Also: I wrote about the fallout of this for New York Magazine here.
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Mom don’t read this one. I love you very much and I will call soon I promise but don’t read this one ok because it’s about me jacking off just kidding it’s about a sore spot for me which is feeling like you’ve lost a piece of your loved ones to Fox News brain cancer. Or maybe do read it maybe it will be beneficial I don’t know I don’t know anything aside from this one thing which is that Fox News has stolen something from all of us. Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly and the rest have kidnapped and brainwashed many of our otherwise lovely and kind family members and I’ll piss on their graves one day with a huge fucking boner that makes it hard for the piss to come out and I’ll be like ah fuck and it’ll splash out weird. Don’t ask me why they’re buried next to each other it just makes sense.
I love my mother she is one of the kindest and sweetest people you will ever meet. She is a survivor of domestic abuse and a very strong woman for that and I would be nothing without her. One thing she does or did for a long time is make quilts for children with cancer and also people bring her the t-shirts and sweaters of a loved one who has died and she makes them into a quilt for them so they can wrap themselves up in the memories of the person who is gone. She’s a good person and as far as I can tell Not Racist and I have never heard her say anything overtly terrible politically speaking like the type of thing you might hear from white nationalists like Tucker Carlson or Hannity. But I do know that she has watched those motherfuckers on TV a lot over the years perhaps every day and well you can’t be subjected to that sort of thing for too long without it rubbing off on you.
As such my mom and I have agreed to not talk about politics anymore because I always werewolf into the type of pedant who turns Christmas into the 25th of Shit but sometimes she'll say something she thinks is safe and innocuous and my bullet time poster brain will slow down and see intuitively it's some Fox News-inspired talking point and so it makes me not want to talk about anything to avoid any sort of disagreement and then I keep it all inside which is a condition known as being Massachusetts Irish trash which is what we are.
Of course Fox News didn't invent the white supremacy and racism that are at the heart of America and many of our family members would've believed that shit otherwise on their own but Fox has definitely supercharged it or activated something that was dormant and weaponized it. (One other caveat: “My parents watched the bad TV and got racist off it” is clearly a much less serious problem to have than being someone whose life is put at risk by the type of stuff Fox News promotes.)
I mentioned this on Twitter the other day and unsurprisingly a lot of people have had similar experiences in their own families some of which are much worse than mine. I asked a dozen or so of them to share how they lost a family member to Fox News or how their relationships have become strained and here’s what they said and here is how you will feel after reading them:
My folks were always reactionary conservatives — they blocked MTV growing up because it was a “perverting influence” — and they grew up to be Trump voters. It has destroyed my ability to trust them and go to them for advice and help, and in doing so, taken out most of the central columns in the essential parent-child dynamic. It makes me angry every day. Words cannot describe how much I wish I had just one intellectually sound, reliable parent at this time in my life, but Fox News got to them first.
I'd probably leave it alone if they hadn't absolutely terrorized me about my “morality” as a child. And I know it does a lot more harm than good, but now I text my dad every time I'm catcalled or sexually harassed/intimidated in public, and I frequently remind my mom that her “protest vote” will likely end with me getting stripped of my health insurance and an attempt at removing my bodily autonomy. I don't know if they even care of have the intellectual capacity to understand other peoples’ suffering.
I've spent basically two years reminding them every way in which their little “protest” has caused people harm. I send them videos of obviously fucked up Mexican kids in detention.
I don't know what to do with all this anger and shame except to try to reflect it back with the Archimedes laser of my iron will to be a total cunt 24/7.
My father was always conservative. He wasn’t particularly interested in politics until his brother turned him on to Rush Limbaugh and conservative AM talk radio in the mid-nineties. His family was extremely racist going back generations, and I’ll go ahead and assume white racism finds a more welcoming home in the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, while I know that example is not absolute. Anyway, I regret ever showing him Fox News. I turned it on as a teenager and showed it to my parents as a goof. I was laughing at how irresponsible Bill O’Reilly acted on air as an anchor. My mother, a centrist Republican, thought it was funny. My Dad started watching regularly.
Soon it was the only programming he ingested other than talk radio. He became addicted to the anger. He thought if he was angry at all the “injustices” Fox News presented to him he must be righteous. He grew more irritable. He banned watching any news other than Fox News in his presence and failure to adhere would lead to abusive emotional outbursts. Soon he lost his sense of humor. Everything became about punching down at gays and minorities. Then he started making derisive comments about Democrats during family functions when it was considered inappropriate. He declared his favorite show was “The Five”, which then led to it being required viewing at our dinner time. If any real life occurrence interferes with him viewing “The Five” our family would be subjected to hours of screaming and cursing. He then became more paranoid, claiming that power or cable outages were a plot by the Democrats (who secretly control everything).
My mother had enough. Out of the blue, she filed for divorce. He was crushed, couldn’t understand why, and took comfort in drinking while watching his friends on TV. She is happier than I have ever seen her and he is sad and angry living in the basement of a rented house, still watching “The Five”, Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro, etc.
Rupert Murdoch ruined my family and my country. If a genie gave me wishes I would hope his private plane crashes into the sea and every single person that works for Fox News gets trapped in the building and burns alive.
Growing up, my dad was the one person I knew who taught me to be a critical thinker and educate myself on topics before I spoke about them. Right around the 2008 election he became a Fox News talking point machine, saying some awful shit I never knew he'd believed. When I'd press him on where he heard it and how he knew it was true he'd just shut down. Nowadays there's just this quiet stalemate where we've agreed to not talk about anything political, but I see him slipping from time to time because he almost cant help himself. Maybe he was always like this, but lacked the exhaust chamber to say out loud what he was thinking. I'll never know. It just sucks because I know the people he hates so much are basically the same people as me.
Yeah he’s racist. I wouldn't have thought so back in the day, but I guess it was always there simmering under the surface. Like a lot of people I think old age and his chosen form of media have made him feel more safe about saying stuff out loud.
My only guess is that they no longer recognize the world around them. Instead of just acknowledging that it's just the way things go, they've retreated into this fear of “the other” which almost always turns out to be someone who isn’t white
My dad, an immigrant, has had brain poisoning for years and years through this whole shit. He listened to Limbaugh in the nineties and it only got worse when he got Fox News. He used to think Trump was a dipshit but is now all in on the idiot's cruelty. He and my mom separated last November. There were other reasons but one of the big ones was his Fox addiction. I went down to help him get set up in a new apartment. He cried a lot. We found an apartment and furniture and I got the utilities set up but I did not sign up for cable TV. He did that after I left, before he got a job.
The thing that makes me maddest about this is that it's about money. My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer a year ago. It's the cancer that doesn't matter if you catch it and he's seventy six so it's probably not what's gonna get him. It did make him start thinking about his mortality though. He's on all the email lists and I guess Mike Huckabee has been selling his email to fucking everybody, including one list I noticed when I was getting his email set up called "Beyond Chemo."
They are selling him his own anger and a bunch of mushroom pills for all the money he doesn't have anymore. He's gonna die destitute because of this shit and people belong in prison for seeing this as a business opportunity.
I met my mom for dinner last night. Somehow it ends up on politics and yeah, my mom's now a big racist, shaking in her boots at the word “socialism.” We also agreed to the no politics thing, but she's a big time Facebooker. Inevitably she'll say something dumb from a meme or some shit and I'll just have to go off again.
I don't think she was always like that. I know she was a Bush person, but I don't think she has always had such interpersonally toxic beliefs. It's been at least since 2014, because I remember hearing her say something ignorant about Ferguson and having a physical reaction to it.
My instinct is to challenge her and try to “educate” her but then the response is “you're calling your mother a racist?” and that type of question just makes it hard to say anything, especially to my mother.
In a vacuum, my godfather and godmother are some of most kind people I’ve ever encountered in my life. So much so that my parents decided to name me after my godfather. I was not very close to my grandparents into my adult life as they died early in my adolescence, but they could easily be replacements and I will absolutely bawl my eyes out when they pass.
Fox News has absolutely turned their brains to mush and anything even remotely political immediately morphs into what I know must be a Fox News talking point. Politics is something that is a large interest to them, so it is very common that they will say something that will make me immediately shut down the conversation and leave so as to not be confrontational. It’s a shame because I always love spending time with them, but there is no way the two people that raised me to be the person I am today have such little regard for others as they regurgitate such, in my opinion, absolutely abhorrent views of people of all walks of life. It is truly a tragedy.
I consider myself to be someone with strong conviction in my beliefs, so sharing the namesake Martin with my godfather has literally thrown my life into an existential identity crisis that I barely survived in the last two years. I’m going to therapy to deal with all this and I’m confident I am going to be a stronger person for it.
After Obama was elected I thought my dad had turned a corner when he said he stopped listening to talk radio, especially Rush Limbaugh, on his long work commute, because he said that Limbaugh had gone off the deep end.
I don’t watch Fox News because of course it warps the psyche of anyone who does, but it must have changed tone after Trump was elected. My dad slowly became even more xenophobic and angry than he used to be.
My daughter’s dedication was this weekend, and both my parents and my wife’s parents stayed at our house. Our respective fathers couldn’t even have dinner without it becoming the two of them, loudly, indulging in their angry, ever more hateful fantasies of “what’s really wrong with America.”
The two of us are worried about letting our daughter stay with them for any long length of time, because their toxic anger and resentment is slowly becoming their entire identity.
I just know that I’m with you. I hate what they’ve done to almost everyone in my family. It’s absolute poison and the only thing I think is worse is that there are people who think that destroying the morals and conscience of multiple generations is worth a few more bucks, because I absolutely refuse to believe that people like Hannity don’t know what they are doing.
I wish I could do something, but who has the time or energy to combat that? And how the hell do you reteach someone to have empathy?
My pastor says “progress is made one funeral at a time” and it’s hard to disagree with him at this point.
I was raised by a strong pro-choice feminist mother, who now tells me “cute stories” that happen on The Five, the shitty Fox daytime show, loves Trump, and thinks abortion should be illegal after six weeks. Depressing doesn’t even cover it. You can’t break through that wall of shit.
I grew up in a house where we openly talked politics. Now, it’s noticeably absent from our conversations. She actually said that she hopes my daughter, who is four, grows up to be conservative. When I said “absolutely not,” she seemed truly baffled. Their brains are rotting on this stuff.
I will say that whenever she spends time with my minority friends she seems to temporarily soften on the racist stuff, then she goes back to Texas and watches a few hours of Fox and it’s back to “normal.”
I am also an orphan of Fox News. My mom’s brain is completely broken from it, and we have less and less to talk about it every time we see each other. I think what really did it for me was after Tamir Rice was murdered I brought it up at breakfast for some insane reason and my mom said “well, he looked fully adult.” Prior to that she had said stuff like she thought Obama was a Muslim and other racist Fox News parroting, but when she erased the human worth of a child like that I knew she was truly lost.
I would describe it as I still love my mom but I don't really like her.
I pretty much don't go home anymore, having only been in Phoenix twice over the last three years, only at Christmas, because my family and friends all have broken Fox Brain. But of course I called at Thanksgiving to say hi, which was when my dad called Obama the n-word during the call apropos of nothing.
I'm not totally sure when it started since I haven't lived at home since 2002. It slowly built, but the rift probably started around 2008 when I was volunteering for Obama. It got most heated when my mom went to a Trump rally in Phoenix ahead of the 2016 election.
We've pretty much agreed not to talk politics anymore, but occasionally my mom tells me things like Brett Kavanaugh is innocent because women always lie about getting raped and like you I just stopped calling and answering texts eventually.
I haven't actually talked to my sister about this stuff because she's pretty religious and seemingly a never-Trump Republican, but she was abused by a babysitter as a kid and raped in college and despite living ten miles away from my parents with three grandkids she's cut off all communication with them after my mom pretty much said she didn't believe her.
I can't necessarily say it all stems from Fox News, but it's on in the house pretty much 24/7 and I can't imagine that doesn't play a factor. But I probably had MSNBC brain while I was there, as I had it on eight hours a day at work and then watched Maddow and Hayes when I got home.
I lost an uncle to Fox brain. He was a middle school teacher in a small upstate New York town, was on the board of the teachers union, and a big labor guy. After he retired he started thinking unions were for lazy people and talked a lot about how the government gives free stuff to immigrants who come here illegally. A couple weeks ago we were talking about my student debt and he said if I was an illegal the government would take care of that for me. It fucking sucks.
I asked him why he thinks that's true and told him I thought they just put them in cages, but he just rolled his eyes and started talking about something else. We mostly just don't talk as much anymore because it's not worth it for either of us
My parents came to visit me in LA recently, from my hometown in Goatfuck, IL. They are the sweetest, warmest, supportive, most generous people on earth—but over the past few years I’ve picked up on distinct symptoms of Fox News brain poisoning.
During their trip we were just hanging out and chatting when my dad, unprompted, says “They say there’s a lot of Mexicans here in Southern California.” Uh, yeah, dad. This actually used to be Mexico, so I think some people of Mexican descent may have stuck around. Then my mom chimes in “Oh sure, they just come right over.” Come right over?! The implication being they all scaled a wall, not even considering the fact that most families have been here for generations, descended from people who migrated here for a better life just like our own familial ancestors did.
I just bit my tongue, because above all, my family is one that eschews any form of conflict in favor of suppressing all emotion. I later heard my mom droning on to someone about how there are only two genders and just silently stewed.
All this is to say I feel your pain about almost feeling like you’ve lost a loved one to Fox News poisoning. It’s a hard thing when the glowing prism through which we view the ones we love is shattered, and there’s no way to put that image of them back together again. It’s something I’ve honestly had trouble dealing with over the past few years.
I might recommend adding Facebook poisoning to the diagnoses as well. In the tiny town in which I grew up, there’s no local paper anymore and nothing in the way of culture or things to do period. Sometimes my mom’s only glimpses of the outside world come from Facebook and Fox News, and the impact of those poisonous outlets is becoming clearer and clearer.
It happened to my dad and my aunt. Last time I saw my aunt she told me there's an ISIS training camp in upstate New York and it has been there for years. She used to be a new age hippy person. Now she barely leaves her house in the woods in central Massachusetts.
My dad is dead but in the last few years of his life he got totally warped. He went from voting for Gore, then Kerry and fucking hating Bush and the wars to thinking Obama was gonna destroy America. He started working a night shift job and would come home during the day and fall asleep with Fox News blasting. I really think it rotted his brain.
My dad was still pretty nice at the end but it got to us not being able to talk politics at all. I’ve talked to my mom about it and she agreed. She said his lack of sleep really messed with his brain and made him very paranoid. He was getting into survivalist paranoia when he died. For like months after when we were cleaning out his stuff we would find guns hidden in the house. I only got aware of politics a bit before Obama was elected so we could have interesting conversations, but by like 2009 or 2010 he was pretty changed. My whole family avoids talking politics to my aunt these days. Her and her husband, who was a college professor in physics, don’t believe in global warming and all this other shit. They think since I moved to Boston that I'm gonna get murdered or seduced by “evil women.”
They’re total cranks about that stuff but still very sweet so it’s very weird and uncomfortable. My aunt was telling me about the ISIS camp in a very matter of fact way, like she would be describing the weather or the Patriots game.
You’re gonna get a lot of stories about people losing family to Fox and the right but for a little counter-programming, we actually got one of my cousins back before it was too late. He listened to InfoWars religiously from 2009-2015 or so and is an avid hunter who lives in the woods and smokes a lot of weed and plays a lot of video games so I thought he was a goner for sure, but thanks to the infinite patience of his little sister, he actually came to his senses and realized what a dangerous crock he had bought into.
I’m sure he’s an outlier but not all of them are lost causes just yet.
He could see how disappointed we all were, but having his baby sister tell him every day that she loved him but that he was slowly rotting his own brain seemed to do it. There’s part of me that wonders if what sealed it was the fact that InfoWars was going mainstream and it wasn’t as cool or exciting to believe in Jade Helm or whatever if those beliefs weren’t truly counterculture. He’s still got problems, but he drifted away from all that and we gave him plenty of positive reinforcement when he did
I hope someday the spell breaks, at least for some of these folks. But I’ll never forget as a kid thinking that there was no one left on earth who liked Nixon, then one day I ran an errand for my dad and the old guy I met with opened a closet door to reveal a Nixon shrine, so who the hell knows
My parents haven’t been broken by Fox News, but what I find almost as disturbing is how even parents who have never watched a moment of Fox News can parrot their talking points—like mine. My mom is an actual immigrant from Venezuela and she started talking the other day about how refugees are an undue burden on our healthcare system and the reasons it’s bad. She’s an educated person who has never watched Fox News! But Hannity and Tucker have so permeated the culture that their noxious shit can be found coming out of the mouths of ostensibly “liberal” people. It’s terrifying.
Part of it is she’s always just been one of those “I did immigration the right way” people so it doesn’t take much to rub her wrong on that front. But I think she must've read some Wall Street Journal or Washington Post op-eds that gave her that particular idea
Here is a text I got from my father this morning, a guy who gets all his news from Hannity. Another case of “so so close to getting it”, but still a giant swing and miss.
My simple takeaway is the American people are being fed information, and there really is no way we can absolutely know what the actual truth is.
I saw this article as a call to question , look and never stop seeking the truth. In the age of click bait, producer driven news casts, deep discussions of ideas and knowledge are not mainstream. My point, things may not always be what they appear to be.
There is shit going on in the deep state that is not R or D. Many dirty hands doing dirty shit, and the stuff we hear about has been scrubbed or shaded many times....
Have an awesome day.....
He’s genuinely a really decent guy who refuses to acknowledge the harm his political views cause in the world. I have absolutely been calling less, picking up the phone less, wanting to visit with family less, and all of this as his first grandkid was born this year and my new-found identity as a dad has made it even more painful to see the relationship with my own father strain under this tension.