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Print view: A conservative writer described the way his mom's brains got eaten by Fox
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WHO ARE THE PEOPLE! A conservative writer described the way his mom’s brains got eaten by Fox: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2011

Coming tomorrow: This lengthy report, from today’s New York Times, about state graduation requirements.

Fawning Matilda: Juan Williams was in extremely rare form on the Factor last night.

Mr. O had played tape from his interview with President Obama, including segments which didn’t air during Sunday’s live session. He had read a letter from a listener who wondered, “Why on earth would Fox give this loser air time on Super Bowl Sunday?”

(“Well, there are many reasons,” O’Reilly replied, “starting with he is the most powerful man in the world.”)

Throughout the program, O’Reilly ridiculed viewers who sent him letters saying he’d been too soft on Obama. But now, he wanted the views of a certified expert! And so the threw to Fawning Matilda, who showed us what money can buy:

O’REILLY (2/7/11): So Juan, you know, overall, anything jump out at you?

WILLIAMS: First, let me just say congratulations. You are the talk of the nation today. Everywhere I went everybody is talking about, “What did you think of O'Reilly and Obama?” And, you know, the idea that you were able to hold him to account without going Barney Frank on him.

I mean, you didn't allow him to filibuster, you actually said serious business on the entitlements business, you said to him, “No sleight of hand. Don't just give me some big number over five years. How are you going to cut entitlements?” And you held him to the fire.

I thought that was pretty good. And you know what, when you got him to say that Fox News is a legitimate organization, he has respect, you know, that's really important. I am saying that to you because you know what has gone on between that administration and Fox News.

You know what it has meant for all Fox News employees. And I say that personally, Bill. You did an excellent job of making it clear the president of the United States understands, watches Bill O'Reilly, understands the power and respects the audience.

One other thing I say quickly is that when you said to him, “Hey, you know what? What should I do better?” I thought, “Hey, everybody who says Bill O'Reilly is so arrogant, Bill O'Reilly is so contemptuous, here is Bill O'Reilly putting himself out there.” Obama could have taken a shot at you!

He says to you, “Put out the facts, Bill. Put out the facts.” You talk about the No Spin Zone! I think that's why people—you know, I know you have a strong conservative base for an audience but a lot of people in the center now watch you because they say, “What's he have to say? What is he thinking?”

And I think that that audience includes, much to my surprise, President Obama!

“I thought that was pretty good,” Juan said, clownishly understating. The analysts sat in sheer stupefaction, stunned by the long uber-fawn.

Williams was recently canned by NPR; Fox stepped up and paid him big bucks. Never has it been more clear what less than a million can do.

Special report: Who are the people!

PART 1—EVERYBODY’S HAVING THEM DREAMS (permalink): What would it be like to see progressives spread their ideas, their viewpoints and frameworks? To see progressives spread their outlooks to people who don’t share them now?

You’re asking some very good questions! For starters, progressives would need to understand the many people who don’t instinctively share their outlooks. Polling suggests there are many such people, and so the task is large.

At some point, progressives will have to persuade a lot of people who may not agree with them now. That in mind, we were struck by a recent Digby post about people in the Tea Party.

“Tea Makers Marks,” her headline read. As she started, Digby displayed a familiar trait. It’s one of humankind’s oldest traits—the tendency to lump “Those People” all together:

DIGBY (1/26/11): If they weren't so nasty most of the time I'd start to feel sorry for the Tea Party. They are getting taken for such a ride by hucksters, snake oil salesmen and billionaire puppeteers that it's getting sort of pathetic.

Is everyone in the Tea Party “nasty most of the time?” Digby tends to write in such sweeping ways, which helps explains why this post struck us as a pleasant surprise. As she continued, Digby described a somewhat kooky New York City councilman who had campaigned for office with support of Tea Party organizers. “He's obviously some sort of political nut/con man,” she wrote. But after that, she said this:

DIGBY: I'm sure there are plenty of sincere Tea Partiers out there who are getting fleeced all the time by these types. And while it's tempting to say they deserve it, it still isn't right. They are just trying to exercise their democratic right to organize and they are being manipulated and conned by a bunch of billionaire media moguls and small time hustlers. I guess that's part of the bargain too, but it's distasteful to see it happening anyway.

We found those sentiments quite surprising. We too would assume that “there are plenty of sincere Tea Partiers out there who are getting fleeced,” or at least misled, by a wide array of types. (How many Tea Party people are “sincere?” We couldn’t possibly tell you.) Indeed, a few days later, a semi-youngish conservative writer offered an intriguing account of one such person—a person who was getting fleeced and conned by conservative hustlers.

That person was his own mother!

The conservative writer was Richmond Ramsey, posting at FrumForum, David Frum’s conservative site. His headline was colorful: “Fox Geezer Syndrome.” Early on, he described the way Glenn Beck has been eating the brains of many conservatives’ parents:

RAMSEY (1/30/11): Over the past couple of years, I’ve been keeping track of a trend among friends around my age (late thirties to mid-forties). Eight of us (so far) share something in common besides our conservatism: a deep frustration over how our parents have become impossible to take on the subject of politics. Without fail, it turns out that our folks have all been sitting at home watching Fox News Channel all day—especially Glenn Beck’s program.

Fox News has been eating the brains of their parents! As he continued, Ramsey described his mother’s emergence as a Beck pod-person:

RAMSEY (continuing directly): Used to be I would call my mom and get updated on news from the neighborhood, her garden, the grandchildren, hometown gossip, and so forth. I’ve always been interested in politics, but never had the occasion to talk about them with her. She just doesn’t care.

Or didn’t. I don’t know when it happened, exactly, but she began peppering our conversation with red-hot remarks about President Obama. I would try to engage her, but unless I shared her particular judgment, and her outrage, she apparently thought that I was a dupe or a RINO. Finally I asked my father privately why Mom, who as far as I know never before had a political thought, was so worked up about Obama all the time.

“She’s been like that ever since she started watching Glenn Beck,” Dad said.

As he continued, Ramsey described the process by which his father became a pod-person too. (“A few months later, she roped him into watching Beck, which had the same effect,” he wrote. “Even though we’re all conservatives, I found myself having to steer our phone conversations away from politics and current events.”)

As we continued with Ramsey’s post, we recalled the wisdom of the early Bob Dylan: “Time passed and now it seems/everybody’s having them dreams.” So the bard wrote, in the early 1960s, presaging what came next in Ramsey’s narration. According to Ramsey, many of his conservative friends are seeing their parents affected this way. We strongly recommend the rest of his piece, along with a fascinating set of readers’ comments.

Let’s be clear. Most people don’t watch Fox News; most people don’t watch Glenn Beck. Most people don’t describe themselves as supporters of the Tea Party. Everyone isn’t having them dreams, despite what Dylan said.

But there are millions of citizens in this country; they get their ideas from many sources. Many people might be said to have been “fleeced” and “conned” by various types. People have heard all sorts of ideas, often in repetitive fashion. As in the case of Ramsey’s parents, they may not be fully equipped to separate wheat from chaff.

To tell the truth, none of us are.

People believe a wide range of things. This includes a range of things which don’t comport with progressive outlooks, understandings and viewpoints. If progressive viewpoints are going to spread, these people must be persuaded.

How might progressives accomplish that task? We’ll ponder the question all this week, starting with something else Digby said in that post.

Tomorrow: “A little more empathy and common sense”