Thursday, August 09, 2012

Subcultures in America – The alternative reality of Fox Nation (David Frum)

An enlightening sociological observation from the conservative writer David Frum, a former neo-conservative Republican star and Bush administration staffer (the notorious "Axis of Evil" speech was mostly his brainchild) who is now trying to serve as the Voice of Reason on the right.  I'm not on the e-mail lists he's talking about here, but I do occasionally get the kinds of chain messages he's describing, and his overall analysis sounds right to me.

(Of course, right-wing social circles are not the only ones that generate subcultures pervaded by absurd urban legends, fantasied grievances, and mass delusions facilitated by the internet.)

—Jeff Weintraub

Daily Beast
August 8, 2012
The Fox News Wink: Is Obama "Gay"? or "Gay Gay"?

On Fox News' "The Five," moderator Greg Gutfeld offered up this comment in a jokey yuck-yuck tone:

"Obama is now out of the closet … he's officially gay for class warfare."

Speaking of opening the closet, Gutfeld's comment exposes something important that many observers miss about this campaign and the way Fox News covers it:

It's very important to understand that for Fox viewers, Fox is only the most visible part of a vast alternative reality. Fox's coverage of the news cannot be properly understood in isolation, but only in conjunction with the rest of that system—and especially the chain emails that do so much to shape the worldview of Fox viewers.

You cannot "get" Gutfeld's joke unless you "get" that a large part of his audience ardently believes that Obama is in fact gay, that his marriage is a sham, and that Mrs. Obama leads a life of Marie Antoinette like extravagance to compensate her for her husband's neglect while he disports himself with his personal aides.

Don't believe me? Just as an indicator, try this:

Google: obama + gay + "reggie love"

That search pulls up more than 80,000 hits.

Here's a quote from the first:
It’s quite clear that in the years ahead Barack Obama will replace Elton John as the reigning, party queen, gay icon. After he leaves the White House and exiles himself in Hawaii come 2013, supposedly to focus on building his presidential library in Honolulu (but, I think, in no small part to scope out the hotties in their board shorts), I bet Barack Obama will nurse his wounds and discover his inner fabulous.

With no political career left to worry about, he can openly be himself. Draped in colorful muumuus, with a retinue of hunky shirtless Secret Service studs around him, Barack Obama will find himself in a new kind of paradise no doubt.

Go ahead and laugh at the idea now, if you want. I remember hearing how some women scoffed at the idea that Elton John was gay back in the day too. “But he’s married!”, “He has a wife!”, “I can’t believe he’s gay!”. Well, believe it, sisters.

The current President of the United States is as gay, or even more gay, as Elton John. It might take ten years or so for him to finally come out and hold court on the circuit party scene, or this might be a case like with Rock Hudson and Liberace where the truth only comes out once Barack Obama has passed on far into the future…but there’s just no reason for guys like Kal Penn and Reggie Love to play the strange roles that they have played in Barack Obama’s life unless they were his boyfriends.
But Google can only very partially retrieve information that mostly moves in other ways. You can hear the impress of this "under news" in the calls to radio talk shows and in the comment sections of right-wing blogs. Listeners and commenters often share a set of references and a perception of reality only vaguely hinted at—understood by initiates, but opaque to the rest of the world.

Thus when Fox reports on (false) claims that President Obama seeks to limit military voting, they report to an audience that has for years absorbed a fictitious narrative about systematic presidential disrespect for the military.

Eg, like this:
Dear ,

Today I was incensed at the conclusion of a traditional Serbian-Orthodox funeral for my beloved 85-year-old uncle, Daniel Martich, who proudly served in the US Army during the Korean conflict. During the committal service at a Pittsburgh cemetery the local military detachment performed their ritual, then folded and presented the American Flag to my aunt.

As I'm sure you have witnessed during military funerals, a soldier bends to one knee and recites a scripted message to a surviving relative that begins 'On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation, I wish to present you with this flag in appreciation for your husband's service ...'

After the service, I approached the soldier who presented the flag to my aunt to inquire about the change in language. His response was: "The White House notified all military funeral service detachments to immediately remove 'the President' and insert 'the Secretary of Defense'.

I couldn't believe what I heard! The soldier just smiled and said, "You can draw your own conclusion, Sir, but that was the order".

He, too, was ashamed of what he was required to say.

Obama has taken off the gloves. My only response to this endless cesspool of anti-American rhetoric dripping from his mouth is to borrow a phrase "with one minor change" uttered by another temporary Washington resident living in government housing (his wife!): "Today for the first time in my adult life, I am ashamed of the current U.S. President!"

You'll not hear something quite so bizarre as that on television. But Fox News is edited and reported for an audience much of which believes such stories to be true, and edited and reported by producers and on-screen talent highly attuned to those beliefs.

David Frum is a contributing editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast and a CNN contributor.