Sunday, October 06, 2013

The Brainwashing Of Our Country

This is a follow up to my post about Kevin Drum's uncritical acceptance of the notion that the people who listen to talk radio or watch Fox news choose to do so because it protects them from accusations of racism.  Kevin's argument, and that of the researchers he quotes, is that conservatives are people who are fearful and resentful of rejection because their viewpoints can be caricatured as racist.

My argument below was not as explicit as I would like it to have been.  Kevin thinks conservatives retreat from accusations of racism. I postulated that they choose to congregate in areas where they feel safe and unchallenged.  But I think its also important to argue that people get sucked in to another interpretive web regardless of their original beliefs.   I'd argue that Kevin's researchers don't actually demonstrate that people start out conservative or racist and that for all we know, people start entertaining and accepting hate media and Fox news and then get sucked in and owned by its worldview which, being paranoid and xenophobic, then starts them on a downward spiral that prevents them from pulling out or critiquing what they are hearing. They don't start out having the experience of being "rejected" by liberal society or even necessarily having racist or conservative views-- they start out by listening to hate radio and learn to fear liberal society's rejection.  In fact if you listen to Fox News and Hate Radio you quickly become aware that this is explicitly the message of these groups--that conservatives are a hated other to outsiders, that only within the tribe will you be safe. The truth value of these messages can't be challenged anymore than a paranoid's delusions can be challenged.

This is the argument made in a new documentary which I learned about over at Kos this morning. Kossack Leslie Salzillo writes:

Many of us understand the damage Rush Limbaugh, FOX News, and 'hate media' has done to our country in promoting racism, homophobia, misogyny and bigotry.They perpetuate lies and poison the minds of people who get sucked in, and use Right Wing media as the only source of news. Jen Senko is a filmmaker who watched the transformation of her father, as he slowly came to believe the extreme RightWing lies, and she's making a documentary about it. Here a personal note to me from Senko followed by the Kickstarter commentary:
"I was inspired to make this film after watching my father – a non-political Democrat – turn into a right wing fanatic after a change in his car commute exposed him to the reactionary shows on talk radio. The changes in his behavior caused me to research the changes in the media over the last 30 years – and the effect of those changes on the country was indisputable. As the media have been co-opted more and more by special interests, documentarians have become the new journalists. My hope is that after seeing my film, people will question what the media tells them, and hold them accountable."

Cross posted at I Spy With My Little Eye


Ten Bears said...

The Ambien, Prozac, Viagra and crotch-shots on Fox/CNN Kool-Aid, and The Church.

Oaths have been sworn for a thousand years now.

No fear.

Victor said...

The smartest move the Conservatives ever made, was in getting "The Equal Time Rule" gutted, and then thrown out.

And ever since then, they've been able to pollute the public airwaves with hate, fear, and anger, by using racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and homophobia.

If we still had that rule, then we wouldn't have Rush and Reich-Wing talk radio, and FUX Noise - at least not as we now know them.

Hannity would never have lasted if he'd had a real smart Liberal on with him, instead of a (mostly) failed comic, in Colmes.
How long would 'Hannity and Krugman' have lasted, before Hannity got laughed off the channel - maybe even by Conservatives?
What if Orally had to be followed by Ed Schultz?

And what if Rush had to be followed by Thom Hartmann?

It'd be a whole different country.

If you drive through the South, where I lived for 9 years, you have a tough time even finding a single NPR station on your car radio.
But Reich-Wing yakkers are on 24 X 7 X 365, on both the AM and FM dials - playing and replaying the same shows, all day and night.

Even in Upstate NY, I can't find a single Liberal radio show, let alone channel.
And NPR has been dumbed down too, as part of the right's never ending whining and bitching about the Liberal Lame-stream MSM.
They bowed to Reich-Wing pressure.

And Colin Powell's son did a whole world of hurt to the FCC, when he was in charge.

It's both amazing and frightening how quickly after people get exposed to Conservative mediums, they turn into hateful, fearful, and angry, parrots who spew out the simplistic, but well-messaged, memes.
I've seen some pretty damn smart people turn into hateful simpletons, who can no longer form an original thought.

Conservatism is even worse than Alzeheimer's, since the damage it does to a person's brain could be avoidable - and a soul, too, if you believe in such a thing.

But when people let their bullshit detectors down for even a short period of time, they're quickly eyebrow deep in Reich-Wing bullshit.

Goebbels was a piker compared to our modern Reich-Wing propagandists!

And fuck Mr. Godwin, and fuck his stupid law!!!

aimai said...

I had a dream one night--and I really do have dreams like this--someone asked me to define "the social construction of knowledge" and I answered "you know how when you don't know the answer to someone, you ask someone in your social circle what they think? That's the social construction of knowledge."

The documentary at the kickstarter is going to explore the ways in which listening to the radio is a very intimate, personal, and social act which pulls the passive listener into a tight social and emotional bond with this buddies on air. I've often marvelled at the skill with which Rush Limbaugh, for example, creates an intimacy with his listener and the way he uses folksiness and repetition as well as his ability to speak both parts so that the listener can imagine that his unspoken questions are answered by Rush almost before he can formulate them.

I don't listen to Rush but he is very, very, seductive and very good at his job. Its not surprising that people who are not strongly defended against this seduction, who don't have a contrary tribal identity qua liberal, or who are not well informed about American history and politics, would fall for this stuff.

Victor said...

Conservative aren't as stupid as we sometime think they are, or say they are - or, at least, their leaders aren't.

Their use of news and opinion mediums prove that.

Radio, is very a very, very intimate medium.
And that's why if you can't go to a game, baseball is best appreciated on the radio.
You have trusted voices whom you bond with over the weeks, months, and years, and who tell stories as they weave a narrative that runs throughout the action of the game - which, much as I love it - is pretty slow-paced.
Rush is, indeed, brilliant at doing just this!
He plays both the protagonist and the antagonist - which helps him shape and push the narrative(s) that he and the powers-that-be want him to push for listeners - who then can anticipate what people who aren't Conservatives may ask of them, or say, and give them pat, tested, answers.

And the idea of a FOX News is also brilliant.
You have cast of tested, now trusted, propagandists - many of whom are attractive women with plunging necklines, and short skirts - and you, as the viewer, you just sit back, and let them entertain you, as they misinform you.
They tell tales of how you, the viewer, are the victim of liberalism.

It's easy to see how people can get ensnared by that.

Linnaeus said...

I'm so glad to see someone invoke the "social construction of knowledge".

Knight of Nothing said...

I just wrote a piece that imagined a narrative about how a demographically conservative person is transformed into a paranoid hatemonger that echoes some of what you are saying here. Please have a look if you are so inclined.

I think the internet has a lot of excellent uses, but can have horrible side-effects as well. The recent story that Popular Science decided to remove comments from their websites illustrates this problem: people don't necessarily start out with disdain for truth, but the noise machine so obfuscates facts and arguments that knowledge is sometimes lost.

Knight of Nothing said...

All of which is to say, I agree: these media have a transformative effect on their participants and listeners.

Also, it's funny how closely my made-up narrative follows the story of "The Brainwashing of My Dad," because I wrote it a few weeks ago before I ever heard of this Kickstarter Project.

jsk said...

I guess my first question for Kevin Drum would be: if the right-wing media -- a large and very expensive institution basically constructed to create and cater to outrage addiction -- is just an outgrowth of the universal human fear of rejection, of being called names like "racist," then why isn't there a comparable structure on the left built on the fear of being called "anti-Christ" and "traitor"? Is Kevin unaware of the fact that liberals are called traitors and tools of Satan every day on shows (like Bryan Fischer's) which are "mainstream" enough to have Republican elected officials appearing as guests?