Fox News is Trying to Kill My Dad (And Probably Yours, Too)

Tucker Carlson at the 2013 CPAC.
Tucker Carlson at the 2013 CPAC. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
I spent a very frustrating weekend trying to convince my father to go get vaccinated. He’s in his 70s with both multiple sclerosis and lymphoma. With the Delta Variant running through the unvaccinated population like a grim reaper that has discovered mechanized farming equipment, I decided the time was right to confront him. It didn’t go well at all.

Despite his doctors urging him to get the vaccine, he has “made his decision” and it’s a “personal choice.” That’s the end of the argument because frankly no medical professional or loved one is going to stand up to the awesome power of Fox News’ cult of eternal opposition.

Nothing preoccupies Fox News personalities like the unencumbered right to be an asshole no matter who it hurts. My dad’s parrot-like repetition of the terms "choice" and "decision" show the lineage of his madness. Tucker Carlson has long railed against any sort of social prescription to fight COVID, most famously fighting against the mask mandate as something that should be illegal. He and other hosts are obsessed with the idea that the government will institute vaccine passports, even as Fox News itself implements them. The personal choice to refuse inoculation for any reason is treated as a paramount virtue.

This is called freedom, though in practice it’s hardly that. After all, the most compelling argument for vaccination and masks is not that an individual will be protected but that the spread of the disease will be lessened, hopefully stopped entirely. Every unvaccinated person is making life choices for the people they come into contact with regardless of consent or contract. Choice is a completely one-way street, something Carlson proved when he encouraged people to call the police on the parents of masked children.

Conservatives don’t want choice for everyone. If they did, they wouldn’t be spending all their energy trying to restrict voting access for millions of Americans. What they want is the ability to do the opposite of whatever liberals are doing regardless of the consequences. That is the entire mechanism of conservative thought, and it has been for many years.

Want proof? Last week Sean Hannity made an impassioned plea for viewers to get vaccinated, begging people to take COVID seriously. Once he was praised by liberals for the move, he abruptly changed course and swore he had never said people should get vaccinated. He again framed it as a personal choice, here a phrase that clearly means “don’t worry; you’re still not obligated. You can still say no.”

The Fox News universe runs on fear and human blood. Terrified people are susceptible to their version of corporate-sponsored fascism. Keeping their viewers in a constant state of anxiety over, well, everything, is how they maintain their grip on the cultural zeitgeist. By standing in basic opposition to something so basic as vaccination, they ensure that somewhere there is always a liberal like me annoying a conservative to please go against their “choice,” as if someone simply couldn’t change their mind. Thus is the cycle of opposition maintained, and there is frankly no body count high enough to make a conservative feel it wasn’t justified.

It’s too far gone now. Even if someone finally shut Tucker Carlson up with a wrongful death lawsuit, it would weave right into the theory that liberals are an oppressive force that want to take away your freedoms. It would be further proof that the opposition is needed even as the reasoning becomes ever more delusional.

Now, they’re like Kaiser Wilhelm in World War I ordering his fabulous Navy into once last desperate suicide salvo against the British even though the war was lost. Unlike the Kiel mutiny, though, I don’t expect Fox News viewers to disobey orders and live.

In a final attempt to reach my dad I brought up my past of alcoholism, which I had to be hospitalized for three years ago. If I started drinking again, not only would it be my personal choice, it would literally be a constitutionally protected right. Would he respect my decision, even though it would endanger me and my family?

He said he would, no matter how much it broke his heart. That was when I realized there may be no way out of this. When a man is so dedicated to a poisonous idea of opposition mimicking freedom that he’s willing to watch his loved one gutterball his life and the lives of those around him, what else is there to say? It’s a fundamentally alien system of morality that flies in the face of all human history and social science.

Fox News has built an army that cares about nothing but staying at war with liberalism at all costs. That includes prolonging a pandemic that has killed millions of people by demonizing vaccination. They are willing to have my dad and your dad and everyone’s dad die to fund that war. Even if they don’t die, in a real way they are already casualties.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner