Hoax network OAN may be among the most identifiable promoters of "new" Republicanism, a movement that now fully embraces hoaxes and disinformation to gain public support that its policies and record cannot muster, but the centrality of hoax promotion to the party can be seen everywhere else, as well. Even more consequential than the pro-fascist scripts of OAN are the nightly musings of Fox News "conservatives," especially the white nationalism-promoting Tucker Carlson. You probably can't name a single OAN host. Tucker's rhetoric, however, is broadcast in airports, bars, and into the living rooms of seemingly every Conservative American of a Certain Age in the country.
And Fox, like OAN, is making big profits by simply lying to their conservative audience. Not little lies. Big, elaborate hoaxes. Hoaxes in which, night after night, the viewer is bombarded with reasons government experts trying to end pandemic deaths should not be trusted, or why health experts are allegedly hiding "miracle" cures found in livestock supply stores, or why the last United States presidential was supposedly illegitimate, necessitating widespread and drastic party action to make sure "fraud" that was never found is tamped out by hampering the rights of Americans to vote at all.
That brings us to Sen. Ron Johnson. Like Tucker, Johnson has been a reckless advocate for false information and hoaxes. Promoting false claims is, again, central to new Republicanism's rhetoric. Johnson's actual stances are indefensible, his party's record during the Trump years was so reckless as to border on criminal, his party did abide actual criminal behavior from their newest Dear Leader figure even when that leader fomented actual political violence, and the party's compulsive devotion to racism and xenophobia threatens its ability to compete as a national force in coming years. From both the movement's base and its leaders, the answer has been to craft fake news that's more flattering to the movement than reality is willing to be.
As reported by Aaron Black in The Washington Post, "Senator" Johnson appeared on Tucker Carlson's show on Monday to again spout two new conspiracy theories, both about the COVID-19 pandemic. Johnson's first fever-swamp charge was something that's been floating around as a conservative Facebook hoax for a while now: The theory that drug companies don't want Americans to know that ivermectin, the drug conservative gullibles have been storming farm supply stores in search of, is being hidden as miracle cure because drug companies would rather sell Americans newer cures that cost more money. It's false.
It is also, you will probably note, the central advertising theme around which a whole host of junk-science "nutritional" pill distributors have peddled their wares for approximately forever. "Local rando discovers secret cure money-grubbing doctors don't want you to know about" is the basis of perhaps the majority of all medical hoaxes, either on the internet or off it. And it's of a piece to new Trump supporter claims that you mustn't go to a hospital if you get sick with COVID-19 because the hospital will intentionally kill you in a plot to juice pandemic numbers.
Again: Johnson's claim is bunk. He saw it somewhere, repeated it to the Fox News audience without giving a damn whether promoting the hoax would harm people, and is looking for movement affirmation based on his willingness to do it. The central flaw in Johnson's premise is that sucking cheap livestock dewormer out of a plastic tube is not proven to be an effective COVID-19 treatment in the first place. So the alleged plot to keep Americans from doing it is based wholly and sensibly on not encouraging people to endanger themselves. The human version of the drug has been tested and has been found to do approximately nothing in the most rigorous tests.
As a supposed "miracle cure," this is identical to previous claims that an anti-malaria drug also used in fish tanks was also a supposed pandemic-ender—a claim that made it into the ears of the movement's Dear Leader and out his televised mouth and led to at least one death. Ivermectin claims are bunk. It's completely fraudulent; if the neurotoxin used to kill internal parasites happens to have any effect on an unrelated virus at all, it does so only in the same sense that lighting yourself on fire might also "cure" you of having the virus.
The pharmaceutical companies may indeed have a stake in helping to convince people not to dose themselves with potentially dangerous drugs not meant to have any antiviral properties, to begin with. Ron Johnson's stake, however, is the same as Donald Trump's. Johnson, like much of the rest of his party, allying himself with hoaxes that suppose a deadly worldwide pandemic is not as dangerous as all the experts say it is, but was instead oversold to make Republican leaders look bad. It is a crackpot notion pulled from the head of a malignant narcissist festering in his own delusions of grandeur and intrigue, and it was adopted by Tucker Carlson, Ron Johnson, and the rest of the party as justification for why Trump incompetence and Republican state incompetence at dealing with the pandemic was not the horrific offense it should be considered to be.
It's the casual nature with which a sitting Republican senator and a top Republican (and white nationalist) pundit barrage their audiences with new conspiracy theories and fraudulent claims that's the most galling. There is seemingly no thought given to whether each new fraud is dangerous or whether it might lead to deaths among any Americans foolish enough to take them seriously. It doesn't seem to matter at all. The movement now requires downplaying the virus as a supposed "liberal" plot to remove unspecified "freedoms.” If Fox News is a major reason hospital rooms fill to overflowing, then not a single damn person in the network will lose sleep over it.
Ron Johnson, a senator, doesn't even have to pretend to care. It is now a given that Republican lawmakers will promote false information for partisan gain. Top Republicans have claimed that the January 6 insurrection was a false flag operation by "Antifa"; top Republicans have claimed that "fraud" was responsible for Donald Trump's loss of the presidency using fake claims and outright hoaxes; top Republicans continue to insist that all the world's health officials are involved in a global plot to make you more cautious during a pandemic that's already killed 700,000 Americans than the "economy" wants you to be.
It's relentless. Every day, a new hoax. Every day, a Ron Johnson lying to the American public in a way that's almost certain to result in deaths. Every day.
And nobody's treating the perpetrators with the revulsion they deserve. The promotion of hoaxes has become a central plank of Republican campaign strategy, and only a bare handful of media figures have dared contemplate the full dangers posed.