Elizabeth Warren Made a Tough Call But Ultimately, It Was The Right One
Fox News is “designed to turn us against each other, risking life and death consequences, to provide cover for the corruption that’s rotting our government and hollowing out our middle class.”
(By Jen Senko) Offered by Fox TV to do a Fox town hall, Elizabeth Warren made the tough decision not to accept this past Tuesday. Elizabeth Warren needs to be recognized and encouraged for taking a stand and speaking out about the problems Fox News is causing with American political discourse in the age of Donald Trump.
I am heartened that a major candidate is finally speaking out about what Fox has become: a right-wing propaganda machine that feeds its cult followers lies, distortions and conspiracy theories which ends up just widening our nation’s already dangerous divide. Instead of appearing on Fox’s arranged forum where they have control, Warren has opted to go right into the heart of Fox country and reach that Fox audience in person by doing town halls in 17 red states. That’s brave – like walking into a lion’s den. It’s also just as effective.
I, like millions of others, lost my father to Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and all of the right-wing propaganda dreamed up by right-wing think tanks, too often funded by libertarian billionaires whose goal – for the last forty or so years – is to have one party rule for the benefit of themselves and their corporate backers.
My father had been an open-minded, not very political Democrat, but on a lengthened commute to work he discovered talk radio – which was the gateway drug. Sometime after, he discovered Fox News. After he retired he spent his days listening to Rush Limbaugh and watching Fox – often simultaneously. My family watched in alarm as he changed into a very angry, fearful, radicalized far-right Republican who spouted right-wing talking points and propaganda as if in a fever dream. Our entire family was turned upside down with Dad evangelizing his new political beliefs. Once a Democrat himself, they were now the hated evil enemy – the cause of all world ills.
I had to explore this more. Having done two previous award-winning documentaries, I determined that I had to do one about this: so I made a documentary called, “The Brainwashing of My Dad.” I soon found out losing loved ones to right-wing media – especially Fox – was a common phenomenon.
Once I finished a trailer for the film and put it on Kickstarter in order to start raising funds, I started getting hundreds of emails from people telling me their own sad and sometimes tragic stories of how their loved ones had been similarly and horrifyingly transformed by right-wing media. They included spouses who felt isolated and heartbroken; children who lamented that Fox has come between them and their parents – like a kind of cult.
Though the film came out in 2016 I still get people reaching out to me about one or more – sometimes an entire family – of loved ones whose personalities changed dramatically and who are often estranged after the change. (One friend’s parents went back home during a visit because she didn’t have Fox available on her TV). The descriptions of the personality change all have one thing in common – and that’s the anger. It was like that movie about the pod people. Who were these people that looked like their parents or their brother or sister or friend but whose personalities had entirely changed?
It is time for all of the candidates to confront the reality that Fox “News” and right-wing talk shows like Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones have taken hold of almost 40% of the country. We cannot leave it up to the news outlets to hold Fox accountable for their content. They cannot. Only our politicians have the ability to educate the electorate about Fox’s corrosive impact on our society. With 40% of the electorate taking in a constant stream of mis-information it becomes impossible to have reasonable public discourse.
For decades other media and politicians have been bullied by and afraid to speak against right-wing media. We need to realize that the rise of right-wing media has not only divided families but put our democracy in jeopardy. It also ultimately created a Frankenstein – Trump. The divide will only continue unless more courageous politicians like Elizabeth Warren have the courage to call Fox out for what it is. As she so eloquently puts it, Fox is “designed to turn us against each other, risking life and death consequences, to provide cover for the corruption that’s rotting our government and hollowing out our middle class.”
Warren knows she runs the risk of retaliation, yet she stepped up. And, she’s right, advertisers are beginning to leave Fox which reaches not only the millions who watch it in their homes but in diners, hospitals, government offices, airports and doctors’ offices. What it has done to our nation amounts to nothing less than an epidemic. We must confront it. Elizabeth Warren gave us a good start.