Monday, New York Magazine ran a piece on “people whose loved ones were transformed by Fox News.” Yes, these poor unfortunate souls were lost to right-wing cable news, and now the families are forever destroyed. The best part? The magazine ran this in their “Intelligencer” column. Let me tell you, there is no intelligence in sight. Perhaps most notable, however, is the lack of self-awareness.
The piece in NY Magazine is actually a follow-up to one that the author, Luke O’Neil, ran in his own newsletter last week entitled “I hate what they’ve done to almost everyone in my family” with the angsty subtitle “progress is made one funeral at a time.” Here’s the general theme:
I don’t know anything aside from this one thing which is that Fox News has stolen something from all of us. Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly and the rest have kidnapped and brainwashed many of our otherwise lovely and kind family members and I’ll piss on their graves one day.
Apparently, he had so many people agree with him that he’s now written this piece, sharing the stories of other people who have “lost” loved ones to Fox News.
No matter where the stories came from they all featured a few familiar beats: A loved one seemed to have changed over time. Maybe that person was already somewhat conservative to start. Maybe they were apolitical. But at one point or another, they sat down in front of Fox News, found some kind of deep, addictive comfort in the anger and paranoia, and became a different person — someone difficult, if not impossible, to spend time with. The fallout led to failed marriages and estranged parental relationships
People, he says, reached out to him asking if he had information on support groups for people in similar situations, and one woman shared her brave journey of “(bringing) her brother back from the edge with persistent and careful and sustained bridge-building work, showing him the error of his paranoid conspiracy thinking.”
There was this gem:
Young parents wrote that they don’t want to bring their children to visit aging Fox-brainers. “The worst is when my children go to spend time with their grandparents and come home with Fox News talking points coming out of their mouths,” one told me. “I have to decontaminate them every time.”
“Decontaminate” their kids because they heard another point of view. Has O’Neil considered that “othering” family members in this way (as the liberals like to say) is really not helping the relationships? That it is this which is the problem, not Fox News?
Overall, the lack of self-awareness from the author and every person whose story he shares, is truly astonishing. It would be unbelievable if I hadn’t seen it so many times before. Does Mr. O’Neill not realize that people on the right feel just as alienated by people who are constantly repeating what they hear on MSNBC?
He sort of addresses this theory, but quickly dismisses it. The people on his side are obviously not terrible, not like the Fox News people.
To be fair, there is a rough analog on the other side of the political spectrum, even if it seems, anecdotally, relatively muted. More than a few readers wrote to say this all made them thankful they merely had to contend with Dem-Boomer family who had gone mad for Maddow and Russiagate. “My grandma is a huge Maddow person and operates the same way as Fox News brained people,” one wrote me. “The signaling she gets and reiterates from MSNBC happens in the same sort of ‘brain rot’ way. Like, she heard something on there, or on Facebook, that was about how Trump is about to get impeached — and every day I talk to her and she repeats that.”
“I love her, and she’s bright and it’s obviously less offensive” than Fox News.
Well, if that one person says so, please do no further research. You have an anecdote which supports your thesis!
In the very next paragraph, he illustrates exactly why so many people have become open to another point of view.
Her mother had been a Democrat until 2008, and then something switched.
A lot of the stories echoed that turning point. There was something about Obama that seemed to make a lot of previously apolitical or moderate family members lose their minds. Gosh — what could it have possibly been?
Obviously, we are supposed to think it was racism. In fact, Obama was far more extreme and far less experienced than previous democrats and the cult of personality was entirely creepy. The rise of social media helped people to spread more information (good and bad, correct and incorrect, granted), and people made different choices.
Did some people not vote for him because he was black? I’m sure they did, and that’s disgusting. Did some people vote for him because he was black. Sure, and that’s a terrible reason to vote for somebody, too. For the vast majority of people, being called a racist because you don’t fancy a particular candidate is pretty offensive and opens the door for you to consider another message.
We’re tired of that double standard. Why isn’t MSNBC calling people racist for their treatment of Ajit Pai, Candace Owens, or Elaine Chao? Because the media considers those complaints valid, but the right’s complaints invalid. And this is why having a conversation is so difficult.
That is what is breaking up families. It’s not Fox News, it’s a lack of mutual respect. Your beliefs are as different from theirs as theirs are from yours, but you expect them to respect your differences while openly trashing them in print. You want to write articles saying people need to be “decontaminated” after hearing their opinions while saying that people sharing your opinions are “obviously less offensive.” Why didn’t you ask a Fox News enthusiast if it was obviously less offensive to them? It is clear you don’t care what they think.
I’m not a big fan of cable news and I don’t really watch it. I think it’s mostly entertainment built for the specific audience. I am, however, a big fan of family. If Mr. O’Neil really cared about family, maybe he’d realize the problem here isn’t Fox News.
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Author: Amelia Hamilton