The holidays are upon us. Thus, this week I will be doing a mix of "flashbacks" and some quick posts...
Here is some Monday madness for you. My mother and I have a standing bet that one day in the near future Americans will awaken to a day when Right-wing domestic terrorists have exploded bombs all over the country and killed hundreds if not thousands in the name of "liberty" and "freedom."
This sounds morbid and dark. But, when you take the words coming out of the New Right's horses' mouths seriously--with their talk of States' Rights, secession, nullification, and Obama as a closet Manchurian candidate Socialist--the reality of what could be (and has happened: see the Beck, New Right inspired murderers) is painfully clear.
A new survey reveals that Fox News viewers are grossly misinformed about current events (even by standards of the mass public), and quite frankly believe the lies that Fox News offers as "news." I am unsurprised by said research.
That having been said. Yes, this new research is important and should be greeted with a warm embrace. However, some big questions regarding causality and causation hang over the findings.
Are Fox News viewers primed for ignorance, a rejection of facts, and a binary world view that rejects differing points of view? Are Conservatives oriented this way more so than Liberals or Progressives? Is there something about the Conservative personality type and its overlap with authoritarianism that makes Fox News an especially effective venue for the dissemination of Right-wing talking points to its public and a clouding of reality?
As I tried to get at with "When Stupid People Don't Know that They are Stupid," this new research by WorldPublicOpinion.org and the University of Maryland is especially troubling for the body politic because it highlights the power of the propaganda model of the news. If a healthy, functioning democracy is prefaced on responsible elected officials, a public that both believes in and works toward the common good, and is given fair information by the Fourth Estate in order to facilitate political decision making, the power of Fox News is truly frightening because their viewers are quite literally operating from a different set of facts, reality, basis of reason, and understanding of the today.
In short, we cannot talk across the divides of partisanship and ideology because the basic facts of the matter are in such disagreement.
By implication, if one is immersed in the Right-wing, Fox News, circle of epistemic closure it makes perfect sense to oppose the Democrats at every step, to believe in "death panels" and that President Obama is a closet Muslim, Anti-American, white folks hating, Socialist. To not do so would be unpatriotic and anti-American.
There is also a second narrative operating within the the Fox News, Right-wing talking point model of the news. Coming full circle, if one listens with any care to Conservative talk radio or television news there is a meme, almost daily, where those on the Left (and Progressives in general) are portrayed as a cancer, something toxic to be eliminated from the body politic. This is the evil of eliminationism, a belief that consists of the following elements as offered by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in his monumental book, Worse than War:
Transformation is the destruction of a group’s essential and defining political, social, or cultural identities, in order to neuter its members’ alleged noxious qualities.
Repression entails keeping the hated, deprecated, or feared people within territorial reach and reducing, with violent domination, their ability to inflict real or imagined harm upon others.
Expulsion, often called deportation, is a third eliminationist option. It removes unwanted people more thoroughly, by driving them beyond a country’s borders, or from one region of a country to another, or compelling them en masse into camps.
Prevention of reproduction is a fourth eliminationist act. It is the least frequently used, and when employed, it is usually in conjunction with others. For varying reasons, those wishing to eliminate a group in whole or in part can seek to diminish its numbers by interrupting normal biological reproduction.
Extermination is the fifth eliminationist act. Radical as it is, killing often logically follows beliefs deeming others to be a great, even mortal threat. It promises not an interim, not a piecemeal, not only a probable, but a “final solution” to the putative problem.
My worry is that while those grossly misinformed by Fox News are also bathed in the light of these assumptions. It may not come tomorrow. It may not come next week. But trust, the streets is watching. Sadly, some (or is that many?) on the New Right have internalized the logic of eliminating Liberals and Progressives if not only in spirit or metaphor, but rather in fact and deed.
A few questions. Are my worries just histrionic fits of flight and fancy? Or are they worries regarding the necessary and logical consequences of the New Right echo chamber and Fox News propaganda for those immersed in those noxious fumes as though they were breathable air?