For the first time in 15 months, I’m standing on U.S. soil. And while there are certainly advantages to being back home — I’ve really missed Trader Joe’s, for one thing — it’s also quite discomforting to see how things have continued going downhill in the homeland. I’ve been hearing about it a fair amount while abroad, but there’s nothing like getting a full blast of the insanity in your face when you’re actually at close range.
I landed in L.A. and spent the first couple of days there, so the country seemed sane enough at first. But then my wife and I lodged a few days with her parents in Reno. Reno itself is a charming and rather progressive city. And I finally was able to watch Everything Everywhere All at Once, which, notwithstanding a few instances of nitpicking, I found pretty much lived up to its hype. And it proved to be an eerily appropriate metaphor for the atmosphere I encountered at the residence of my in-laws.
They’ve always been rather bigoted and easily susceptible to cult mentality. But since I last saw them, they’ve gone much much farther off the deep end — a feat which I scarcely would have thought possible. But here’s the thing. They are, as always , deeply immersed in the bubble of right-wing media, particularly Fox “News”. And Fox “News” (along with other right-wing outlets) has become even more toxic, even more unhinged, even more obnoxiously in-your-face than before.
It was apparent right from the moment I first walked into the living room where it was playing — not that I really had to enter the living room, mind you, because the sound was being blaringly teleported to every corner of the house. Within 3 minutes, a Fox talking headless had proclaimed that President Obama had promoted “totally open borders”. In almost the amount of time it took her to say it, you could have Googled the facts showing that Obama’s border policies were quite stringent — and in fact he oversaw a record number of deportations of “illegals”. Not that Fox actually would be interested in the facts or anything.
And it only went downhill from there. Like the multiverse in the dizzying blockbuster film we watched, the Foxiverse comes at you fast and furious. But unlike the cinematic alternate reality, which just occurs naturally, this one has been deliberately and meticulously crafted and maintained to achieve a desired effect: namely, a totally credulous and acquiescent mentality in its devotees — like my wife’s parents.
Like the clientele at an opium den, these people are caught in a brain-dead web of disinformation that they entered voluntarily; but now that they have succumbed to its influence for so long, it would be all but impossible for them to break free even if they wanted to. Which they certainly don’t.
And the purveyors of the opiates know all too well how to feed the addiction. Fox personalities ramble at a sustained auctioneer speed and fraternity house volume — it’s easy to imagine them frantically grabbing their oxygen tanks during commercial breaks. Quite often, their rants will overlap — an intended feat, no doubt, to generate more disorientation, and therefore more submission. The objective is to leave absolutely no room for questioning, for reflection, for digesting the material presented — no opportunity, in short, for anyone to stop and realize just how idiotic the soundbites really are.
And soundbites there are, soundbites aplenty. When I left the U.S., Fox et al were absolutely saturated with soundbites and right-wing talking points. I didn’t see how they possibly could load up on any more of them. But lo and behold they have done so, by several orders of magnitude. Now they aren’t just saturated; they’re overflowing and bubbling over with bullshit, which forms a wall you hardly can see over.
Following The Indictment we’ve all been waiting for, the patter at Fox Inc. was constantly, constantly, constantly geared up to defend Orange Man. No, actually it wasn’t; even they seem to realize he’s really impossible to defend. Instead, they followed the same tactic GOPers in Congress use: viciously attacking anyone who dares challenge them, in this case Alvin Bragg. The talk was all about how he was engaged in a hyperpartisan witch hunt orchestrated by George Soros, and the charges against Their Guy were total hogwash (this, of course, was before anyone even knew what the charges were, but hey.) They sternly warned that if the courts could prosecute a former president for his crimes, then dang it, they can prosecute you for yours too — what’s this country coming to when no criminal anywhere is safe?
And the one thread tying all of these narratives together was how shockingly “unprecedented” it is to arrest a former president. It never seems to occur to these people how shockingly unprecedented it is for Americans to elect as president a chronic con artist with a long, long history of lawless conduct.
My in-laws compliantly parroted all of these talking points. And oh yes, “civil war” something or other. And by god, my father-in-law has his guns ready for when “they” come for him.
All of this despite the fact that Fox “News” has repeatedly admitted that it lies to its viewers, and that its “entertainment” is not to be construed as news — indeed, that “no reasonable person” would believe what its personalities say.
And it hasn’t made a damn bit of difference. The faithful flock are still as gullible as ever. It’s best summed up by a comment I saw online not long ago. “Fox News: We’re lying to you. Fox Viewers: No, you’re not!”
This is why things look so grim to this American returning home for the first time in over a year.
It’s an old song, but still true. What struck me watching the Fox Business News channel with my father-in-law a year ago was how many segments were just 2 or 3 talking heads simply agreeing with each other on the topic in VERY LOUD voices, with as little silence between speakers as possible. Very basic manipulation, but effective.
On a related subject, the leak of the private conversation of Republican members of the Tennessee Congress finds them sounding like commenters on a blog post. The Republic is doomed if they can’t expel an uppity congressman. There are more and more elected Republicans that are True Believers in the existential Democrat threat to Real America, and True Believers who believe that story are capable of anything in the name of God, Freedom, and America. These politicians truly believe what Fox is feeding them, and they want to act on it.
I think I commented to you about this before (I think you had an article questioning whether mass brainwashing by the media was a real thing), but if you haven’t qlready, you really need to watch the Jen Senko documentary produced in 2015 (prior to Trump running for President) and released in 2016, The Brainwashing of My Dad. It’s free on most any of the free streaming services, including as an authorized free YouTube video,
Thanks for the reminder. I just downloaded it, and will put it in my viewing queue.