Losing your parents to Fox News


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.)

Comments

  1. Bicarbonate is back says

    My 83 year-old mother with Alzheimer’s watches CNN 24/7 and that’s bad enough!! She believes everything they say!! She was once an intelligent, thoughtful woman.

    Part of the problem is the general vulnerability and fear old people feel, it is related to losing vitality, strength and health, not to mention reasoning abilities. The right-wing mongering caters to this fear and also stimulates it. In a society where you’re considered too old to be hired once you hit 50, there are a couple of decades of life where — in addition to the general fear caused by aging– it is easy to feel left out and even discriminated against.

    I’m not sure what can be done about this. The fearfulness of old people is something Aristotle wrote about (can’t remember which work of his), it’s a permanent feature.

  2. cafink says

    We have a similar situation with my grandmother. The rest of my family (who are not exactly a pack of godless liberals) and she frequently get into it, especially on the subjects of president Obama and gay marriage. She enjoys being contrary and nobody really takes her all that seriously, so it hasn’t seriously affected our relationship with her, but I can easily see how it could create a serious rift in one’s family.

  3. machintelligence says

    While there is a definite tendency to grow more conservative and hidebound as we get older (Hey you kids, get off my lawn!) it fortunately isn’t universal. Although my mother listened to way too many AM talk shows she became more liberal in the last 15 years of her life. (She had macular degeneration, so listening to radio or “listening” to TV were pretty much her only options. When Books on Tape converted over to flash drive storage, that also became a possibility — she couldn’t figure out how to handle the tapes.)

  4. wtfwhateverd00d says

    This guy doesn’t impress me. He writes:

    I enjoyed Fox News for many years, as a libertarian and frequent Republican voter. I used to share many, though not all, of my father’s values, but something happened over the past few years. As I drifted left, the white, Republican right veered into incalculable levels of conservative rage, arriving at their inevitable destination with the creation of the Tea Party movement.

    So he has traveled from right to left, and not just left, but Salon left. All in the span of the past few years.

    Like most newly converted zealots he now thinks the group he used to be a member of is evil and has become more evil.

    Like many people in inertial reference frames, he thinks he is standing still and it’s other people in motion.

    I am glad all of us can learn and change our views, but I often find myself wishing the newly converted of any group could tone down their zealotry a notch or two. And in my experience, the most zealous of the new converts are the ones most likely to change back again after the new car smell wears off.

    As he says, he used to enjoy Fox quite a bit. And he has traveled from conservative to libertarian to Salon left in just the past few years. Is this person reliable in describing his father’s journey becoming more extreme?

    I think he’s telling himself, Salon, and you, a story you want to hear.

    I am actually surprised the Fox news viewer is 68. Where I live, all the gyms always have TVs tuned to Fox. And the Sports Bars are almost always turned to Fox when a game is not on.

    There’s a shit ton of Fox. They must really suck awful hard if the average viewer is 68.

  5. wtfwhateverd00d says

    Newly liberal zealot and former conservative stages Fox News Intervention for his father. Writes whiny self-centered Salon rationalization when father tells him to jump in a lake.

  6. nemistenem says

    Boy do I feel fortunate! My parents were life-long republicans (as were most of our family) and we used to have many heated discussions, especially as I went through my college years and developed my socially left but fiscally conservative (but that sure don’t mean what today’s “conservatives” preach as in give to the rich at the expense of everyone else) worldview. Dad spent his career as a geologist exploring for oil for Mobil, before the merge with Exxon. We travelled the world (his first job was in the Libyan desert, a job that kept us in Tripoli for almost 10 years) and that I think is what finally turned them. When GWB began to drum the country up towards the Iraq war and finally invaded, they both quit the party in disgust (as we learned: Rule #1 – Infidel does NOT occupy Islamic lands!) and have been Independents (like me!) ever since. We now have lively conversations on many topics and although we certainly don’t agree on it all, they despise FOX and the R wingers almost as much as I do. Unfortunately, my sis and bro have gone over and remain on the low information dark side. Sigh.

  7. raven says

    It’s not that bad.

    Old people are well on their way to being…dead people. Simple biology.

    The average age of Fox News viewers is far older than the US average and going up rapidly. As predicted, their market share is going down rapidly too.

    With present trends, Fox News will be Fox Who? in a few years or decades.

    They are well aware of it. Their solution has been to go after younger viewers by hiring youngish, blond women who wear short skirts. It isn’t working. While someone at Fox can count, they don’t know biology very well. The majority of the US population are..women and not (mostly) mesmerized by young, blond women in short skirts.

  8. smhll says

    There’s a shit ton of Fox” [in gyms and bars].” They must really suck awful hard if the average viewer is 68.

    It’s possible that the sampling method for determining ratings demographics is flawed or bent a little. That is, it may look only at home viewers and not at TV sets in public places like gyms.

    I have a relative who is under 68 and believes Fox news uncritically about everything. (That is he rejects all other sources as biased. Not just obvious liberal media like MSNBC and PBS, he also refuses to believe counter evidence from the BBC and The Economist magazine and nearly every internet source. This is not fun if the conversation ever turns to politics. A barrage of bombast is not accompaniment to a family dinner.)

  9. Sercee says

    My uncle has turned into a Fox junkie. I had an opportunity last summer to visit him with my Mom, and a few weeks before that another uncle (their brother) whom I hadn’t seen in 17 years. The second surprised me at how insanely cool he was and how much we agreed on various important world things, because what I remembered my family saying about him when I was a kid didn’t mesh (it relates to him getting arrested for growing pot when I was 12 – as an adult this only bothers me because it’s a stupid thing to have a record for, but as a kid this was a huge scandal in my family for the time).

    The Fox uncle used to be a huge hippie. Liberal, outdoorsy, anti-consumerism, anti-capitalism, he once built his own sailboat by hand, sawing and shaping the hull planks in his studio-like garage, so he could go live on a lake in BC for a month and be away from all the crazy, angry people. So, when Mom and I found his TV blaring Geraldo and we started flipping through the channels for something more intelligent, we were honestly surprised at how much this upset him. We made a joke about Fox, realized he totes wasn’t joking, then settled on some awful made-for-TV movie about discrediting psychics that ended the wrong way.

    We didn’t bring it up again until Mom and I were back in the car on our way home. We were both pretty worried where that would take him because his approachability has definitely changed, and the anti-consumerism-pro-environment-hippie now proudly brews several cups of joe from his Keurig every day and lives for McDonalds (I don’t even…). Thankfully, Grandpa used to be into that stuff and has actually gone the other way – a card carrying PC voter and CNN viewer his whole life, he’s finally figured out how evil Harper is, and he refuses to allow Fox on his TV.

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    wtfwhateverd00d @5:

    not just left, but Salon left

    Do you consider Salon to be far left?

  11. notyet says

    My 67 yr old sister used to watch Fox. After the last election she fell into a deep depression because she believed all the doom and gloom predictions made about the future under Obama. She was so down about the whole thing that she quit watching all news programs. Without question she is far happier now that she no longer watches Fox. I’ve tried to get her to watch other news channels but she doesn’t trust anyone but Fox. Fox is creating an imaginary dystopia in the minds of its viewers. This is not going to end well.

  12. sailor1031 says

    This syndrome of a mix of fears and declining abilities is not universal. I’m happy to say that my mother, who lived the last decades of her life in England, despised Thatcher and her rightwing chretins. If anything mom became much more liberal and laid back in old age.

  13. raven says

    pewresearch. org Jan 14, 2014

    Fox still leads in audience, but that audience is smaller than it used to be.
    In 2013, Fox’s prime-time viewership declined 6% from the previous year, according to median monthly viewership data provided by Nielsen Media Research. But with 1.7 million viewers each evening, the channel still drew a bigger audience than CNN, MSNBC and HLN combined. Fox surpassed then-leader CNN in prime-time viewership in 2002, and has never looked back. However, there is some evidence of a ceiling for audience growth. Fox has not increased its median evening viewership since 2009.

    FWIW. Fox hasn’t increased it’s median evening viewership since 2009 and it was down 6% last year.

    Their viewers are old and getting older. They don’t attract the younger viewers very well.

  14. nemistenem says

    I didn’t realize the demographics of Fox – I’m slightly encouraged and hope to live long enough to dance on Fos News’ grave!

  15. wtfwhateverd00d says

    As a former Salon reader, from its very beginning, I consider Salon of the past 10 years a very specific San Francisco, liberal arts, politically correct, feminist, speech policing, click baiting, moralizing, pretty much know nothing, hipster left that has no sense of humor and an overly engaged outrage gland.

    How about you?

  16. Timothy says

    A couple of thoughts …

    1. I agree with wtfwhateverd00d. I’m not sure that the age of Fox viewers that is cited is accurate. It seems like most public places that have TVs (the basic premise which I loathe to begin with), such as restaurants, bars, and even doctor’s offices seem to always have Fox News on. Drives me batty.

    2. Interesting clarification of ‘Salon Left.’ I didn’t know that.

    3. Someone is making a documentary on this very topic:

    http://www.thebrainwashingofmydad.com/

    Cheers,

    Tim

  17. wtfwhateverd00d says

    In a discussion of the Fox right, it is perfectly reasonable to note that an article about the horrors of Fox is written by a former Fox aficionado who now writes for Salon, and then describe Salon’s typical slant. It’s useful to show the distance this author has traveled.

    If you want to explain how Salon actually has no bias, or is conservative for liberal publications, you are free to do so.

    I assume that a response consisting only of what you consider to be biting snarcasm indicates you got nothing.

  18. Rob Grigjanis says

    @17: I only read Salon occasionally, and I judged it (tentatively) to be pretty mainstream US leftie. In other words, fairly centrist anywhere else. I know their article Why you’re wrong about communism: 7 huge misconceptions about it (and capitalism) got Glenn Beck in a tizzy, but it seemed pretty ho-hum to me.

    That was a nice string of RW buzzwords you tossed out. Me, I don’t know much about San Francisco, but I’ve heard nice things about Berkeley, and feminism.

  19. wtfwhateverd00d says

    San Francisco, and Berkeley? Seriously, if you get a chance to live in either place, or anywhere near the Bay Area, do so. They are wonderful places to be.

    Modern day feminism, or Salon’s 21st century communism. Can’t say the same.

  20. Ed says

    My father has Alzheimer’s. He use to sit and consume Fox news exclusively every day. He became consumed with paranoia. He thought Obama and his minions were coming through the door at any moment to get his guns. His Fox fueled paranoia led to a full psychosis and break with reality. During the same period, the RNC called him on a regular basis for donations which he gave but could not afford. His paranoia and delusion resulted in hospitalization in a psychiatric facility. The disease of Alzheimers is hideous. So is Fox news.

  21. AnotherAnonymouse says

    Last summer my family visited out-of-state friends and stayed in a hotel that had Fox news on in the lobby. They also had their free breakfast bar in the lobby. My 12-year-old would contradict Fox news with the facts and really upset some elderly watchers who couldn’t handle reality.

  22. wtfwhateverd00d says

    It would be interesting to see Salon’s 21st century communism enacted in Berkeley.

    It’s a fitting place for it too, since so many of Salon’s founders and writers have lived there.

    Berkeley as it is now is a wonderful town (with its problems). The flatlands. The hills. The academics, the students, the professionals, the blue collar, the homeless.

    When Salon’s more compassionate 21 century communism comes to play, I want to know who lives in the hills, who lives in the flatlands, who lives in the marina. Right now the hills are for the very wealthy, either tenured faculty with 20 years of living in Berkeley, or well off San Francisco executives. I’d love to live in the marina, and there are some great yachts there that will be reclaimed by the People, but frankly, the sounds of ropes and metal clanging on the masts is a bit noisy for me. As is the foghorn.

  23. leni says

    So your whole response to a criticism of Fox is “goddamn commies”.

    Lol, really?

    I played a beta version of a wonderful new game this weekend. It has lots of silly little flavor things, you find a lot of hidden notes in the world, or can read books (which are just a few paragraphs because hey, attention span) about the game lore. I always read them because they tend to be very funny and even when they aren’t I still like the lore.

    So I’m exploring this lovely beach when I notice a corpse tucked away around some rocks. I approached and a squawking flock of gulls who had been picking at corpse took off. A few of the braver ones stayed to continue feasting. *ELDER SCROLLS SPOILER ALERT*

    Anyway, I noticed he was interactable and while I was really hoping for loot, what I found was much, much better. It was his death note. All about how much he hated birds and couldn’t escape them. There was some paranoid, racist rants about the local cat people who inhabit the region, for good measure. But it was poetic and overwrought and hilarious.

    That, wtfwhateverd00d, is the perfect metaphor for the average Fox News viewer. A bitter fool, cowering from harmless things he hates and fears for no good reason, while life goes on around him. For extra irony, he was a shipwreck victim who was mere yards away from safety and cover from birds. He presumably chose to just die there alone, uselessly hating everything around him. Maybe it makes me a horrible person, but I laughed, read it a gain, laughed some more, read it a third time, continued laughing, and then transcribed it for a friend on Facebook. And then decided at that moment that it was the best game ever.

    Initally I thought it was just a great metaphor for a self-absorbed asshole who would rather spend his last moments ranting about birds than save himself. But after reading your posts about Salon, I think I have an even better appreciation.

  24. Mano Singham says

    @Ed,

    I am so sorry to hear about your father. I am of the age when many of my peers are dealing with elderly parents with Alzheimers and it is really hard on them.

  25. wtfwhateverd00d says

    No leni, that was my response to Rob who read Salon’s article about communism and thought it was “ho hum”. and indicated Salon was “mainstream leftie”.

  26. Matt G says

    My parents, now in their late 70s, are as liberal as ever. I don’t see that changing – liberalism is a vital part of their identity.

  27. Brittany says

    Guy shot up a church where I live (Tennessee) during a children’s play. Guess what he watched a lot of? Big fan of Hannity too. Admitted he wanted to kill liberals. He had been brainwashed by Fox and Hannity to hate and fear them. Wonder why Fox won’t ever mention the case?

    I know someone close to the case and you wouldn’t believe the amount of Fox news sponsored propaganda the shooter possessed. And he believed every word of it, which is why he did what he did. I don’t know how anyone can justify the lies and hate they spew. It’s all very clear (sometimes literally in black and white). A simple fact check exposes them even more. I consider them dangerous and frankly anti-American in their methods and values.

    Fox loves to bait and rev people up. They shout over any guest they disagree with, cut mics, ridicule, make personal attacks, etc. This is not a news network but an aggressive smear factory whose rhetoric destroys lives. It’s not about free speech but hate-filled opinions and propaganda under the guise of news. And they love to demonized 24 hours. It’s awful watching what that type of stuff can do to normal people.

    Remember this case next time some host on Fox wants to get on their high horse and demonizes some musician or comedian for anything.

  28. Joe Reck says

    I AM A STAUNCH LIBERTARIAN NOT AN INDEPENDENT, As this young man seems to be. May I remind him of the Principals put forth by the LIBERTARIAN PARTY :
    Recognizing absolute freedom of speech, religion, and association Demanding Constitutionally-limited government
    Ensuring minimal taxation and balanced budgets
    Defending property rights
    Asserting sovereignty of the State from unconstitutional federal interference
    Asserting sovereignty of the Republic from unconstitutional international interference
    Upholding the Second Amendment and the absolute right to self defense
    Promoting a true free market economy
    Defending personal privacy and the Fourth Amendment
    Promoting strong national defense through a Constitutional foreign policy
    Ending government corruption
    Ensuring no individual, corporation or government is above the rule of law
    Ending prohibitions on all personal activities that do not infringe upon the rights of others.

    Both DEM”S and GOP”S believe in the IMPERIALISTIC VIEW of “WE NEED TO SAVE THE WORLD” has caused Havoc and Death of OUR since WWI.
    My Brother is a FOX NEWS ADDICT … but he has always been a hot head, and that’s OK … I don’t plan on “BUGGING OUT” with him in some “BUNKER”. I HAVE NEVER BEEN AFRAID TO LIVE LIFE TO ITS FULLEST … AND WILL STAND MY GROUND ANYWHERE TO DO SO … NOT IN SOME GODFORSAKEN BUNKER.
    We do not need 250+ Military Bases OVERSEAS to defend our “OVERRUN BORDERS” … BRING OUR TROOPS HOME to DEFEND THEM.

  29. Mano Singham says

    Joe Reck @32,

    First time commenters are moderated to weed out spam. Now you can comment freely.

  30. Joe Reck says

    THANK YOU … I use to leave commentaries on my local cable “EDITORIAL PAGE”, unfortunately their POLITICAL BIAS against any LIBERTARIAN VIEW, prompted them to exclude many responses (not all) from PUBLIC VIEW.
    I apologize for ASS-uming your BLOG was heading in the same direction.
    ITS VERY LONELY being a LIBERTARIAN … our only avenue at present is to support LOCAL LIBERTARIAN POLITICIANS for that is the true GRASS-ROOT solution to all problems. The Federal Government has lost CONSTITUTIONAL RELEVANCE since they formed the FEDERAL RESERVE. Their “OLIGOPOLY BACKED FINANCIAL VENTURES ABROAD” in the name of “SAVING THE WORLD” has ignored the HEALTH and WELFARE of our OWN PEOPLE for TOO LONG.
    REPUBLICANS repeatedly BASHING OBAMA is NO NEWS … CARTER and CLINTON both were put through the NEOCON GRINDER throughout their Administrations.
    Republicans and Tea-Partyers are like spoiled children when they don’t get THEIR OWN WAY or LOSE … I JUST WISH THEY WOULD TAKE THEIR BALL AND GO HOME !!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *