Apr 27, 2019
‘It was like some alien took over his body.’ — Right-wing media brainwashed Jen Senko’s once open-minded father, but the story didn’t end there.
» Subscribe to NowThis: http://go.nowth.is/News_Subscribe
Jen Senko: ‘Right-wing media tore my family apart, and my father’s story explains how.
When I was growing up, my parents were very open-minded.
They were like hippies before hippies happened. They always stuck up for people if they were made fun of for being different.
My father, who passed away in 2016, was a great example for us in treating people equally. One indelible memory I have was a day trip to a New York museum. It was important to him that we had ‘culture’. We lived in New Jersey so New York was a short bus ride.
We were coming out of Port Authority and ran into a Black homeless man right outside the terminal. He asked my dad for some spare change. I was scared because I had never seen a homeless man before. My dad stopped though, called him ‘sir’ and gave him some spare change. He chatted for a moment, then we moved on. That taught me to respect everyone.
After high school, I went to Pratt Institute. My father, who worked as an electronics engineer for the government, retired from that and got a part time job with a long commute. He started listening to Talk Radio. Talk Radio then was Bob Grant, the openly racist and sexist, bombastic radio host. He was called The Father of Conservative Talk Radio. He would refer to Black people as ‘savages’ and once called Martin Luther King a ‘slimeball’.
Very slowly, my dad began to change. He became more irritable and more judgmental of others.
About a year later my dad fully retired. And then he found, and fell in love with, Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh had learned a lot of tricks of the trade from Bob Grant. He appealed to the older white guy who perhaps felt shoved aside as times were changing. Soon my dad was having his 3-hour ‘Limbaugh lunches.’ After he ate, he would sit with a beer and listen to Limbaugh bloviate. Limbaugh must’ve said what organizations to join because soon my dad started getting lots of right-wing mail, and then emails.
This caused a lot of problems in the family. My dad became very opinionated and angry. Just say one thing that tripped him and he’d blow steam out his nose. He started forwarding us emails, which were full of lies and exaggerations about President Clinton or how horrible Democrats were. I was living in New York and when he sent emails saying that liberals hated Christmas, I was flabbergasted.
I lived in the land of liberals and everyone I knew loved Christmas.
I had lots of gay friends after college. When my dad first met them he praised them, saying how ‘cultured’ they were and how it was nice I was friends with them. When I heard Limbaugh bashing gay people, I asked my father if he agreed with that now, and he got angry and said ‘I don’t want it in my face!’ Wow. What happened to Dad? It was like some alien took over his body.
We all begged him to stop forwarding us these emails but he wouldn’t stop. First my brothers blocked him online, then I did. It was a nightmare and the nightmare got worse when a fellow Limbaugh fan introduced him to Fox News. My parents ended up in separate bedrooms so that my dad could watch and listen to it.
My mom ate lunch on her own in the living room. It really was tough. And worst of all, my dad was miserable, angry, and paranoid.
For a long while it destroyed our family.
Then my parents moved to a senior community, and during the move my dad’s radio broke and he didn’t fix it. Later on, he went to the hospital for a kidney stone, and while he was there, my mom unsubscribed him from the right-wing emails and subscribed him to sites like Truthout and Alternet. He read them all.
When they got a new TV and my mom programmed the remote,
he didn’t bother to change the channel to Fox News.
Then one day he told my mom, ‘I like Obama, he’s a good guy.,’
And she was like, ‘What?’ As time passed, his anger lifted, and he became happier.’