Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Brainwashing Of Our Country

This is a follow up to my post about Kevin Drum's uncritical acceptance of the notion that the people who listen to talk radio or watch Fox news choose to do so because it protects them from accusations of racism.  Kevin's argument, and that of the researchers he quotes, is that conservatives are people who are fearful and resentful of rejection because their viewpoints can be caricatured as racist.  

My argument below was not as explicit as I would like it to have been.  Kevin thinks conservatives retreat from accusations of racism. I postulated that they choose to congregate in areas where they feel safe and unchallenged.  But I think its also important to argue that people get sucked in to another interpretive web regardless of their original beliefs.   I'd argue that Kevin's researchers don't actually demonstrate that people start out conservative or racist and that for all we know, people start entertaining and accepting hate media and Fox news and then get sucked in and owned by its worldview which, being paranoid and xenophobic, then starts them on a downward spiral that prevents them from pulling out or critiquing what they are hearing. They don't start out having the experience of being "rejected" by liberal society or even necessarily having racist or conservative views-- they start out by listening to hate radio and learn to fear liberal society's rejection.  In fact if you listen to Fox News and Hate Radio you quickly become aware that this is explicitly the message of these groups--that conservatives are a hated other to outsiders, that only within the tribe will you be safe. The truth value of these messages can't be challenged anymore than a paranoid's delusions can be challenged.

This is the argument made in a new documentary which I learned about over at Kos this morning. Kossack Leslie Salzillo writes:

Many of us understand the damage Rush Limbaugh, FOX News, and 'hate media' has done to our country in promoting racism, homophobia, misogyny and bigotry.They perpetuate lies and poison the minds of people who get sucked in, and use Right Wing media as the only source of news. Jen Senko is a filmmaker who watched the transformation of her father, as he slowly came to believe the extreme RightWing lies, and she's making a documentary about it. Here a personal note to me from Senko followed by the Kickstarter commentary:
"I was inspired to make this film after watching my father – a non-political Democrat – turn into a right wing fanatic after a change in his car commute exposed him to the reactionary shows on talk radio. The changes in his behavior caused me to research the changes in the media over the last 30 years – and the effect of those changes on the country was indisputable. As the media have been co-opted more and more by special interests, documentarians have become the new journalists. My hope is that after seeing my film, people will question what the media tells them, and hold them accountable."


  1. Yes, I'm sure all of us has watched as a formerly sane and sensible person became a bitter, ranting, lunatic after they watched too much Fox News or listened to Right Wing Radio.

    It would be the work of science fiction if we hadn't seen it for ourselves.

  2. I'm watching the TV show Fringe, right now, in a binge kind of way. This brainswashing through repetition thing fits right in. I feel sorry for some of these people because I really think it was involuntary for some of them--the result of a concatenation of events: the end of the fairness doctrine, change in work or retirement, becoming prisoners in one's own home through age or changes in the neighborhood and household income. Lots of things lead people to become more dependent on the radio or the tv than they were when they were younger and out in the world. While for those living in Red States they may never have been offered much more than a John Bircherite view of the world through popular media. My wonderful 96 year old neighbor is still a staunch democrat and a wonderful, generous, human being but I know for a fact that she doesn't watch the news anymore because it is too scary for her. She feels (and is) vulnerable and overwhelmed by the flood of bad news and politics. If she were consuming a steady diet of Fox News she would have a ready made set of friends to lie to her and keep her frightened. I'm pretty sure that with the best will in the world she would have gone over to the dark side if she had allowed herself to become exposed to that propaganda.