Counterpoint: Fox News Is Ruining a Generation

Late last month, New York magazine published a really good piece by Frank Rich that made the argument that it might be time to ignore Fox News. That the network, like the reactionary viewpoint it champions 24/7, may seem powerful at the moment but there’s no denying that it’s staring down the barrel of demographic extinction. The median age of Fox’s audience is 68 and it’s not replenishing the viewers who die off simply because it exists only to terrify old white people into believing that their country is being taken away from them by progressives and their “new” way of looking at America and the world.

I agreed with Rich’s assessment that there’s no choice but to let Fox News’s point-of-view literally die. Maybe that’s because on a personal level my own father is one of the seemingly rare Fox News viewers who watches the network only occasionally, as part of a “fully balanced” diet of varied news sources. I don’t have to deal face to face with a crazy conservative relative who lives and breathes whatever Fox tells him to, and therefore can’t see the immediate damage the network’s nonstop avalanche of bullshit can do to those who submit to it.

But there’s a pretty good column over at Salon right now — yes, I’m recommending Salon — written by someone who does understand the damage Fox News can do in massive quantities. Edwin Lyngar’s take is that abandoning those aging, largely white Americans who get their entire worldview from Fox means abandoning his own father, who has immersed himself so fully in Fox News’s alternate reality that he’s apparently hardly recognizable anymore.

The salient part of the piece:

I do not blame or condemn my father for his opinions. If you consumed a daily diet of right-wing fury, erroneously labeled “news,” you could very likely end up in the same place. Again, this is all by design. Let’s call it the Fox News effect. Take sweet, kindly senior citizens and feed them a steady stream of demagoguery and repetition, all wrapped in the laughable slogan of “fair and balanced.” Even watching the commercials on Fox, one is treated to sales pitches for gold and emergency food rations, the product cornerstones of the paranoid. To some people the idea of retirees yelling at the television all day may seem funny, but this isn’t a joke. We’re losing the nation’s grandparents, and it’s an American tragedy.

People talk about the imminent “death” of Fox News itself, because of an ever-aging demographic. Again, Frank Rich makes this case, but I think his argument is dubious. Certainly the audience is graying to oblivion, but it’s a cold comfort to those of us who watch our parents or grandparents drown in an incessant downpour of outrage. We will only see the “End of Fox News” when my father and his contemporaries die. I do not want to watch my father and his entire generation spend their remaining years enraged at utter nonsense.

It’s tough to argue with the points Lyngar makes. In the abstract, it’s easy for people like me to say, “Screw it, they’re dying off anyway,” but when the ones dying off — those wasting their golden years filled with rage over what they see as the destruction of their way of life — are your loved ones, I suppose it’s an entirely different story.

The end result is still the same: Fox News’s die-hard audience won’t be around much longer. But for those who have to live with them while they’re still here — who call them father, grandfather, uncle and so on — that’s not exactly a comforting thought.

(This piece has been corrected. I originally wrote that the average age of Fox News’s audience was 68, not the median age. Sorry for the oversight.)

  • Frankie “da scarf”

    This is total leftist media crap! I’m a college prof. and 10 out of 28 of my students, every class on average, watch FOX. 1/2 of my younger than 60 colleagues watch FOX. At least 1/2 of all the other people I talk to watch FOX. “Salon”??…yeah, the faggggs and deluded all read THAT! Whatever THEY say is gospel to THOSE a@@holes!

  • Barry__S

    Sooo,, what’s the median age of CNN Viewers?

  • Christopher Martin

    I kinda think anyone knowingly getting their news from a biased source is pretty challenged, but most of the media is admittedly liberal (as members of the largest news providers have confirmed), so…yeah, it’s just difficult to find “straight” news anymore.

    It’s very arguable (and accurate) that most of the other news sources have paid far too little attention to the horrid gaffes, distortions, and outright disasters by the current Dem-dominated American government, and it’s laughably easy to point at the recent MSNBC demonstrations of full-on obscene hatred as examples of why Fox News is far from the only “problematic” news source.

    Get your news from varied sources, and follow the links to get as close to the source story as possible.

    • dbtheonly

      Chris,

      I’ll take the other side of, “but most of the media is admittedly liberal”.

      Citing Eric Altermann’s, “What Liberal Media” 2002 (I think)

      And demand citations for, “as members of the largest news providers have confirmed”. Cites from CBS, NBC, & ABC will suffice. Remember though, you’re not arguing that any individual has political preferences. This is America. You’re allowed to have political opinions. You have to establish that the published “news” is intentionally slanted.

    • Robert Scalzi

      The so called liberal media is a MYTH – a lie that has been shouted from the rooftops by con men for a quarter century.

      • GrafZeppelin127

        Longer than that, I think. Wasn’t it Nixon, or one of his people, who coined the phrase?

        • Robert Scalzi

          you are correct – but the rightwing noise machine didn’t really crank up to deafening volume until Saint Ray-gun was elected and squashed the fairness doctrine

  • Sean Richardson

    ” just as big a tragedy [as losing parents to cancer or Alzheimer’s] are the crops of grandmothers and grandfathers debilitated by Fox News-induced hysteria.”

    I’m sorry, but this guy is an asshole.

    He is comparing watching too much Fox News to having Alzheimers? FUCK YOU. Maybe if you actually talked to your father once in a while, like you still can because he DOESN’T HAVE A PERMANENTLY DEBILITATING BRAIN PROBLEM, he wouldn’t watch Fox News all the time. Maybe if you spent a little more time doing things with him that he can still do because he is CANCER- AND ALZHEIMER’S-FREE, he would feel a little less like his life and by extension his country are slipping away from him. Maybe if you were present in his life to show him an example of a good liberal, he wouldn’t go to his grave afraid and angry. I know that likely the father was an asshole first, which led to the son being an asshole, but still.

  • http://www.BarnesFamily.com/ davebarnes

    I yell at the TV all the time and do not watch Fox News.
    I yell at the idiots on HGTV.
    Not quite retired, but am on Medicare.

    • KarenJ

      I did that 10 years ago. I stopped watching after they stopped airing Alex Anderson’s quilting program, and a couple of years of Curb Appeal.

      Never fear, you’ll graduate to The Food Network soon, and all will be at peace. Lots of vicarious gorging on yummy food.

      I started watching MSNBC after the 2008 RNC and the introduction of that horrible Sarah Palin to the nation, and only recently have begun to wean myself from even that network (thanks to Martin Bashir’s unwise rant and subsequent “resignation”, and the really crass unseemly campaigning for his time slot by the Farrows, mother and son).

      I honestly don’t know why we even subscribe to cable TV anymore. Most of it’s crap and interminable ads.

  • W B

    Who cares, old people are grumpy, mean and smelly anyway. Let em die off spending their last years watching Fox News. Gives us a good reason to ignore them and put them in a home.

  • james

    I’m not so sure sympathy is warranted. When you get right down to it, Boomers, who make up that dying demographic, pretty much brought this on themselves. They were the ones that dismantled social safety nets in the 80’s after reaping the benefits. They were the ones that jettisoned long-term planning in favor of large, short-term gains. They are the ones that decided to ban gay marriage. They dropped taxes into the toilet, rejected efforts in the 90’s to pull together universal health care, stripped consumer protections of the banking industry, barred students from being able to discharge their debt in bankruptcy court (conveniently after they got all the higher education they needed), and tanked the entire world’s economy.

    These are the same people, the EXACT same people who decided that houses weren’t meant to be homes, but rather, methods to generate a quick buck. They were the ones who made home loans easier to get, who used those home loans to buy houses they were never going to live in, flipped them for a profit, and artificially inflated the price of housing to the point at which home are way, WAY more expensive than they should be. These are the idiots that decided that elections were about wedge issues and not actual governance. “Vote for me because that guy might be gay. I’m not. I like vagina and tits,” was an actual stance that could actually get you elected.

    Pardon me, but I am not really shedding a tear watching these selfish, narcissistic people who have always acted like the world revolved around them panic because the effect of the shift of power to another, younger generation really does make them feel like the world is ending. The plain fact is that yes, it is; THEIR world is ending. And good god, it couldn’t come soon enough.

    • nerdnam

      No, the Boomers weren’t the ‘ones’ who did that. An entire nation did that. Young, old and middle. No generation ever controls everything.
      You are ranting an idiotic and hateful delusion that hurts the left because you are writing off people who can and do vote for Democrats. Senior citizens are an important constituency of the left and they are definitely NOT ALL Fox News viewers. If this were not so, Florida would not be a ‘battleground state.’ This is a plain fact.
      So you too can cram it. Take your dumb bigotry and shove it.

      • james

        Two terms of Reagan, one term of Bush Sr., a house majority of conservative republican voted in by “traditional” values, the defense of marriage act, the first government shutdown, the impeachment of a President over a blowjob, the repeal of glass-steagal, two unpaid wars, state-by-state marriage bans, a collapsed economy, gerrymandering of the house districts, and another shutdown…

        The largest constituency in modern American history has little to nothing to show for its reign. I am getting the sense that you are so hyper-sensitive to any poster that marginalizes the boomers, and then tend to make a snide redirect at the millennials because you are a boomer. You pretty much admit it in one post, when you state that “when you were young, the boomers would never see social security.” I get the fact that you don’t want to be lumped in with them, because of how you might have voted and what you might believe has run contrary to these idiots and that you take great offense to that because you feel that its bigotry because it treats your generation as monolithic.

        …but that doesn’t somehow mean that the demographic that held the reigns for the last 30 years have achieved pretty much nothing and have been, at large, a colossal failure. And that’s why I don’t feel sorry for those people that Chez wrote about, who end their life as terrified old people with diminished voting sway who think the world is ending. Do I want medicare to be cut because of it? No. Do I think that Social Security should be axed? No. It’s just me stating that Chez’s “Devil’s Advocate” article needs to really keep in mind exactly to whom he’s offering his sympathy.

  • WilleVorstellung

    The most interesting thing about this article is what it doesn’t say. Namely, that every progressive media attempt has tried to copy Fox News in every way and has failed. This is true even in terms of movements. Where is the coffee party? Air America? I’d say what you’ve got here is the media equivalent of penis envy.

    Another paradoxical ideology of the left, ‘we hate fox news so much we are going to copy them’. Ranks right up there with being intolerant of intolerance.

    • Jezzer

      Oh, fuck off with your martyr complex about being called out for bigotry.

      • WilleVorstellung

        Coming this fall on the Outdoors channel, fishing for Progressives:
        ster·e·o·type
        ˈsterēəˌtīp,ˈsti(ə)r-/
        noun
        noun: stereotype; plural noun: stereotypes
        1.
        a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

        • dbtheonly

          You know Will, you sarcasm is really more applicable to the RWMO.

          Am I the only one laughing at the comment stereotyping Progressives for stereotyping?

    • Sean Richardson

      Speaking of paradoxical ideologies…

      Every attempt by the media to be liberal has failed, but also the entire media is liberal, that’s why we need Fox News.

      • WilleVorstellung

        you’d be correct….. if only I would have said that. Following up a paradox with a fallacy is well, fallaciously paradoxical. Isn’t it your side that is always going on about facts and logic and reason, none of which have been displayed by any of you yet.

      • Robert Scalzi

        idiot

  • trgahan

    I don’t know….yeah, FoxNews as a medium (maybe even am radio) could be “dying,” but I know (antidotal, i know) a lot of 20 and 30-somethings that combine the loud, resentment filled, crotchety-ness of a hypothetic 68 year old conservative FoxNews viewer with the arrogance and self-love of youth (ie. I’ll just work harder than anyone else!; I’m too smart to have that happen to me!; etc.).

    In fact, sometimes it feels like once pot is legal and plentiful and homosexuals are no longer second class citizens the Democratic party (and progressivism in general) will be screwed…

    • Jezzer

      Exactly. I fear young libertarians a lot more than I do traditional conservatives.

    • WilleVorstellung

      I think you mean ‘anecdotal’, unless you suffered from a Freudian slip and subconsciously you know that Fox News is the antidote to the poisoning of the mind more commonly referred to as progressivism.

      • trgahan

        thanks…stupid typos…

  • muzzyh8ter

    Jesus, Fox is the only TV channel that doesn’t carry the water for the corrupt Obozo Admin. You idiots allow him to neuter the Constitution and screw up this country without a peep because he’s bl_ck. What a bunch of lemmings.

    • Matrim

      So, out of curiousity, are you completely unaware of your ignorance or does it ever just hit you now and again?

    • villemar

      Out of curiosity, and on topic, what age demographic are you?

      • dbtheonly

        I’m still working on the “screw up the country” part.

        I can remember 2008.

        • muzzyh8ter

          With your Art History Degree you can say “Welcome to MacDonald’s” with such class. The economy didn’t take a shit during Bush’s tenure until the asshole Dems took both houses. You assholes own this mess.

          • Mike Brown

            This holder of a Masters Degree in software engineering is here to tell you that you are full of shit as:
            1. The economy started to tank well before the democrats took the senate and house….
            2. WTF does them taking both chambers of congress have to do with banking deregulation and the housing bubble that where both 100% products of the GOP?

          • trgahan

            Dude….he hit’s triple jumps on a motocross track! As is required for completing advanced degrees in economic theory and political history from the University of Chicago

            (apologies to all normal people who enjoy the sport of motocross and/or attended the U of Chicago.)

          • muzzyh8ter

            Let me guess, you share a bath house with all of these liberal idiots.

          • trgahan

            that’s first class muzzyh8ter

          • dbtheonly

            He’s certainly been reduced to little more than meaningless insults. Or rather, he’s offered little more than them from the get-go. It’s funny how oft repeated sound-bites and slogans pass for erudition in the RWM World.

          • Jezzer

            Exactly how much intelligent debate are you expecting to get from someone named “muzzyh8ter”?

          • muzzyh8ter

            Let me guess, you wrote the code for Obozo’s Waterloo Website. WTF kind of code did you use? For Christ sake idiot COBOL was dead more than a decade ago. Fucking Troll.

          • Robert Scalzi

            hey douchebag – you are Waaaay ut of your league here – please go flush yourself out to sea

          • muzzyh8ter

            Fuck you pussy.

          • dbtheonly

            Yep. President Obama caused the economic collapse two years before he was elected. The Bush tax cuts didn’t increase the deficit. Iraqis would welcome us with open arms & their oil’d pay for the entire war.

            I love the RW bubble mentality.

            BTW if the Democrats control of Congress in 2006 made them responsible; does the Republican control from 2010 make them responsible now?

            Thought not. IOKIYR.

      • muzzyh8ter

        Young enough to hit triple jumps on a motocross track but old enough to protect my way of life.

        • dbtheonly

          Protecting your way of life?

          Have you read much about the US in the 1850s? Some guys then wanted to protect their way of life thought they called it Slavery.

          Everything old is new again.

          • muzzyh8ter

            WTF does this have to do with slavery? Hey genius wasn’t Robert Byrd a high ranking member of the KKK? You idiot. You should have took a few History classes as an elective instead of the Art History BS.

          • dbtheonly

            Did you miss the, “Protecting your way of life?” part? Their “way of life”? That peculiar institution?

            Robert Byrd! Jesus Christ and General Jackson! You can certainly pull out the standard arguments. Like no one ever grows? Like everyone is frozen in time?

    • Sean Richardson

      The fact that you consider “black” to be an epithet that needs to be censored says an awful lot about you, and none of it is positive.

  • nerdnam

    It isn’t just Fox News. There is also the fantastic hidden underground of insane email forwards.

    • dbtheonly

      Insane e-mail forwards are not only a RW tool.

      • nerdnam

        I haven’t seen any other kind.

        • dbtheonly

          Count your blessings or thank your spam filter.

          • nerdnam

            Your example of none is noted.

          • dbtheonly

            Okay, but you understand how closely your argument parallels, “there’s no Global Warming ’cause it’s cold here”?

  • D_C_Wilson

    I’ve been fortunate. My parents are in their 70s and have managed to avoid the slow rot of Fox “News” on their brains. They’re still relatively sane politically to the point that we can at least have reasonable conversations. Sometimes, my father even agrees with me!

    But for those who are victims of the Fox Effect, all that simmering rage cannot be healthy for aged hearts and arteries. I wonder if the CDC can do a study to see if Fox is shortening people’s golden years.

  • aynwrong

    For me the relatives are my uncle and aunt. He is utterly unapproachable when it comes to politics. I made the mistake once. Never again. With him it comes as out as a rage that’s perpetually on slow boil. And I’m told he never watches Fox. But he’s been consuming Limbaugh’s horse shit for decades. And it shows. It’s a shame. He’s a smart hard working man. He owned and operated his own business for many many years. But regarding anything politics or God forbid the Democratic party, way off his beliefs beyond reach.

    My aunt, forget it. The stuff that comes out of her mouth makes her sound like her mind is somewhere out where the buses don’t run.

  • villemar

    OK so we can be nice to our loved ones in that demographic, meanwhile on the side let’s gaslight the fuck out of he broader Boomer population; hopefully they’ll stroke out early in apoplectic rage. When they’ve been fully demographically de-fanged and marginalized, we can write the history books and correctly label them as the single worst generation in all of U.S. history.

    • nerdnam

      You can cram it, too.

      • villemar

        Well I was being a bit of an asshole in my response. But in regards to your response to Ashes, he (or she) is, broadly speaking, correct, and there is no real hope for many Road-to-Damascus awakenings among this crowd at this point. But in terms of actual potential damage, I can easily implicate my (Gen X) generation as being much more of a threat. Here’s why: Boomers (broadly speaking, of course) tend to be grand ideological crusaders, filled with lots of shrieking and wailing. Xers, on the other hand, tend to be pragmatists. The ideological drives are still there, they are just acted upon without creating the same fuss and bother as the Boomers would.

        Take our President, whom while he may not be According-to-Hoyle Gen X, I consider to be culturally Gen X. He’s extremely pragmatic and just handles his business without making a big spectacle of himself. While he has been obstructed at every turn he’s still managed to accomplish so much that it will take years to objectively catalog all of his accomplishments. Now imagine a Tea Party zealot with both political power and Gen X pragmatism, quietly pursuing crazy Loonytarian goals. Someone who can work behind the scenes to annihilate the social safety net. The prototypical Boomer will make a big spectacle out of himself, so you’ll be able to see him coming, all sound and fury, a mile away. An easy and obvious target. Not so for the Xer. Watch out for them.

        As far as Millenials go and the kids behind them, obviously the younger they are the easier they are to win over.

        • nerdnam

          Gee, why don’t you just use astrology to generalize about large numbers of people you don’t know?
          You know, like all the other liberal hippy types, right?

          • Jezzer

            Why don’t you take that chip off your shoulder, dude? You’re not exactly contributing to the discourse yourself.

          • nerdnam

            Sometimes there’s nothing to contribute except to say, quit doing that thing, it’s stupid.
            And this kind of generational blathering is stupid. Period.

          • villemar

            Don’t be obtuse. There is such a thing as Generational Theory; I didn’t pull this out of my ass you know. And I’m not so fucking arrogant that I think the broader historical and cultural events that occurred over the course of my life has had no impact whatsoever.

          • nerdnam

            Oh, it’s ‘Generational Theory?’ (Capitalized, no less.) Can you cite the academic sources you are relying on?
            I’m sorry, this crap is ALWAYS out of your ass whether you think it is or not. It’s nothing but idiotic stereotyping, no different from telling me all about the blacks or the gays or the women. It’s BS when it’s applied to Boomers and it’s BS when it’s applied to kids–you know, all those ‘millennials’ who supposedly can’t read or do math or clip their own toenails. It’s JUNK.

          • villemar

            I apologize for my micronegationist, generationalnormative ageism. I should have realized that everyone is a Beautiful and Unique Snowflake, perfectly unsullied by the influences of history and culture.

          • Frederic Poag

            LOL! Best retort I’ve read in awhile. Kudos!

  • Jason E

    My father listens to am radio more often than Fox News and I fear it’s worse. Savage, Hannity, Limbaugh etc. He lives in a deep red state and I can barely speak with him. There are many reasons we are not close, but I’m afraid this is saddest of them. Some days I grateful that he has no interest in computers or the internet, because that would add a whole new level to the misinformation and paranoia. These type of gaps happen with every generation but I do believe we’ve had the bar raised on us.

    • aynwrong

      Agreed. A.M. radio makes Fox News sound like a bunch of reasonable moderates.

  • judi

    BUT…..it is also hard to go to family gatherings, at least here in Tennessee, and be told by your aging conservative, wealthy, well traveled, Republican relatives that Obama and Michelle hate white folks, he’s destroying the country, the government is going after religion, the UN is going to rule the country and blacks should know their place.They complain about tipping (“they’re already getting minimum wage’…..not) and yet complain that so-and-so who’s 83, has to work to get by on SS, and can’t earn enough only making minimum wage at Family Dollar.

    Lord love a duck!!!!

  • Aaron Litz

    68? Seriously? That’s really the average? Wow.

    • P.Yew

      68 is the median age, not the average (aka: mean), as the blogger claims. The median ages for the other networks are in the 60s as well. It’s also from Nielson which has been shown to be inadequate in measuring ratings for modern content delivery systems (and arguably television as well).

      • Chez Pazienza

        You’re right. It is median. I hadn’t gone back and read the full Rich piece in a while. I’ll adjust. As for Neilsen, TV outlets have been complaining about it for decades and there’s little doubt the system has trouble reading the various platforms available now. But Fox News’s audience still skews higher age-wise than other cable networks and it also has fewer young viewers on the back end that other networks can boast.

  • Ashes Defacto

    It’s hard to have a whole lot of sympathy for a generation that benefited greatly from the education and social programs that sprung from the New Deal and the Great Society. Then turned around and voted overwhelmingly for Republicans because they thought Ronald Reagan made them feel good or something. You’re talking about the most self centered and petty generations in American history.

    Fox News didn’t change them, by and large they’ve always been assholes.

    • nerdnam

      Please, cram it. No generation is all the same. And if one American generation is a bunch of a-holes, what do you expect their kids are?

    • Gunnut2600

      I think that you are ignoring the economic factors that occurred globally after WWII. After the war, there was no competition for US products. For perspective, Russia, our major competitor after WWII, was unable to replace housing stock lost in St Petersburg until the mid 80’s. Japan was effectively gone, China still had to go through the cultural revolution and the civil war, and Europe was a basket case.

      To take advantage of what the US had, we forced globalization, which not only affected the countries demolished by WWII, but crippled local markets in places like Central and South America, and parts of Africa.

      So the US could not help but make loads of money. Now that there is competition through globalization, the US is losing its shirt. And it doesn’t help that Americans will not pay for infrastructure investment or living wages. Now if you want to criticize how the Boomers responded later to the changes in the Global Economy, that is fine, but don’t act like the New Deal and the Great Society Movement happened in a vacuum.

      I think a good point of what I am trying to say (and I apologize as English is not my normal language of communication) is to examine North Korea and South Korea just after the signing of the cease fire accord. For a number of years, North Korea was far ahead of the South in almost every economic factor. So if you just look at that without considering the heavy support it was getting from the Soviet Union and China, it would appear that the control economy of the North was much better than the South.

      Just some thoughts.

      • Hooverville Follies

        Good historical perspective, nerdnam. Thanks.

        • Gunnut2600

          I think you have me confused with the previous comment maker.