I felt torn after watching this flick. On one hand, it's a not-half-bad way to get introduced to the history and methods of right-wing media. For my money, Manufacturing Consent is better, but "Brainwashing" gets some of the job done, fairly effectively.
But something niggled at me after watching. I needed time to further metabolize my experience and nail down my remonstrances. Luckily, my subconscious mind did it's usual dependable voodoo, and I feel I can now tell you what it is that takes some "stars" away from my rating.
It's this: The movie fails to show the real cure for what it was that ailed the titular Dad of this story.
It ends by describing how the family eventually weaned "Dad" away from right-wing media, and toward more positive social/civic messaging. And, by story's end, Dad seems to have brightened up and appears to be in a better place.
But... why does this not feel like a happy resolution/"positive takeaway" for me?
It fails because it doesn't show the true cure for what ailed Dad. The true cure is an abiding, (small-'r') republican concern for decent governance. These days, I would call this a healthy, life-affirming stoicism. At the beginning of the story the Dad is a dupe for negative emotional oversimplification; at the end he's dupe for positive emotional oversimplification.
The name of the game is to not be a dupe, of *any* stripe.
I remember when I first heard Rush Limbaugh. I heard him for about 20 minutes on a commute to an office gig, driving an old Dodge Colt that only had AM radio. I found him entertaining enough on that first exposure. So I turned him on again on my next commute. It was either on that second exposure, or maybe by my third, that my stoic self sat up and took notice: Rush had no real civic sensibility. I eventually would have needed to hear that he had his feet solidly on the ground of civic engagement and factual awareness. But I began to notice that his exposition was like a swiss cheese riddled with holes, where those holes are various and sundry dodges and tricks of emotional oversimplification that I was supposed to metabolize as an abiding concern for the American republic, but which I recognized for the sham they were. I probably didn't listen to him a fourth time, done with him after a week.
The film can't give us an image of a Dad who's become more truly circumspect and stoically engaged with the world around him... which is what's fundamental to the promise of sustainable (small-'r') republicanism. It can't give us that image probably because the Dad never figures that out.
Not the best resolution to the key issue, by my way of evaluating these things.
Which is why I can't really recommend this movie, or might give it a hedged recommendation.
I recommend the writings of Chomsky and Herman if you want to understand how right-wing media works. As mentioned above, the Canadian production of the "Manufacturing Consent" movie is a pretty decent way to get a fairly comprehensive overview of the issues broached by the book(s).
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