Saturday, August 13, 2016

Is Fox News America's Information Chernobyl?

Not solely responsible, Fox News sits atop the pyramid of right-wing misinformation.

Roger Ailes came from politics, not news. And it was
(right-wing) politics he delivered.

The information freak show that is Fox News has by now so tainted our political discourse that sitting on the sidelines with a both-sides-do-it mentality is increasingly unpatriotic. Amid signs that Americans are becoming unhinged -- just watch this video from a Trump rally -- a real patriot (not the one in the video below) would worry that something in our national character is flying off the rails.

As the writer of the Salon article where I found this video says, the man pictured looks like any other mild-mannered grandfather until he explodes rather violently at the press corps trapped as they regularly are behind barriers at a Trump rally. Where does such rage come from?

Naturally some of that blame falls to Donald Trump, who, beyond banning many of the nation's top press from even attending his rallies and press conferences, often attacks and berates them from the podium.

MSNBC's Katy Tur, who by all accounts is a smart, well-mannered, up-and-coming reporter, just yesterday recounted the time Trump singled her out for derision, riling the crowd so much that a Trump staffer went to the trouble of making sure a Secret Service agent walked her out of the event when it was over.

Back to Salon:
Generally speaking, Trump supporters are non-college-educated white men, ranging from younger “bros” to, more typically, white male baby-boomer retirees with plenty of spare time to be relentlessly irradiated by Fox News and AM talk radio.

While the lack of a college diploma binds most Trump supporters together, there are more obvious tells — ones that we can plainly see but that can’t be fully measured by pollsters. Specifically, it’s not easy to quantify the growing resentment of white males who believe they’re slowly losing their millennia-long grip on societal power. Likewise, it’s difficult to measure the brainwashing of Trump’s loyalists by the Fox News and talk radio echo-chamber. Yet we see it on display every day.
These aren't random assumptions: According to The Atlantic, half of Fox News viewers are 68 years or older. I'll leave it to you to figure out what portion of Fox News viewers are people of color. (Okay, it's 1%). Now, the age figure begs the question: Does Fox News turn older people conservative, or do older people gravitate to Fox News because its take on the world is conservative? We could split the difference on that one, although if you've watched any evening news program, the onslaught of drug ads alone would tell you that TV news viewers trend considerably to the north of 60.

That only 1% of any African-American age group self-selects Fox News should clearly tell you that Fox News actively self-selects a white viewership.

But there's more to right-wing media than Fox News, and there's more to what happens to viewers and listeners than hearing what happened today or what drug is best suited to lower your cholesterol without giving you ED. This article, also in Salon, about a women who "lost" her father to right-wing thought I found personally disturbing:
Filmmaker Jen Senko noticed a disturbing phenomenon. Her father, Frank, was a goofy, fun, non-political dad who treated people with respect when she was a child. However, when she was older, she noticed her father would rant about “Feminazis,” listen to Rush Limbaugh and watch Fox News. He became the family pest, forcing one-sided discussions of conservative politics and becoming enraged and unreachable after watching Fox News.
This hit me personally because I have an older brother that hasn't talked to me in years. When we were younger, politics rarely came up, although having come from a strong FDR/Kennedy/Johnson-style family there was no doubt we knew where our family stood. I certainly did. So as my brother hit his mid-fifties and began to spout all most word for word the core message of Rush Limbaugh, I began to wonder what was going on. In my brother's case, he was chronically unemployed, lived alone in a studio apartment with a Murphy bed, without a TV, and I imagined him laying in bed listening to Rush on the radio. I inquired and, sure enough, he answered, "He makes a lot of sense."

No, he doesn't. He spouts hateful diatribes against all things liberal or "Feminazi." If you regard Rush Limbaugh as a force for good, stop reading now. You're a lost soul.

And so, it turns out, are a number of people who have been captured by the right-wing media machine. Says Jen Senko, who's turned her concern towards her dad and the Fox News Effect:
I felt like I could see the writing on the wall. I still don’t know why I could see it. I think, and this sounds weird, but when I was younger, I was really bullied, so that profoundly affected me in a lot of ways. When I first heard Rush Limbaugh, I thought he was a bully. My mother said that she was raised Christian and Limbaugh didn’t sound Christian or nice. I felt that when Hillary Clinton said there was this vast right-wing conspiracy, I felt: That’s it! That is happening! Even when Bill Clinton first became president, I felt the country was moving to the right. I felt the more I saw my dad change, and the more he became unrecognizable to us, the more alarmed I got. I talked to friends and a cousin who were very argumentative usually about the same topic and around the same time. It rang alarm bells to me. There was a very dangerous thing happening in our country. It was a phenomenon...
 I think that the greatest danger is that people are unwittingly voting against their own interests and democracy is being compromised. People are being bamboozled on a massive scale. They wonder why they are so unhappy. They blame Obama for everything and they don’t realize that the whole theory of “trickle down economics” have been fed to them through the media. It permeates everywhere. It’s not just Republicans. It becomes part of the language. The most dangerous part is that you have a country of half-brainwashed people. When I first used the term “brainwash,” it was done tongue-in-cheek; I wanted to evoke Red Scare films of the 1950s. But by the end of the film, and after interviewing neuroscientists, I believe people were or are being brainwashed. It’s just a different type of brainwashing—not coercive, but more subtle. It’s an insidious poison that’s seeping in through radios and TV sets, and it’s poisoning families. You have people fighting with their families. They are not blaming those who are at fault, but blaming each other.
Senko has recently released a documentary entitled "The Brainwashing of My Dad" in which she attempts to investigate how wide the spread of misinformation and toxic opinion has become. Example of Fox News' toxicity:

Bill O'Reilly's take on Benghazi is so wrong on so many facets that I would grow weary explaining it. Suffice to say that numerous congressional investigations, most if not all of them Republican, have cleared Secretary Clinton of any wrongdoing. But O'Reilly's noxious stew of misinformation renders a good part of the American news viewership quite nearly devoid of rational thought on the subject, much like the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl left vast square miles of Ukraine uninhabitable.

It's that void that is being filled by Trumpskyites:

Indefensible. It starts with Ailes-style political rabble-rousing and ends up in a Trump-led movement of white males predisposed to violence by their adherence to racism, nativism, and sexism, amplified by their near-certain feeling that the rest of America has forgotten them.

As Jen Senko points out, the white working class has been bamboozled into voting against their own interests and seem intent on continuing to do so. Everyone should examine the Trump and Clinton economic plans carefully. One is good for the working class and the other is not. Then go into the voting booth with both eyes wide open. Oh, and switch off Fox News.

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