The average age of people who watch Fox News is 68. That means that many people’s parents and grandparents get their news almost exclusively from a cable news channel that deliberately sets about feeding a demonstrably false narrative aimed at pursuing an agenda that is a mix of enriching the wealthy, despising the poor and working class, ginning up viewership with fake controversies, making the audience feel that they are constant siege by hostile forces, and advancing the interests of the Republican party and its Tea Party base.
Edwin Lyngar is one such person who finds himself becoming estranged from his father as the former drifted from the libertarian conservatism of his childhood and latter became solely reliant on Fox for his information. He says conversations with his father have become increasingly difficult.
Since he retired, he only watches Fox. As we started chatting up politics, I repeated one mantra over and over: “Please, please, consume another source of information.” I repeated my plea a dozen times. He defended with stridency his choices, citing his favorites, like Stuart Varney, “The Five” and the great Charles Krauthammer. When it came to any other source of information he was emphatic.
“I don’t care to see any more of that liberal bullshit,” he said in one form or another all night.
We rehashed some issues, starting with his absolute skepticism about global warming and evolution. “Science and religion are the same thing,” he said. And, “We didn’t come from a fucking monkey,” he added like he always does.
“Global warming is your religion,” he says. Because I’m an atheist, calling me religious is the worst insult he can summon, so he uses it often.
My father sincerely believes that science is a political plot, Christians are America’s most persecuted minority and Barack Obama is a full-blown communist. He supports the use of force without question, as long as it’s aimed at foreigners. He thinks liberals are all stupid, ignorant fucks who hate America.
I don’t recall my father being so hostile when I was growing up. He was conservative, to be sure, but conventionally and thoughtfully so. He is a kind and generous man and a good father, but over the past five or 10 years, he’s become so conservative that I can’t even find a label for it.
What has changed? He consumes a daily diet of nothing except Fox News. He has for a decade or more. He has no email account and doesn’t watch sports. He refuses to so much as touch a keyboard and has never been on the Internet, ever. He thinks higher education destroys people, not only because of Fox News, but also because I drifted left during and after graduate school.
I do not blame or condemn my father for his opinions. If you consumed a daily diet of right-wing fury, erroneously labeled “news,” you could very likely end up in the same place. Again, this is all by design. Let’s call it the Fox News effect. Take sweet, kindly senior citizens and feed them a steady stream of demagoguery and repetition, all wrapped in the laughable slogan of “fair and balanced.”
I, and people like me, have managed to break the cycle of conservative red-and race-baiting. I’ve noticed similar attitude shifts among some of my close friends, who have likewise drifted from the televised rage of our fathers.
One of my friends faces the same problem. Her mother watches only Fox and her view of the world is so divorced from reality that it is hard to talk to her about anything but the most mundane topics. Given that younger people aren’t watching Fox abut are getting their information from a multiplicity of alternative sources, I wonder how many families now face family get-togethers fearing this kind of tension.
The Daily Show had two clip on Fox News, showing them beating up (once again) on the food choices of the poor using a combination of lies, ignorance, and sheer viciousness.
(These clips aired on March 4, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)