I'm in California right now, staying with my in-laws for a few days in the Inland Valley. They're complaining about the heat here, which makes me laugh in the same way it makes Californians laugh to hear about the East Coast earthquake. YOU KNOW NOTHING OF TRUE SUFFERING, CALIFORNIANS.
Anyway, the dual televisions at my in-laws' house are always on, and the volume on those televisions is always parked somewhere between "Revved Harley Davidson" and "Please, sweet heavens, my ears are bleeding". Also, they only watch two stations: Fox News and the Horse Channel.
I don't know if it's actually called "Horse Channel", and, frankly, I don't want to know. It's unfathomably boring. I like horses as much as the next born-and-raised urbanite. They're beautiful creatures, mankind's closest friend besides dogs, and they helped my white ancestors totally take over North America. I've even ridden horses once or twice. But do they really need their own cable network? Did you know there's a breed of horse with curly hair that's hypo-allergenic? I do, because the Horse Channel informed me. Does knowing this change anything about my life? No. But would I rather watch the Horse Channel for six straight hours than sit through 10 minutes of Fox News? You bet your chaps and spurs and horseseat I would.
(CORRECTION: My wife informs me these "horseseats" are referred to as "saddles".)
Now, despite what my dad might tell you, I'm not a flaming liberal communist. I grew up staunchly conservative, and I would consider myself a moderate now. Philosophically, I think faceless government institutions are incapable of truly providing solutions to the world's problems, and that real difference is made only through the actions of small independent communities and individuals. Generally, I prefer minimal government power and involvement, whether it comes to guns, religion, marriage or intoxicants. So maybe I'm a libertarian? I don't know. The point is, I think I have a better grasp on conservative principles than most of my liberal friends, and I absolutely see their merit.
But Fox News is not about principles. Fox News is awful. It's beyond awful. I hate nearly everything it airs. I resent being fed news like a half-wit baby bird munching on its mother's regurgitated worms. I resent having loud voices relentlessly pounded into my skull. I resent being told what to fear. I was watching the other day, and the most obscurely small news story was being yelled about between a field reporter and a desk jockey while the word "ALERT" scrolled by, over and over, in all caps. 15 years ago, "BREAKING NEWS" meant some crazy shit was going down. Now, it means Nancy Pelosi haggled with Girl Scouts over the price of Samosas.
When it launched, I kind of liked Fox News. Honestly, the majority of media does lean left. It's not a conspiracy, and it's not about pushing an agenda (at least for the most part). The media leans left because the people who write newspaper stories - who produce copy for the nightly news - earned liberal arts degrees from American universities. On average, those people are going to be liberal. When it debuted, I didn't mind that Fox News might be a counterbalance. Journalism should be about examining all angles of a story, and if you're an college-educated journalist, it's somewhat reasonable that you might land on a liberal perspective without fully examining the other side. I mean, The Tucson Weekly has some terrific journalists posting here every day, but I'm guessing an informal poll of the staff's political stances wouldn't exactly mirror Arizona's national reputation.
Whatever you want to say about Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch, they understood a huge portion of Americans believed the same thing. Then they went way, way too far, to the point where Fox now consists almost solely of screaming punditry masquerading as legitimate journalism. Journalism should exist to examine nuance, to provide the information required for a functioning democracy to make thoughtful decisions. Fox News could've been a vital cog in informing Americans about different perspectives. Instead, it exists to perpetuate fear, which feeds ratings, which fills Rupert Murdoch's coffers with advertising dollars from weird companies selling gold coins emblazoned with assault rifle-wielding bald eagles.
Of course, I'm preaching to the choir here, spouting my indignant self-righteousness to an audience of similarly-minded alt-weekly readers. I guess I could throw in the requisite qualifier that MSNBC is the liberal equivalent, except I never watch MSNBC, and ratings indicate no one else really does, either. All I want is for my in-laws to turn down the damn TV enough so I can hear myself think and maybe read The Post-Mortal in peace and quiet.