REPROGRAMMING

Posted in Rants on May 18th, 2011 by Ed

Highly observant long-time readers are probably beginning to notice that every time Ed has a doctor's appointment he ends up posting about Fox News. Well, I had an appointment Tuesday morning. Now guess what.

Like most of you (I assume) I don't watch much Fox News. In fairness I rarely watch TV news on any network, relying instead as so many Americans do on the self-selection offered by the internet. What little I see on the FNC comes from clips circulated on the internet, brief glimpses while I flip through channels, and maybe a few minutes here and there during election season. For the most part it is an alternate universe – I know it exists and I hear about it often, but our paths almost never cross. Except when I visit my doctor. He and his unironic "These Colors Don't Run" bumper sticker have FNC playing on multiple TVs throughout the office, so I usually catch about 15 minutes in the waiting room.

Today, through sundry intricacies of our remarkable system of managed care that I needn't recount here, I waited well over an hour before the good Doctor saw me. It would guess that it has been a decade since I sat and watched 80 or 90 minutes of Fox News, probably not since I last lived with my dad and thus was indirectly exposed to O'Reilly every evening after work. That DiMaggio-like streak ended today. The volume was up so loud (the old people need to be able to hear it, after all) I couldn't bury my nose far enough in Popular Mechanics to ignore it.

I am not an unbiased observer, obviously, and I watch Fox the same way most people watch circuses or episodes of Two and a Half Men. Despite these handicaps I am confident that the following is a valid conclusion: anyone who watches this channel for multiple hours daily would be categorically insane after a few months. Everything about public opinion and the Tea Party and oddities of the American electorate make perfect sense after watching this for an hour or two. If this was your only source of news, you would become one of them. Your relationship with reality would be tenuous at best, and more likely nonexistent.

You can actually feel the propaganda techniques start to numb you after a while. In small doses it has no effect, and we see it with a mixture of disdain and bemusement. It just seems kinda silly. Watching it all day, every day (as the staff at the office in question do) would be like the prison camp scenes in The Killing Fields – listening to Khmer Rouge propaganda blared over a loudspeaker until insanity becomes the new normal. Is Fox the Khmer Rouge? Of course not. They've just mastered the same methods of persuasion.

If my hypothesis seems implausible, I invite you to try it yourself sometime. Resolve to sit firmly on the couch and watch Fox News for two uninterrupted hours. Let us know how you feel afterward.

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