Interview with documentary filmmaker, Jen Senko, about The Brainwashing of My Dad
My guest today is documentary filmmaker, Jen Senko.
JB: Welcome to OpEdNews, Jen. You recently finished The Brainwashing of My Dad. Tell us a bit about it.
JS: The Brainwashing of My Dad is a story about both the transformation of my father after his discovery of right-wing media, and the history and tricks of the trade behind that media. I look at how the media changed over the last 30-40 years through the lens of my father. It's no accident that it became as right leaning as it did. It's also no accident that simultaneously the country became so divided.
JB: More, please. Let's start at the beginning. How did your dad get hooked in the first place?
JS: My parents moved and my dad suddenly had a long solo commute to work. Where he used to ride to work in a carpool with a bunch of guys, he suddenly had this long commute by himself. For company, he turned on Talk Radio. At that time Bob Grant was the king of Talk Radio. Bob Grant was openly racist, sexist and homophobic. When my dad retired he continued with Talk Radio at home - he found Rush Limbaugh. He had what I called his "Limbaugh lunches" everyday - and you were not allowed to talk to him during this time! Then he met a friend at the "Y" and HE turned my dad on to Fox "News". So my dad would have both on in the kitchen. He'd mute Fox when Rush wasn't advertising and he'd sit there for the full three hours, eating his lunch, drinking a beer and listening to Limbaugh.
JB: What did all this quality time with Right-Wing media do to your dad? Was he still the warm, fuzzy guy you all knew and loved previously?
JS: Well, that was the thing" my dad had been a very open-minded, loving-all-people kind of Democrat and he changed into a ranting, radicalized, far Right Republican. Not like the Republicans I knew when I was growing up but a new kind that I was starting to experience more often: angry, argumentative, hating Democrats, poor people and minorities. When email came along he started emailing everyone he knew, evangelizing every right-wing view there was. Most of the emails were lies or exaggerations but all were very anti-Democratic. My mother would email him back sources to negate these charges but he just got more angry. My brothers and I finally had to block him because his emails just caused arguments and got us upset. His emails were never of a personal nature. Even relatives started blocking him. I felt like my dad was like a pod person - like in the movie "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers". His body was there but the man we knew was gone.
JB: What a nightmare! Not only did your dad change but that must have thrown off the whole family dynamic. How did you all handle it?
JS: Well, aside from blocking his emails, we tried to steer clear of any political conversation. It was difficult because everything became political. If you said "Gee, it's cold out" you might get a response like, "See, there is none of this phony baloney global warming." It did cause us all to dig deeper into what we believed ourselves. I think we all started reading more. I suppose we were arming ourselves with knowledge. It was sad because we all kind of closed down a bit. As a family we used to be able to talk about everything and that no longer was.
JB: At what point did you turn outward to see if yours was the only family on the planet suffering from this condition?