52 Authors, Week 5: Henri de Lubac
A Further Note On That Last Post

Schadenfreude Is Not Nice

But for anyone who's tried to raise children as Christians in the face of a hostile and ubiquitous liberal/progressive media complex, I think it's excusable to feel a bit of satisfaction at hearing someone in that complex complain about a family member being seduced by the right-wing media. One day last week someone posted on Facebook a link to this Salon article:

I lost my dad to Fox News: How a generation was captured by thrashing hysteria

And I laughed. Only at the headline--the article itself is pretty much the usual stuff, and not amusing.

I don't like Fox News. I don't watch it. But the old media establishment bears a large share of the blame for the rise of Fox, Rush Limbaugh, and all the rest. By attempting to create an environment where liberal political and cultural assumptions were treated as self-evident dogma, and dissent from them as an aberration, they treated millions of people as if their opinions not only didn't count but didn't even exist. Those millions were delighted when someone started voicing their opinions out loud, on the air, with confidence and humor (I'm thinking of the early Rush Limbaugh, twenty-plus years ago). And they voted against the mainstream media in huge numbers by taking their attention elsewhere.

Fox is unfortunately not conservative in any meaningful sense--it's a business that makes money by attracting viewers, and right-wing views are on the whole more popular than left-wing ones, so that's what it pushes, but I think its simplistic and superficial approach is an essential contributor to its popularity. That doesn't speak well of The People, of course, and I regret having to say so. But look at all the other junk that The People have made hugely successful. 

I wonder how the Salon writer's father views this situation. Perhaps he's the fanatic that his son presents, but we can be certain that there are two sides to this story, which is if nothing else clearly a sad one. And if the father is indeed a fanatic with a closed mind, the son, in a pattern as old as humanity, resembles his father more than he recognizes or would wish. He may himself live to be "old, white, wrinkled, and angry"; if he doesn't fall victim early to disease or accident, he won't have any choice about the first three.

And by the way, what happened to Salon? In its earlier days (ten years ago? more?) it was an online magazine that was often interesting and well-written and nicely presented. I didn't read it very often, because it had that odor of corruption that characterizes so much of contemporary intellectual life. But I remember some interesting pieces by people like Camille Paglia. Now it just looks like another hysterical political site, an ugly mess of frantic headlines and trashy advertisements, not much different from similar ones on the right. When I read the story I linked to above, this was among the recent comments:

The people behind Reagan, the World's Greatest Salesman, knew they couldn't take over the country without massive propaganda. They wanted, not just to win elections, but to stage a coup and install an oligarchy, and knew they couldn't sell that, so they had him push for scrapping the safeguards against propaganda in the name of free speech, making the world safe for Fox and hate  radio.

They could not have destroyed the country to the extent they did without that....

Who's crazy? Who's hysterical? On the basis of a sample of eight or ten, I'd say the commenters  on that piece are every bit as frenzied as the most wild-eyed Fox News fans.


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It seems like 24-hour news channels have run their course now that the internet is more popular than TV, don't you think? I really dislike all of them, and most especially if they seem to have one wacky and extreme political voice. The 30 minute nightly news broadcast is about all I can handle; and that's probably around 20 minutes or so? There's not really enough time for opinion to get in the way ... in my opinion.

Although I should mention that I do have a hard time with the drug company commercials I have to deal with during that 30 minute period. Thank goodness for the mute button on my remote!

The father, Gary Lyngar, has now replied. This is ugly.

The trouble I have with Fox is less the editorial content than the production values. I gather Rupert Murdoch is appealing to an audience with a different set of aesthetics. There was a story once about Joan Didion suffering a migraine set off by the drapes in someone's apartment. I'm one of the fortunate migraine sufferers who has only rare attacks, but I could see the Fox set triggering one.

The story is another indication that we're suffering the sort of cultural gleichshaltung that Walker Percy anticipated, with everyone sorted into piles of 'knothead' and 'leftpapas' and these categories invading and consuming every sphere of life.

I do have a hard time with the drug company commercials

Oh, come, the drug company commercials are occasions for humor, especially the CYA part where all the ugly side-effects are listed to a background of sunshine and smiles.

On the basis of a sample of eight or ten, I'd say the commenters on that piece are every bit as frenzied as the most wild-eyed Fox News fans.

I've been knocking around a bit on Republican boards and I've come to the conclusion that comment boards are dominated by sectaries across the board. The peculiarities of knothead and leftpapas commenters are somewhat dissimilar. However, both are pretty much the same in the respect that their judgment is not to be trusted. The former differ markedly from Republican primary voters, much less everyone else.

I have zero respect for that writer. What an abominable son! (Not surprising, given his world view).

It could be they deserve each other. To steal and idea from Erica Jong, "Fathers and sons, sons and fathers. It'll never work". I think most fathers and sons have an opportunity to rebuild as the son moves into the young adult years, and rebuilding is commonly necessary after conflict has laid waste the landscape. The sad business is that your looking at two people who are 40 and 67 respectively. This should not be happening.

Right. I'm not declaring the father to be a saint. But at their age this probably shouldn't be happening, as you say, and certainly not all over the freaking 'net.

Well, let's see if I can resist the temptation to go look at the train wreck.

Totally right about the knotheads and leftpapas, Art. National Review has a pretty good web site, and the Corner is usually interesting. Moreover, I'm in general sympathy with their views, at least way more than with, say, Salon. But the comments are pretty much unreadable. Every week or two I forget and read some of them, and give up after 8 or 10.

I find the drug commercials amusing, too, for the same reason: this drug will make your life *so* wonderful, unless it gives you dizziness, headache, shortness of breath, heart attack, stroke, gnawing sense of impending doom....

EG, it seems that you should be right about the replacement of TV news by the net. But it still gets millions of viewers. I get the impression that Fox is raking in the money.

I certainly am finished with TV news, but then I was never an habitual user anyway. When my wife and I finally gave in and got cable ten or twelve (or more?) years ago, the 24-hour networks were such a novelty for us that we watched them fairly often. For a while we'd eat breakfast in front of the TV, watching either Fox or CNN, each irritating in different ways. Then abruptly, or so it seemed, we realize we were sick of them, stopped watching, and never went back.

And then of course there are the political arguments on Facebook, typical Fox News talking points vs MSNBC talking points. I hardly even glance at them anymore.

All day I've been seeing headlines about a TV news guy named Brian Williams being in trouble for telling a pretty big lie. It may be relevant to this discussion that I had no idea who he is--anchor of the NBC evening news. There was a time, not all that long ago, when I would have known who he was even if I never watched the news.

That Salon article is a year old; funny how these things pop up quite a bit later like this. Anyway, I found his dad's interview with Fox News; he comes across as a fairly good-natured guy and he doesn't seem all that upset by his son's article.

Interesting that the son is somewhat "follicly challenged," while the father's got almost a full head of hair -- mystery of the son's antagonism solved? ;-)

The son also wrote a follow-up piece after his father's Fox interview. He treats his dad very well in that piece, I think.

I wouldn't go as far as "very well," but certainly better. The follow-up is still mostly rant, and I stopped reading at "Certainty is the most dangerous emotion..." Can he not hear himself?

As is often the case I can't get the video to play on this computer, so I just read the text on the dad's interview. Sounds like he did handle it reasonably well.

And by the way I had not noticed the date on that piece. I can't remember now who posted the first Salon piece on Facebook. Don't know if that was an isolated incident or it's flared up again.

Yeah, I should have said very well by comparison with the first article he wrote. And it is still rant, as you say, but at least this time directed mostly at Fox. Showed some respect for him, unlike the first piece.

Definitely an improvement.


the drug company commercials are occasions for humor

Puts me in mind of the Marshall McLuhan adage: "Any ad consciously attended to is comical."

He's better-humored than I am. The more attention I pay to them, the more they irritate me, and the more I talk back to them.

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