This week Beth and Kelly take a moment to appreciate Amazon Prime. Specifically the movie The Brainwashing of my Dad on Amazon Prime. Filmmaker Jen Senko explores the radical change of her once Democratic father to an angry right-wing fanatic after his immersion in talk radio and Fox News. She discovers this to be a powerful phenomenon that has divided families across the nation. Take a listen as we fact check, discuss and reveal our own stories of right wing media taking control of our own family members.
Senko begins her story by discussing her dad and interviewing him and family members about how her dad changed after starting to listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio during his commute. During her interview with David Brock, the founder of Media Matters and author of The Fox Effect, she discusses the difference between traditional journalism, which strives for objectivity and discerning the truth between conflicting claims - and the conservative media movement, which claims to be for balance in media, putting forward the argument that the mainstream media skews to the left. See issues like Climate Change, where the 1% of scientist that do not agree with climate change are funded by the coal and oil industries. That 1% will be presented with the same weight as the 99% of scientists, which creates a false narrative of ‘balance’.
To get the full history of how the right wing got interested in the media we have to look back into the The John Birch Society, an extreme right wing think tank founded in the 1950s by Robert Welsh, who idealized the year 1900 as the most perfect time in American history - before child labor laws, workers rights, income tax or women voting.
Historically, the U.S. had not seen the type of media divide we currently have due to The Fairness Doctrine, passed in 1949. The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: it required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented. The demise of this FCC rule under Reagan has been considered by some to be a contributing factor for the rising level of party polarization in the United States.
Rush Limbaugh was one of the first national players in the right wing news platform. He was already marginally famous from his radio show. His confident tone easily leads a listener to believe he knows what he is talking about, even when it’s clear he has no idea what he’s talking about. He likes to hype the overdog - the coal industry, big tobacco and more to make claims like second hand smoke is harmless and blaming "environmental wackos" for the BP oil spill of 2010. The movie dedicates only a small portion to Limbaugh, but it’s clear he’s had tremendous impact and is closely tied to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (one of the 2 members of the current SCOTUS accused of sexual crimes), who listens to Rush Limbaugh, but has claimed to never listen or read mainstream news like the New York Times or Washington Post.
It should also be noted that Limbaugh has a multi-million dollar sponsorship deal with right-wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation.
In February of 1996 Federal Telecommunications “Reform” Act passed with bipartisan support - leading to a 6 companies owning the media. In October of the same year Fox News was launched with support from Rupert Murdoch and led by Roger Ailes.
Roger Ailes control of Fox News was absolute, and he made sure the channel ran hour after hour coverage of the topics he felt would boost republicans and degrade democrats, from the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal to the Bush/Gore runoff to the war in Iraq and so much more.
False stories on Fox bleed over into mainstream media (The Fox Effect) - this has a toxic effect on public opinion, and it is coordinated by Ailes and the rest of Fox News. They used the example of Fox warning after the Charlie Hebdo murders about Muslim areas of Paris being ‘no-go zones’ for law enforcement and non-Muslims. Not only was it false, but CNN’s Anderson Cooper also reported incorrectly on the issue - showing the insidiously creeping nature of the false narrative Fox has put forward as ‘the truth’.
There is plenty of testimony from people who have watched loved ones - from parents, to friends, to siblings, even granddaughters, become angry and bitter or worse after watching Fox News and listening to right wing talk radio.
Brainwashing by stealth - a type of brainwashing where all the information consumed by an individual coerces them into changing the emotional associations people make without them noticing a change is taking place - so like an advertisement you really like will create a happy feeling when you see that brand or product.
George Lakoff, a University of Berkeley Professor on Cognitive Linguistics, stipulates that the brain can only understand what the neural circuits of the brain allow you to understand. Anything that doesn’t fit that pattern will be disregarded, especially if the facts challenge a passionately held belief.
Is Fox News an addiction?
It very well may be. If you watch Fox and get angry your brain has a stress response and releases endorphins, which your brain will crave. Because this is unconscious, viewers may not even recognise they are doing this over and over to themselves.
This misinformation campaign is deliberate and it is coordinated. From Grover Norquist’s Wednesday meetings to talking points spread through right wing news, radio and politicians, they know what they are doing. Ailes worked with Nixon in the 1970s before he worked in media - even then Fox News was his dream:
“Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit—watch—listen. The thinking is done for you.”
It benefits Fox, because it benefits the GOP, which benefits the richest Americans, which benefits the corporations, and it’s a big loop who all propagate the confusion and fear of false issues, like voter fraud and welfare queens while expressly downplaying the real issues like climate change. The fear and misinformation causes the divide we currently see in American politics (and globally) ensure people will hate each other and not go after the people really causing the problems while also othering their opponents to the point that they feel anything that happens to ‘those people’ is deserved and not worth defending. When people are scared they don’t think rationally, and if you can’t think rationally you’ll believe whatever you’re being told. If you’re in an emergency situation and someone tells you to run to the left, you don’t take the time to ask why or what’s in any other direction - you follow the order. The chaos describes daily by Fox and Rush Limbaugh creates panic and fear in our brains, and their word becomes comfort - their confidence becomes the thing that will get you through this upcoming apocalypse of Muslim and Mexican invaders armed with Sharia Law and MS-13 gangs.
Even when guests appear hosts will bully them - call them names, shout over them, express loudly their false outrage - “What part of this can’t you get through your thick head?” while always, always talking over to drown out any voice of dissent to their views.
Don’t forget - it’s the only place Trump gets his news.
Kelly's Jam of the Week: Dark Money by Jane Meyer
Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers?
The conventional answer is that a popular uprising against “big government” led to the ascendancy of a broad-based conservative movement. But as Jane Mayer shows in this powerful, meticulously reported history, a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system.
Jane Mayer spent five years conducting hundreds of interviews-including with several sources within the network-and scoured public records, private papers, and court proceedings in reporting this book. In a taut and utterly convincing narrative, she traces the byzantine trail of the billions of dollars spent by the network and provides vivid portraits of the colorful figures behind the new American oligarchy.
Beth's Jam of the Week: Handclap by Fitz and the Tantrums
A MAJOR COAL COMPANY WENT BUST. ITS BANKRUPTCY FILING SHOWS THAT IT WAS FUNDING CLIMATE CHANGE DENIALISM.
Exxon Misled the Public on Climate Change, Study Says
Wednesdays with Grover
The Fairness Doctrine: How We Lost It, and Why We Need It Back
The Fairness Doctrine
Maybe the eco-terrorists did it
JUSTICE THOMAS BREAKS HIS SILENCE
Top radio talkers sell endorsements
CNN’s Anderson Cooper acknowledges mistake on ‘no-go zones’
Richard Nixon and Roger Ailes 1970s plan to put the GOP on TV
Fox News retracts allegations of “no-go zones” for non-Muslims in England and France
As Seen On TV: The Science Of Brainwashing, Big And Small
A Minority President: Why the Polls Failed, And What the Majority Can Do
The Brainwashing of My Dad
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And don't forget - Spread jam, not lies.
Spread jam, not lies.