Together with filmmaker Jen Senko we speak of a new documentary examining both the rise of the vast Rightwing media machine and how it has succeeded in tearing apart countless American families with its brilliant lies, conspiracies and rabid hostility. But first, the quixotic search for a Donald Trump alternative continues for the GOP, as John Kasich's fanciful quest for the nomination after winning only the primary in his home state of Ohio continues. That, while Ted Cruz, the only mathematically viable (and, yet, hated) alternative for gaining enough delegates to actually win the nomination, welcomes a notoriously discredited, Islamaphobic conspiracy theorist into his campaign as a national security adviser. Some "alternative"!
And, as if that's all not embarrassing enough for Republicans, President Obama's nomination yesterday of the very moderate and well-respected D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court is already proving problematic for Senate Republicans who have vowed to not even hold hearings for any nominee made by this President. The Senate Judiciary Committee's Orrin Hatch (The Utah Republican Party), who has repeatedly supported and promoted Garland in the past, including for a seat on the US Supreme Court, had trouble facing even the usually friendly questioning of Fox "News" in light of his party's bizarrely ill-conceived campaign.
Then, speaking of Fox "News" and dysfunction, I'm joined by documentary filmmaker Jen Senko to discuss her new film, The Brainwashing of My Dad. The documentary details both the rise of the Rightwing media in the US over the past several decades and her own father's disturbing transition from a peaceful, loving Democrat into a hostile, angry 'conservative' after becoming addicted and, yes, brainwashed by Rush Limbaugh, Fox "News" and the rest of the "vast Rightwing conspiracy" machine that has torn apart so many families like her own.
While the film's tagline is "The truth behind the right-wing media machine that changed a father…and divided the nation," an alternative version for so many who will recognize, within their own families, the story of what happened to Senko's father, might have been: "You are not alone!" "When I started the Kickstarter campaign" for the film, she tells me, "people just started writing me every day, with these heartbreaking stories about so-and-so in their family wouldn't speak to them anymore, or they couldn't talk about anything without them getting angry. It was really shocking. That's when I realized what a phenomenon it was."
Senko explains how her suspicions about what was happening to her father over the years, thanks to Rush, Fox, the endless forwarded emails containing long-disproven conspiracies about the Clintons, Obama and the so-called "liberal media" constituted actual brainwashing, as described by a number of experts in the film. We discuss not only the long rise of what Hillary Clinton accurately described, in 1998, as the "vast Rightwing conspiracy" machine, but Democrats' own culpability in the scheme, and how it has all culminated in the ascendancy of someone like Donald Trump as the GOP frontrunner for President of the United States in 2016. The non-right-wing media, Senko notes, "keep saying people are angry because of the way the system is going. No. They're angry because of Fox News and right-wing media — that includes emails from think tanks and so forth — (which) have told them lies."
Without giving away the ending to her film, I'll just note that it is both encouraging and underscores that, just perhaps, there is a way out of the ugly, angry mess that so many families — not to mention the country itself — now find themselves in after decades of being repeatedly battered by the Republicans' well-crafted political lie machine. And speaking of encouraging news, we finish up today with a bit of exactly that on St. Patrick's Day, underscoring that, yes, progressive change may take a long time (a very long time, in this case), but it eventually comes and the struggle is always worth it…
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