Mere days after Charleston, you might be surprised at the lack of self awareness–or awareness of any kind, really–at what should be its own hashtag, #rightwingfamilydinner. But then again, you might not be. “Deeply depressing”, “disturbing”, “cringe-worthy” come to mind when one acknowledges that in 2015, “right wing”, “Fox News”, and “conservative” allude to a very peculiar set of values. I’ve said it before, but ignorance in the information age is an active choice. And boy, in few places is it quite so evident than at a #rightwingfamilydinner. Even framing the event in that way gives a casual reader all the details they need to understand exactly what I’m about to share. It is an experience so universally shared across the United States, an archetype so ruthlessly common, that it can be conjured in a reader’s mind with only those few descriptors. It defies all attempts to dismiss it as “an unfair stereotype”, as I want to–as I’ve tried to. I wave it away year after year, thinking not all conservatives….. But statistically speaking, aggregation is critical. Numbers speak volumes, and everyone has a story just like this.
Time and time again, Fox New spews vitriol in the name of “fair and balanced”–so fair and balanced, in fact, that in the face of an announcement from the shooter himself that his rampage was racially motivated, the station fabricated an anti-christian motive because he killed them in a church (a locale with its own long history of race warfare, also conveniently ignored). Another gruesome testimony to the modern fanatical right-wing movement, another day without critically discussing the ethics of their warmongering and race-baiting segments predicated on statistical fabrication and lonely anecdotes. The gymnastic prowess involved in turning a hate crime against African Americans around to a Christian persecution circle jerk is astounding, and Fox News (or at least their morning crew) had no qualms about trying it. Fact checkers, liberal bloggers, and news sites quickly reacted to the brutally non-journalistic and morally abhorrent segment, but it doesn’t matter because the people who needed to hear it will never tune in, search, log in, or scroll. Fox News is so successful in slinging their crap because it’s framed as us-vs.-them; the talking heads declare “only we tell you the truth“, “the only fair news source”, “the only news with integrity”. O’Reilly, Hannity, and their ilk would pontificate their righteous journalistic integrity for hours on air if you let them (their books will have to do. Not enough airtime for all that hot air). So, who else could poor, sad viewers trust? No one, naturally. Why bother looking elsewhere? Why bother even thinking? Just tune in, ingest, regurgitate, rinse, and repeat.
What was suspected and anecdotally common knowledge for years has been verified in a national Gallup poll: that liberals diversify their sources while conservatives are happy to tunnel-vision Fox. This attitude against information and critical discourse is likely why so many conservatives are outspoken against scary ideologues such as “liberal academia” (which I suppose is every university or college except for the uber-christian private schools?) and the “MSM” or mainsteam media (which is every single TV, print, and internet outlet except for Fox, Drudge, and Breitbart? Fox, who at the same time boasts its cable ratings & wears them like badges of honor, making it the most “mainsteam” of the cable outlets??). Knowledge comes easily to those who seek it out, and so it’s unsurprising that progressiveness, diversification of sources, and educational attainment are all correlated.
So why was my dinner so harrowing? In the face of Charleston (or in spite of? Did they even know about it? Did they all agree to pretend it didn’t happen?), I tallied the following jokes all before dessert even hit the table:
- (2) black people re: fried chicken (complete with follow up anecdotes from that one time at the office when someone bought Popeye’s in response to my comment that I had not seen disproportionate chicken enjoyment across racial divides. BTW, for dinner this white southern farming family was having–you guessed it–fried chicken and potato salad. I SHIT YOU NOT. WE GOT ROY ROGERS TAKE-OUT.)
- (1) black people re: watermelon
- (2) black people and their names, mirite?
- (1) people of non-white ethnicities and their unpronounceable names (What I’ve learned: a person’s work ethic and professional value is predicated on whether or not old white Americans who never bothered to learn two words of someone else’s language can pronounce their name without coaching and whether they have the time, resources, or motivation to adopt the regional white-people accents.)
- (1) black people re: lazy
- (2) black people re: affirmative action privileges
- (4) Don’t forget the Caitlyn Jenner eyerolls! Because she has a peen? Get it? Ahahaha
Let me say that after years of arguing, it’s simply not worth pointing out issues to my family. Beyond age 25, few people can or are willing to look outside themselves, even when confronted with overwhelming reasons to. When my brother turned to me after a particularly egregious string of dehumanizing, antiblack taunts, he apologized off the cuff. “Sorry, Mary.” Just like that. That means he knew he was being immoral and simply didn’t care. It was worse than no apology at all. I cocked an eyebrow and simply said, “It’s who you are as a person.” There may have even been a defeated shoulder shrug from me, as if to say, let’s not bother counting the ways. He turned back to his audience and moved on. Did he take my comment to mean I don’t care, or did he take it as I truly meant it: I’ve given up on your dishonest “bootstrap” value system as ever including considerations for people who don’t look and sound exactly like you. I’ll probably never know, but I’m too exhausted by the dance to care about that.