Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why I'm Seeing Red

Blame it on the teabaggers.

I live in a coastal redwood forest on the outskirts of the godless left wing hippie fantasyland known as Santa Cruz, CA. When I went to university here in the mid-90s (modern lit, natch), Bob Dole used one of my classes (Violence in American Film) to underscore a point about the immorality of the media and the failures of a liberal arts education. My classmates and I were thrilled, and celebrated UCSC's concomitant cameo in Pulp Fiction, also a target of Dole's ire.

Once I graduated, I lived for 14 years in Gomorrah (New York) and Sodom (San Francisco) where I was surrounded by all manner of subversion, transgression, flamboyance, and great parties. I only considered the existence of America's conservative movement while I prepared for a visit to my parents in Orange County, CA. Or if Fox News was left playing on a T.V. at the gym. And the media I consumed reflected this fact--I drift comfortably in a country club pool of NPR, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, etc., all perfectly set to 98.6 degrees.

But the teabaggers gave me pause. I laughed along when Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow compared these well-funded, lobbyist-organized tax day protesters as an "astroturf" response to Barack Obama's grassroots-driven presidential campaign. Surely, these demonstrations are the stuff of church parking lots in remote regions of the country. But there they were, a few dozen libertarian-bent elder teabaggers, chanting outside the post office in downtown Santa Cruz. What the hell is THAT about?

It occurred to me that I had fixed in my mind some lunkheaded, xenophobic right-wing grotesque and applied it liberally across the entire conservative landscape. Surely a Santa Cruz teabagger must be a more complex creature. Some of these guys wore tie dye, for God's sake. Maybe there were others out there who defied my notion of conservative foot soldier.

Coincidentally, my wife Kate had just herself started listening to Glen Beck and Michael Savage while driving between Whole Foods, book club, the DMV, and other effete liberal destinations. She assured me that I should not be so circumspect.

So we agreed to consume nothing but right wing media for the month of May. The only national news source allowed is the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal. Beyond that, only a cloud of punditry, AM radio, and Chuck Norris. The only mainstream news we're allowing ourselves will be the source material linked from The Drudge Report,, and the like. We hope this effort will answer a few questions:

1) Are hardcore conservatives really as crazy as we assume they are? Just checking.
2) Could our prejudices about the conservative movement be preventing us from seeing legitimate and important policy solutions from the Right?
3) Does the media universe that serves the conservative movement give a full enough account of current events to allow listeners to make an informed decision?
4) Does the tone and presentation of conservative media provoke an emotional response that makes the content more persuasive?

We'll see. More to come on the details, but this thing kicks off on Friday. Right now, I'm drinking yerba mate and nibbling tempeh to strengthen my system--because come Friday, it's nothing but red meat for me.

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