Fox dumped Glenn Beck after his bizarre conspiracy theories and rhetoric reportedly caused the network's advertisers to balk. Now Fox appears to be clinging to one of his classic distortions, characterizing a government effort utilizing behavioral psychology to reduce fraud, error and debt as “mind control.”
FoxNews.com reported that it obtained a document outlining plans for the government to hire a “Behavioral Insights Team” that “will look for ways to subtly influence people's behavior.” The United Kingdom has implemented several related initiatives. In one instance the U.K. government sent out reminder letters to late taxpayers, leading to increased tax revenue.
The ideas behind this type of initiative were laid out in Professor Cass Sunstein's book, Nudge. When Sunstein joined the Obama administration as the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Beck launched a campaign to demonize him and his ideas.
Beck said Sunstein was “the man that controls everything through nudges. He'll just nudge you. He'll never tell you what to do, he nudges.” For example, Beck claimed that Sunstein might enact policies to increase health premiums for gun owners, which would “nudge you into a position where you might get rid of that gun.”
Beck cast behavioral psychology in sinister terms, describing it as a plot to convince people to “give up on your freedom” by being “nudged into it.” He also stated that progressives were trying to “nudge” the United States towards “global governance.”
Fox News is now echoing its former afternoon host. Fox contributor Monica Crowley said the initiative “has an Orwellian ring to it,” while Fox Business host Lou Dobbs said it “sounds purely like propaganda and mind control.” On America Live, host Shannon Bream said the initiative was “raising serious concerns about Big Brother.”
Fox & Friends co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade echoed Beck's complaints. Doocy noted that “sometimes a nudge can lead to a shove, so you just don't want to overdo it,” while Kilmeade responded, “Right. Nudge, push, shove, poke, we don't know.”
Beck often opposed related initiatives by jumping to the most paranoid conclusion in response to benign proposals. He opposed a food safety bill in Congress, describing it as a stealth effort to “nudge us out of meat” because Sunstein “doesn't want us to eat meat.” He also attacked a program to promote healthier eating in school lunches, falsely claiming it would eventually lead to imprisonment for eating French fries.