I backed The Brainwashing of My Dad when it was a Kickstarter project for pretty much the same reason that the filmmaker decided to make the film at all: A family member’s personality had radically changed, and we couldn’t understand why. And in many ways, this is exactly the documentary you should be watching on the 4th of July.
In both cases, the family member changed from a moderate or liberal and kind point of view to one that spouted venom and anger from a very conservative point of view. It was almost as if their whole personality changed, mystifying and hurting those around them.
The Brainwashing of My Dad uses the very personal story of Jen Senko’s father as a touchstone to explore and understand a very radical change in the media in the United States. Spoilers: It’s been deliberately and concertedly changed by right-wing political groups. Not only have they changed how the media – including the news – is presented, not only have they changed the way we think about the media and the news (and not for the better), but they’ve done so in a way that is self-reinforcing.
This kind of effect is seen elsewhere (and I’m getting more technical than the film does, which is a good thing) in politics, surveys, and even the world of advertisement. Once someone has made their mind up about something, it becomes extremely difficult to change their mind. Our minds have a very bad habit of immediately dismissing or discarding information that challenges our pre-decided notions.
Questioning your own decisions and thoughts is something that requires both deliberate self-awareness and a willingness to let go of one’s own ego. The current media culture- and particularly on the political right – reassures people that they’re correct, tells them they don’t have to question themselves, and even pre-dismisses any other form of media for you.
Whether we like it or not, our brains tend to go with the option that requires the least amount of effort, unless we deliberately and mindfully examine our own actions.
The Brainwashing of My Dad is a great overview of not only the concerted right-wing media takeover, but a personal story demonstrating the tragedy of losing a loved one to Rush Limbaugh. You can find the video at thebrainwashingofmydad.com.