Like most of you who aren't Batmen, I have parents, and living in Texas means that at least one of those parental units gets most of their news from Fox News. Now, this may shock you as I confess it from the art blog of a Voice Media Group affiliated news agency, but I am a fairly liberal fellow. As such, I often do not agree with the words that Fox News throws at me.
That's not why I don't like them, though. I can handle philosophical disagreements just fine. No, what has me worried more and more for my poor father stuck out in Dayton, TX consuming nothing but Sean Hannity is the fact that he is clearly being brainwashed by the largest doomsday cult in American history.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not calling people who watch Fox News stupid. Cult members mirror the general population in intelligence according to the International Cultic Studies Association, and if my premise is correct that means that Fox News watchers are just a bright as the average American. The problem isn't intellectual, but emotional, and the more and more I am exposed to the techniques used by the Fox News media juggernaut the more it mirrors cults obsessed with the end of the world.
Appeal to Tradition The modern world is a fast-paced, confusing, and at times frightening place, particularly for older people who often find themselves unable to keep up with times. One of the primary ways that cults recruit and retain members is to offer people a place that feels safe and secure away from the non-cult world.
Now, the average age of a Fox News viewer is 68, so that leaves you with a demographic that both struggles to understand the shifting paradigms and also feels nostalgic for a past that frankly they may not remember all that accurately. You can listen to Bill O'Reilly wax poetically about how we were better in the 1950s, citing it as a magical time of more respect, less dependence, and more purity (O'Reilly did openly acknowledge that this was true only for whites and that the government, having offered civil rights to minorities was not obligated to institute programs to rectify racial inequalities).
And while it's true that life was pretty sweet for most white people in the '50s it has little to do with the points usually made on Fox News. High income taxes fed a blossoming social safety net and kept the federal budget more balanced and inflation at bay. The G. I. Bill paved the way for a new, educated workforce that was considerably better paid than we are today percentage-wise as employers competed for the highest quality workers in the form of bucks. Credit cards were born and suddenly everyone had, for now, access to more money than they actually had.
You'll recognize that this represents more or less the opposite of the Fox News conservative bent, but that's not important. What is important is that they can dig into the memories of people of good times and exploit them without ever bothering to mention what made those times good in the first place.
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Encouragement to Give Wealth Away Something you'll see in any good doomsday cult is a call to cast off your material possessions, because no one needs a Rolex when the zombies rise or the monkeys take over or whatever your preferred apocalypse may be. Divorcing yourself from wealth was a key component of leaving Earth in the Heaven's Gate cult.
Fox News has a similar attitude about your money. Specifically, gold. If there is a single half hour show on Fox News that doesn't feature an ad by a company offering to relieve you of your worthless, government backed currency in exchange for gold that is a surefire way to hold onto your wealth then I must have missed it. Beyond that, if you watch that video up there you'll see that pundits have no problem encouraging you to buy gold before the inevitable collapse of the dollar.
And just like when a guy in a holy hat tells you he needs your money more than you do, there's something a little fishy about it.
Highly Specific Apocalypse Scenarios Any action movie director will tell you the power of a countdown. It grips a viewer and gives them a sense of urgency. Cults like to do that as well because it galvanizes you into action a lot harder if you think the world is going to end by a specific date. Until he died last year Harold Camping was mildly famous for his apocalyptic dates. Oh, and he was another one of those people who was big on you dropping all your money before the Rapture.
The date that frightens my father is 2026 from now because that's when Sean Hannity told him Social Security will be bankrupt. He repeats that line all the time no matter how often I send him this link. You see, it's hard to argue with fear and a sense of urgency because they are very powerful emotions. That's why 24 was a hit show, and Sean Hannity and the people at Fox News know that. The oldest, easiest, and cheapest way to control people is through fear. So if you want to know who is most controlled, look for who is most afraid.
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Stimulation of Xenophobia Finally, the thing that every cult is best at is establishing that outsiders are the enemy. The Branch Davidians did it, the FDLS did it, and it's that xenophobia that makes it so hard to help people trapped in bad situations. You may hate your life and know something is wrong with it, but it's the devil you know. Outside could be anything.
Here's our old friend Hannity again getting blasted by Ron Paul for assuring viewers that the entire Muslim world is trying to bring Sharia Law to America. To say that the average Fox News viewer is probably not Muslim is an understatement. Then here's Bill O'Reilly dead set on explaining that health care reform is beyond the shadow of a doubt the creeping specter of socialism and communism because those are totally the same thing.
In both cases neither man really has any interest in discussing what they actually mean. They're just using boogeywords to stir up vague unease against policies and people they don't particularly like. That's what a cult does. It isolates you from other sources of information, fills your head with fear, and controls your thoughts for the leaders own agenda. Sure, other news outlets do similar things, but I don't really see my liberal mother hiding away waiting for the day socialism takes her guns away.
MSNBC may be biased, but at least it's not trying to scare me into listening to it and no other source. I've read Helter Skelter too many times to trust someone with that game plan.