My long absence from GayPatriot, has been brought on by a few factors, chief among them that I’ve been taking some classes in the evenings and haven’t had much time for blogging, and what little time I have had to spare has been consumed by more going on socially than in the recent past. But beyond that, there has been my general sense of what I wrote about in this post, and called either Obamalaise or Obamanomie, that feeling of depression and listlessness that comes when I consider the sad state of a country that elected Obama not once, but twice and seems more interested in bread and circuses than in seeking actual, workable solutions to the difficult problems that face our country.
Naturally the online leftist rag Salon can’t understand why anyone would feel upset or bothered by the direction of the country in the era of the glorious Obama, and so one of its contributors, Edwin Lyngar, has written a laughable piece about “elderly white rage” which places the blame on that favorite bogeyman of the contemporary left, Fox News. I learned of the article when various liberals and leftists I know–including one I’ve taken to calling a MINO (a moderate in name only)–linked to it on social media. I just glanced past it until one of them approvingly quoted one of the more ridiculous passages from the article.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I am not elderly, nor am I viewer of Fox News. I mostly avoid the whole TV news genre, preferring to get my information from other sources. The full title of the article reads: “I lost my dad to Fox News: How a generation was captured by thrashing hysteria.” The author, who describes himself as “overeducated in the humanities” with both an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University (not exactly a bastion of conservative thinkers) and an MA in Writing from the University of Nevada, Reno unwittingly demonstrates the way shallow generalizations count as somehow being deep thought by those who advocate a politically correct perspective.
As I don’t care to be guilty of the same intellectual offense, I’d like to highlight and unpack a few of the article’s more ridiculous claims and observations. Let’s start with the opening paragraph:
Old, white, wrinkled and angry, they are slipping from polite society in alarming numbers. We’re losing much of a generation. They often sport hats or other clothing, some marking their status as veterans, Tea Partyers or “patriots” of some kind or another. They have yellow flags, bumper stickers and an unquenchable rage. They used to be the brave men and women who took on America’s challenges, tackling the ’60s, the Cold War and the Reagan years — but now many are terrified by the idea of slightly more affordable healthcare and a very moderate Democrat in the White House.
Of course GayPatriot readers can see what he’s doing there, but just for the sake of argument, let’s illustrate that he opens by offering a caricature and a generalization about elderly Fox News viewers, conflates Fox News viewers with the Tea Party, accuses them of being filled with “rage,” and then ends by trying to ridicule them as being “terrified by the idea of slightly more affordable healthcare and a very moderate Democrat in the White House.” Say what? That last clause is contains so many misrepresentations and non-sequiturs that it is really rather stunning. Barack Obama is only a moderate Democrat if you are so far to the left already that you can’t see how far his administration has shifted the political status quo towards statist goals. And just because Obamacare was given the Orwellian title “the Affordable Care Act,” doesn’t mean it has anything to do with making healthcare more affordable. Far from it, just ask the many people dropped from insurance who find that their health insurance costs have gone up and their deductibles are now much higher than they were previously. Even those who haven’t had to change insurance are getting less for more costs.
The article continues with an anecdote about the author’s father and an exchange where the writer tells him he shouldn’t watch Fox News:
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.
When I finally pulled the handle for Obama in 2012, my father could not believe how far I’d fallen. I have avoided talking politics with him as much as possible ever since. Last week, I invited him to my house for dinner with the express purpose of talking about po
litics and most especially his Fox News addiction. 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.
Note that the first paragraph is intended to somehow give him credibility as “a libertarian and frequent Republican voter,” though from the way he describes his political evolution–“as I drifted left…”–it seems clear that he was never the sort of libertarian or conservative who believes in the virtues of a limited, constitutional republic, or else he would have found it unconscionable to ever “pull the handle” for Obama.
Note, as well, that he represents his role in this discussion with his father mainly through the “mantra” he repeated “over and over”: “Please, please, consume another source of information.” In other words, because he seems incapable of discussing or debating with his father using things like facts, logic, or the analysis of evidence, the “source of information” is the problem.
We get another glimpse of his argumentative technique when he summarizes his discussion with his father about global warming (apparently Mr. Lyngar failed to get the memo that the preferred terminology these days is the more ambiguous “climate change”):
I’m overeducated in the humanities, so I’m an imperfect ambassador for science. I respect scholarship, peer review and the scientific method. When I tell my dad he should believe the experts in climate science, he gets really mad.
“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.
The line about being “an imperfect ambassador for science” serves as his inoculation against having to take any sort of critical perspective towards the questionable science about global warming. Evidently he failed to learn about the whole Climategate e-mail scandal, which revealed climate scientists using the peer-review process as a way of preventing dissenting voices from being published in certain climate journals. Evidently, he also failed to learn that computer models are not scientifically valid if their predictions keep being disproved by subsequent experience.
So instead of admitting that his father might have a point in suggesting that, to him, the global warmists are like high priests who need to be believed rather than questioned, he instead choses once again to caricature his father: “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.” This last sentence demonstrates one of the left’s favorite political strategies; that of trying to quiet dissent by making it sound ridiculous and extreme, as if to say, no “sane” person could ever believe that, or, to put it another way, “you can’t possibly mean that.” Once again, we don’t get to hear the father’s reasons for his beliefs, we only must appreciate that they fall too far from the political orthodoxy to merit anything other than sneering contempt.
The article then turns to offering an analysis of how his father changed over time, and it posits the following explanation:
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.” Even watching the commercials on Fox, one is treated to sales pitches for gold and emergency food rations, the product cornerstones of the paranoid. To some people the idea of retirees yelling at the television all day may seem funny, but this isn’t a joke. We’re losing the nation’s grandparents, and it’s an American tragedy.
Note how, in typical leftist fashion, even the writer’s conservative father can only be appreciated or understood by him as a victim, not as someone who considers information and makes up his own mind. And the culprit is the “evil” Fox News, since he represents his father as being tuned out from the world at large.
Note, as well, how he can only generalize about the content on Fox News, talking more about the meaning of the commercials than the actual reporting. It doesn’t occur to him that the problems being reported on by Fox News are, in fact, real problems, and that most competing media outlets prefer to whitewash them, to brush them under the rug, or not to report on them at all.
In other words, this article doesn’t amount to an attack on Fox News so much as a navel-gazing exercise in leftist theorizing about why some people have a different perspective on things than he does. He admits to “drifting left” during graduate school, but, contra his father, he won’t acknowledge that the leftist environment in academia no doubt played a part in that. On the basis of this article, he seems to lack the self-awareness to admit that he has his own biases and that they impact his ability to offer any sort of “fair and balanced” assessment of what he sees on Fox News, or even on the situations of individuals like his father. That he cites the unhinged Frank Rich several times throughout the article tells us more than a little bit about his underlying biases; that he doesn’t cite any specific stories, reports, reporters, or details about things he has ever seen on Fox News that give him cause for concern tells us that he either doesn’t engage with the network, or seems incapable of doing so with any sort of critical perspective other than telling us it is “a cash-cow for exploitative right-wing commentators.”
The greatest problem illustrated by this article is not with Fox News, but it is with the massive perspective gap that exists on the left. The writer’s father may or may not be skilled at argumentation, but he isn’t writing an article about his views. On the basis of this article, though, the writer is no more capable of understanding his own Fox News Derangement Syndrome than in knowing how to engage in civil and reasoned discourse with those who believe different things than he does without mocking them or blaming the disagreement on shadowy outside forces.