Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, COVID-19, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights
The Brainwashing of My Dad is a 2015 American documentary film directed by Jen Senko about her father’s transformation from a nonpolitical Democrat into a political Republican. The film was mostly funded by a Kickstarter campaign.
As Jen Senko tries to understand the transformation of her father from a nonpolitical Democrat to an angry Republican fanatic, she uncovers the forces behind the media that changed him completely: a plan by Roger Ailes under President Richard Nixon for a media takeover by the Republicans, the 1971 Powell Memo urging business leaders to influence institutions of public opinion (especially the media, universities, and courts), the 1987 dismantling of the Fairness Doctrine under President Ronald Reagan, and the signing of the 1996 Telecommunications Act under President Bill Clinton. The documentary aims to show how the media and the nation changed, which leads to questions about who owns the airwaves, what rights listeners and watchers have, and what responsibility the government has to keep the airwaves fair, accurate, and accountable. Wikipedia
In his book An Instinct for Dragons (2000), anthropologist David E. Jones suggests a hypothesis that humans, like monkeys, have inherited instinctive reactions to snakes, large cats, and birds of prey. A dragon is a large, serpentine, legendary creature that appears in the folklore of many cultures worldwide. Beliefs about dragons vary considerably through regions, but dragons in western cultures since the High Middle Ages have often been depicted as winged, horned, four-legged, and capable of breathing fire. Dragons in eastern cultures are usually depicted as wingless, four-legged, serpentine creatures with above-average intelligence. Commonalities between dragons’ traits are often a hybridization of feline, avian, and reptilian features, and may include: snakelike features, reptilian scaly skin, four legs with three or four toes on each, spinal nodes running down the back, a tail, and a serrated jaw with rows of teeth. Several modern scholars believe huge extinct or migrating crocodiles bear the closest resemblance, especially when encountered in forested or swampy areas, and are most likely the template of modern dragon imagery. Wikipedia/Dragon again, though somewhat rearranged.
Jen Senko uses the strongly suggestive term “brainwashing,” and in a few interviews I’ve heard her give (last one on Thom Hartmann), she alluded to the part of the brain referenced as the amygdala: “region of the brain primarily associated with emotional processes. The name amygdala is derived from the Greek word amygdale, meaning “almond,” owing to the structure’s almond-like shape. The amygdala is located in the medial temporal lobe, just anterior to (in front of) the hippocampus. Similar to the hippocampus, the amygdala is a paired structure, with one located in each hemisphere of the brain. The amygdala is part of the limbic system, a neural network that mediates many aspects of emotion and memory. Although historically the amygdala was considered to be involved primarily in fear and other emotions related to aversive (unpleasant) stimuli, it is now known to be involved in positive emotions elicited by appetitive (rewarding) stimuli.” (Britannica) Because it is primitive, it’s famously referred to as the reptilian brain (in Brain World Magazine, no less). Ms. Senko’s thesis was simply that her once calm, middle-of-the-road liberal dad became a fire-breathing (pun intended) conservative through endless repetition in the right-wing echo chamber of the idea he had something to fear, or someone in the form of foreigners and people of color. Her dad ironically came to this country as an immigrant. But through a relentless repetition campaign worthy of, and plagiarizing propaganda techniques from the Creel Committee, he transformed. Ms. Senko’s dad is “patient zero,” of our present darkness.
This is [our] life
Lisa Ling did an excellent job on her “This Is Life” series on conspiracy theories in America, and that they aren’t anything “new” to the national landscape. The problem is, it’s been digitized, and monetized over social media such that the more outrageous, the more violent the content, the more money those same companies make. Despite the proven harm to young teen girls and a lot of adults, the solution is practiced inaction. The pattern is public Mea Culpa, then do nothing, claim to be a social media platform, but not a journalistic platform, because lies monetized are more lucrative than publishing the truth.
Part of the problem is the many times we as citizens have been lied to: the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh, and the installation of the Shah over a democratically-elected leader of Iran in 1953. Nationalizing oil reserves gained the ire of the CIA, MI6, and British Petroleum. The sixties was an assassination decade, and theories of President Kennedy’s assassination (and the immediate killing of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby), Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy were splayed on newsletters, and pamphlets; beauty/barber shops, and water coolers. There’s still a group that doesn’t believe we went to the moon, aliens are somehow interested in “little-old-us”; Bigfoot and Nessie are real creatures, and the world post-Apollo is either flat or donut-shaped (I’m not kidding). Follow that with “I’m not a crook” Richard Nixon, “we’re not selling arms for hostages” Ronald Reagan, it’s no wonder trust in institutions other than the military is at an all-time low. Roger Ailes and Rush Limbaugh appealed to fellow jowl-faced constituents that consider Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion an existential crisis, as their impish clone, Tucker Carlson parrots “replacement theory.” “Nature abhors a vacuum,” and provocateurs like Alex Jones are more than happy to fill the trust void. Add to that the 30,000+ COVFEFE whoppers of the last Oval Office occupant, and the death toll his lies bore. At least Brazil is considering holding Jair Bolsonaro responsible for crimes against humanity for 100,000+ dead. Our body count is higher. “U-S-A!” “U-S-A!”
Senator Angus King has evolved on the filibuster. He’s willing to change the rules so voting rights can get passed. However, the dragon reared its head to “conserve” the status quo of white supremacy (Senator Tim Scott needs a new mirror and an active human soul).
It is interesting that Steve Scalise, the minority whip counter on the Republican side of the House, is urging his colleagues to vote NO on holding his br’er fascist, Steve Bannon, in criminal contempt of Congress in fealty to a demagogue that lost the 2020 election, the Senate, and the House. If the rule of law is subject to “situational nihilism” (Brian Williams, The 11th Hour, MSNBC), then the law as we thought we knew it is essentially moot. Only nine Republicans in the House followed The Constitution to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress with all of the Democrats, meaning all the Republicans who voted against it are in contempt of Congress. Now, “Robert Lewis, Rufus, and Frog” along with “Billy Bob, Cooter, and Skeeter” will all declare themselves Republicans, and ignore any subpoenas sent to them, reduced to a notion by the man whose publicly stated aim was to “deconstruct the administrative state.” Good luck running courts large and small across the nation. ‘Murica.
Scalise once described himself as “David Duke without the baggage.” David Duke was a grand dragon, and avowed white supremacist. Any kind of supremacy is anathema to democracy. To quote a 2020 tweet from someone named Beau Willimon, succinctly comparing Capitalism, Socialism, Authoritarianism, and Democracy:
Our democracy can no longer afford to ride this leviathan and continue to exist.
“And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.” Revelations 12:3