturally, groups on the left should frame each piece carefully, for instance using a headline or the introductory text or preview image in a Facebook post to highlight the parts we want people to take away. We might also pick Fox quotes for the substance of a digital ad but link to a video of our own that pivots off of them to make a progressive point.
However we manage to jujitsu a story to our advantage, though, information from a trusted messenger can help us get at least a toe in the door. The trick, of course, is to find the stories in the first place, and I do not envy those with the job of sorting through hours of disinformation and bile. Pity the poor interns….
Top image: Crafty as a….