During a segment on Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox News presented this confounding infographic spotted by Vice News correspondent Roberto Ferdman. The premise is so unbelievable that we first thought it was a parody: Who did it? Steve Bannon–chief strategist of the Donald Trump administration–or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of ISIS? Because, after all, the two are . . . such a perfect comparison?
In reality, the graphic was a response to this USA Today article, which pointed out how the two men of faith have both interpreted their respective religions to incite war. But that explanation does little to soften the sheer absurdity at play in this news chyron.
Did Bannon behead journalists? No! Did Bannon order mass executions of Christians? No! The list goes on. And no doubt, you, the viewer, are meant to conclude that Bannon is an alright guy compared to the leader of the world’s second deadliest terrorist network.
Of course, there’s just one other problem: Baghdadi gets a green checkmark for each of his atrocities, while Bannon gets a red X because he didn’t commit them. Yet the effect is like some CNET review comparing two smartphones. Green checkmarks are always good, right? And so we, the audience, are visually led down a path to buy whatever Baghdadi is selling. Through layers of poor information design, Fox News basically just endorsed child warfare, chemical weapons, and even, perhaps, Baghdadi for Bannon’s job.
Oh 2017: when our reality is crazier than fake news could have ever imagined.