More Stories from Real People Who Have Lost Loved Ones to the Far-Right Media Machine
HER BROTHER, A Ph.D, IS BRAINWASHED
My brother and I are estranged. We have been for many years. I’ve often thought that if I were to legally “divorce” him, I’d name Fox News as co-respondent and perhaps add right wing talk radio and Rush Limbaugh. We grew up in a Republican household, but when JFK became president and I began my career as a public school teacher, my political views shifted and I registered as a Democrat. That didn’t cause any ripples in my relationship with my parents or my brother. Sometimes we’d engage in playful banter, but never anything unpleasant. That changed with the dawn of the 21st century. My brother turned into an angry old man. Our political discussions grew heated and when I’d post a well thought out and carefully researched political articles on my Facebook page, he’d leave caustic comments. We eventually agreed to “unfriend” one another and avoid talking politics.
During the last presidential campaign and in more recent emails he called Trump an asshole and a twitter jerk, so I assumed he didn’t think much of Donald J. Trump. After Trump had been in office for 6 months, my daughter came for dinner and our conversation turned to my brother, her uncle. I said I thought, considering his comments about Trump, that he wasn’t one of the president’s loyal base. “You obviously don’t see his Facebook page,” she said. "On Facebook he’s a 100% behind Trump.” The next afternoon my curiosity got the best of me and using my husband’s laptop I snuck in the backdoor of my brother’s Facebook page. There I saw an image that’s burned into my brain and haunts me still—one those placards you can lift from political sites. There was Donald Trump in his military school uniform looking all polished and proper juxtaposed with a photo of young Barack Obama clowning around wearing a jaunty hat at a careless angle and smoking a cigarette looking degenerate and a bit dangerous. I don’t know what the words on it said because I clicked out of there before I could read it.
My brother’s an intelligent man—an all but dissertation Ph.D. physicist—yet he’d posted something so illogical, so obviously propaganda. I thought ‘he can’t know why Donald Trump’s wearing that uniform. He can’t know Donald Trump’s father shipped him off to military school because as a teenager he’d become incorrigible. He can’t know that for years before that young Donald had been in trouble in his neighborhood for bullying and harassing other kids. He certainly can’t know he misbehaved early on hitting one of his primary school teachers.
Posting that placard insinuating that Trump was the straight arrow kid and Obama the feckless fuck-up seemed beyond irony. Then it dawned on me. Of course he doesn’t know about Trump’s past. He watches Fox News. He thinks the NY Times and the Washington Post are liberal rags and NPR is left wing propaganda. Fox tells him so. That’s how “alternative truths” take hold—people just don’t know and are easily misled when they dwell in the fog of Fox. In the process, families like mine are torn apart and so is our nation. In this case, one of Trump’s overused expressions fits. Sad.
DISABLED COUPLE ON ASSISTANCE HURT OVER FOX WATCHER DAD'S ANGER AT THOSE PROGRAMS
I love my dad but he LOVES and sadly believes Fox "News". Thing is, my family only survives with the help of assistance programs. As you can guess, Fox news viewers kinda hate said programs. While he agrees we deserve and need the help, he still talks in general about them and it’s hard to not take it personally. Plus, if they cut those programs we will be hurt.
I hate having this big wedge between my dad and I. My parents divorced when I was super young, and I was always really close with my mom. She was my best friend until the day she died. After I lost her, I realized how much I wanted to have the same kind of relationship with my dad. And I got that. I don't want this to drive us apart again, and honestly, it might.!
TO HELP MELISSA AND HER HUSBAND AND DAUGHTER, GIVE HERE: http://bit.ly/2wlKXVU
HER THERAPIST GOT LOST TO THE RIGHT-WING CULT
I have lost so many good people in my life to this phenomenon you depicted. I had a therapist for years that suddenly became a right wing advocate. I noticed anti-Muslim rhetoric on her Facebook page (yes I was snooping) and she keeps saying I'm being lied to by the liberal media, that Hillary has a kill list, etc. I have heard so many others like her repeat similar phrases and sentiments. It is heartbreaking and scary. Especially with our current political climate. A friend at work gave me your documentary. Thank you for bringing light to this terrifying cult like madness going on. I'm grateful for the sane voices out there right now!
Whitney from St. Louis, MO
A SHOCKING CHANGE TO A BELOVED COUSIN
I am writing to thank you for your wonderful film, I am sorry to learn of your fathers passing, but you have shared him with all of us, and made him a hero to everyone who has lost someone to this rabies of the airwaves.
I hope you don't mind if I take the opportunity to tell you a story. My cousin grew up in a Quaker family that sees political involvement as a matter of course. She grew up in the extraordinarily liberal enclave of Tacoma Park, a place that lovingly embraces it's nickname, The People's Republic of Takoma Park, and where you can buy olive drab T-shirts emblazoned with a red star reading the same. Her father is from an upwardly mobile African-American family of pioneering surgeons, pilots, and chemical engineers. He attended art school and had friends in the Black Panthers. Her mother is the kind of Quaker who is a little suspicious of political movements and really makes skepticism into a kind of art. She is a bit of Elizabeth Warren and a bit Cherry Jones. (I assure you all this is important for context.)
Four years my cousin was normal, she watched John Stewart, adored Bill Maher and hated George Bush. But as you have said in your film, something changed. Maybe it had something to do with Obama, or maybe it was her interest in NASCAR. Before you know it she was picking fights with people because they didn't want to hear about Alex Jones, she had InfoWars stickers on her car, and the mention of Hillary Clinton would send her into a rage. Most of her family is exhausted, for some reason I can sometimes challenge her rants without escalating them. Perhaps my familiarity with Jones' conspiracies gave me credibility or had a soothing effect. Perhaps it was my assertion that there could be a deeper conspiracy, one in which Alex Jones is the agent rather than the passive reporter. (Did I mention that it all got worse after my cousin got a new job as a driver?)
I just wanted to share with you that there is an African-American woman from a radical Quaker family in Takoma Park Maryland who has gone just as crazy due to prolonged exposure to these people. It puts the lie to the long held notion that a lost (white, male) privilege, rather than cynical exploitation, explains the rise of these treacherous demagogues. And your film, and your father's story, gives us all hope for our loved ones.
Anonymous from Maryland
HER DAD BECAME A STRANGER TO HER, THREATENING TO KILL HER
Dear Jen Senko,
I just wanted to thank you for your documentary. I'm sure you get your fair share of fan mail, and I have no doubt it rivals some of the hate mail in your inbox. Please know this is being written in gratitude.
Had I known this film was being made, I would have loved to have been a participant. Prior to seeing this film, I had felt all alone, having witnessed the very same metamorphosis in my own family, in particular, my dad.
He and I always had a bit of a strained relationship, but he drastically changed when he quit drinking and moved away from the hippy persona he once possessed, finding comfort in the arms of the born-again, evangelical Christian community. Slowly but surely, the car radio helped incite his fear, then the TV incited his hatred, before I knew, I stopped knowing him, the guitar playing, rock music loving jokester.
He's gone now. Two and a half years. But about three months before his death, he actually did kick me out of his car in a fit of rage I had never known simply because I mentioned Sweden paying their citizens to go to college. I felt like you and I shared a dad when in the first few moments of your movie, you discussed your dad threatening to kick you out of his car. My dad became a racist bigot who cursed me and disowned me even though I was the only person driving him to his cancer treatment appointments. He often cursed me and threatened me on the way to those appointments. He kicked me out of his house for reading a book on meditation.
Since his death, I've become more of an activist who now works with several organizations that fight for the Separation of Church and State and Womens Rights. I do this with my father in mind and know if he were still alive, he would hate me more than anyone in the world.
I felt like I told my story while hearing everyone else's. Abuse from my dad, threats from the man who I once loved and admired, a man who had become a stranger over time, threatening to kill me, to kill us both while driving like an enraged lunatic screaming inaudible conspiracy theories. I was brought back to it all while watching your film.
Unfortunately, I see it happening to many of my family members now. But every person who can see this, maybe, hopefully it will help.
Thank you again for your work. Though it reopened some wounds, it reminds me why I fight. I'm so grateful that you've shown me that I'm not alone.
C. from NJ
DEMOCRATS ARE EVIL TO HER HUSBAND.
I just heard about your documentary. Someone shared an interview you did about it on FB. My husband has been taken over by first, Rush, and then Fox News. He is convinced they are the only fair and balanced news, that everything they say is the gospel, and that anything sounding remotely different is the “liberal media” brainwashing us. He is a farmer, uneducated, older white guy…just Fox’s prey. While he has always been conservative, he was not spending every spare minute listening to Fox or Rush. I am not conservative and have a Master’s degree in sociology (history, political science undergraduate degree) so I am well educated on propaganda, fallacy, racism, sexism, and the effects of SES in influencing our point of view. My husband was so convinced that Mitt Romney was going to win the last election that he became VERY angry and wouldn’t speak to me. He left the house at 4:00am and was just so blown over by it that he couldn’t cope for a while. Fox News had him.
No matter how much information I bring him regarding the slant of Fox News, he waves it off as liberal agenda and all lies. To him Republicans are “good” and Democrats are “evil”.
He was always a little racist and sexist. Now, he is a full-blown racist and agrees with Trump on nearly everything he says.
So, we often watch TV in separate rooms and fight over the radio station when traveling. It is really horrible what is happening in our society because of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.
Father cut daughter out of will for being a liberal.
My dad died two years ago at age 92. His only companions were his dog (whom he neglected), the neighbor across the street, and FOX News.
I was left out, as I was "the other". That means I'm an atheist, Democrat, anti-American, and dangerous person in his mind. I tried to look after him if only for the sake of my deceased mother. Instead of recognizing my contributions, my father verbally abused me, sometimes belligerently. I knew better than to discuss politics.
However, I was serenaded by my father repeating eagerly the last thing he heard Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity say. And he had a man crush on Newt Gingrich. The volume of the TV was at 10; it couldn't go any higher. The walls rocked with FOX News. There was no escaping it. It was torture to be in the same house with my father.
I said nothing as I recognized that my father had died spiritually while his body remained in the green Lazy Boy chair from the time he got up to when he retired. And I said nothing as my sister warned me that he would change his Will out of spite. So I was quiet.
Like I told you, he died almost two years ago.
And you know what?
The idiot neighbor across the street inherited $35,000 from Dad.
I inherited a Life Estate in the house. I don't own it. I have to pay for the municipal taxes, upkeep, and repairs. When it is sold, I will not get a penny from the proceeds; that money goes to four charities. I didn't inherit a dime from my father.
I'll always wonder whether my father was independently cruel and malicious or whether he just picked up some bad attitudes from all that RW BS he accumulated for 15 years.
Government agencies have Fox News on their TVs.
My father, yes. He's obviously brainwashed, along with my father-in-law who lives with us.
But I was brainwashed too. It all started on 9/11 when I was living within walking distance to the Pentagon. I was always a channel-flipper, but now it was just FOX News.
A decade later I was living in Tucson, Arizona and decided to get rid of Cable TV. I was always outside and just wanted to save a few bucks.
No Cable TV = No FOX News
A few months later, Gabby Giffords was shot. She was being treated for her injuries at a hospital just across the street from where I lived and the news vans were beginning to pile up. So I found a TV and flipped on FOX News...
I was expecting to be drawn in again. I swear, turning on FOX News again had me feeling as if I was lighting up a cigarette while trying to quit.
Instantly, it was like the ghost of 'FOX News Past' reminded me of how many years I wasted watching Fox News.
I have 20 years with the Federal Government, and you would be shocked to know the high percentage of TVs within these buildings constantly tuned to FOX News. So you might as well start your next documentary, because it's just the start of the brainwashing.
His Dad was always Republican but didn’t become radical until he started watching Fox News.
I am so sorry I did not know about your documentary work when you were interviewing people who have suffered the same dad brainwashing affliction caused directly by Fox News, right wing radio, etc. Sadly, my father was one of those transformed men who just never came back. We were hardly on speaking terms when he passed suddenly in 2013.
But here's the bizarre part for me. He was a brilliant, highly educated New York City orthopedic surgeon (and pretty famous in his orbit), and I am an attorney who, for most of my life into adulthood, loved and adored my father. Had him be my best man at my wedding, even though I had and have several very close male friends who could have been.
Yes, our politics were always contrary. He was a Republican, more Rockefeller New York moderate than conservative (as best that label can be understood today), and I have been a mostly left leaning progressive. BUT WE ALWAYS COMMUNICATED AND DEBATED IN FRIENDLY AND LOVING WAYS, UNTIL FOX NEWS CAME ALONG.
And then it all changed. He had it on all day and night. He was constantly angry; he lost his ability to argue rationally. Facts as a doctor and scientist seemed to all but disappear. It was really something to behold.
And then we stopped talking for the most part. And then he was gone...