Segments in this Video

Typical American Family (04:27)


View a quote about propagandists controlling society. Filmmaker Jen Senko describes her father as goofy, kind, and respectful of all people; view childhood home videos. He was a nonpolitical Democrat until he listened to conservative talk radio. (Credits)

Becoming a Fanatic (02:32)

Senko's father began listening to right-wing talk shows on long commutes. He considers Rush Limbaugh a hero and watches Fox News at night. Family members discuss how he pushed his political views on them.

Investigatory Film (01:49)

Senko began making a documentary to examine whether her father had been brainwashed by right-wing media. While fundraising on Kickstarter, she heard from many people whose family members had also been fundamentally changed by right-wing media.

Right-Wing History (02:00)

Senko recalls the nation's political and social shift during the Reagan years. The right was pronounced "dead" after extremist group the John Birch Society damaged Barry Goldwater's 1964 candidacy. Conservatives launched a media campaign to fight back.

Discrediting the Liberal Media (01:14)

Senko interviews former right-wing operative David Brock about trying to remove Clinton. Groups like Accuracy in Media tried to counter what they saw as media bias against the Vietnam War.

Roger Ailes (04:03)

Nixon's television advisor understood the importance of drawing audiences emotionally and built Fox News on the basis that "people…want their thinking done for them." He later worked for TVN, whose goal was to gradually push national thought to the right.

The Politics of Division (03:29)

Amanda’s parents became hateful and intolerant watching right-wing media. Hear how Nixon created cultural populism to win working class votes, including appealing to racist Southern whites. In 1972, working class people voted against economic self-interest for moral issues.

The Confidential Lewis Powell Memo (03:02)

After Civil Rights legislation passed, people protested that change did not happen quickly enough. Former Fox commentator Jeff Cohen discusses how corporate conservative elites created think tanks and appointed university professors to set up right-wing media channels.

Lewis Powell Memo Effects (03:43)

Right-wing activists unite at Grover Norquist's weekly meetings, generating talking points to distribute to conservative media. The Heritage Foundation has funded think tanks dominating policy discussion. Conservatives have shifted journalism goals from objectivity to balance, infiltrating op-ed pages.

Reagan Revolution (03:52)

Rather than the trickledown economy it promised, "Reaganomics" succeeded in making working class, white Democrats angry at social movements. Reagan’s administration idolized 1900 America as the national apex—prior to any progressive legislation. Hear his defense of poverty.

Supply-Side Economics (01:51)

Reagan's policies shifted from balanced budgets to giving money to business—stagnating wages and hurting working class voters. Chey's father, a Democrat, switched to the Republican Party after watching Fox News.

The Fairness Doctrine's Demise (02:43)

The Reagan Administration repealed the 1949 law stipulating programming in the public interest—resulting in a talk radio explosion. Bob Grant used overt racism to tap into resentment and insecurity in aging white men. In 1988, Limbaugh went national.

Rush Limbaugh Goes National (03:09)

Steve Rendall discusses how Limbaugh's confidence convinces listeners of false statements. Senko compares her father to a cult member. Hear from people whose families have disowned them for having liberal political views.

Champion of the Over Dog (03:35)

Senko discusses how her father adopted Limbaugh's false statements as truth. Limbaugh defended industries against public safety concerns; hear his top ten lies.

High Profile Listeners (02:42)

Clarence Thomas listens to Limbaugh, and distrusts the mainstream media. Jeff Cohen discusses Limbaugh’s cult-like status among "ditto heads." A former listener recalls his conspiracy theories.

Backlash against Clinton (02:36)

After election, Limbaugh spearheaded a right-wing media campaign partially funded by the Heritage Foundation. After taking over Congress in 1994, Republicans made him an honorary member. Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999.

The Telecommunications "Reform" Act (02:16)

A bipartisan effort gave the media to a handful of corporations. Rupert Murdoch launched Fox News in 1996; learn about his global influence and belief in shaping the news.

Fox News (04:44)

Hear how Ailes covered Clinton's affair, the 2000 election re-count, and 9/11. Brock and Edward Herman discusses the network's blatant right-wing bias and toxic effect on the rest of the media. View a false Fox story that CNN picked up.

Fox News Audience (04:01)

The median age is 69, but a growing number of teenagers are watching the network. Former devotee Matthew Saccaro recalls believing Bill O'Reilly was a champion of rights for common people. False stories included the ACLU's "war on Christmas."

Understanding Brainwashing (03:17)

Neuroscientist Kathleen Taylor discusses brainwashing by stealth, in which right-wing media viewers develop new beliefs without access to alternative information. Factors include isolation, uncertainty, repetition, control, and strong emotions. Senko believes her father is addicted to anger.

Lie and Skew (02:18)

Examples of the right-wing media's brainwashing tactics include the claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and "incorrect" statistics.

Create Confusion and Doubt (01:47)

The right-wing media's "Noise Machine" brainwashing tactic deliberately disseminates misinformation and fear mongers. Examples include voter fraud claims during the 2004 campaign and ongoing climate change denial.

Blame and Divide (01:16)

The right-wing media's brainwashing tactic pits groups against one another to deflect attention from the real instigators and destroy empathy. For example, the belief that African-Americans are unmotivated to succeed and prefer staying on welfare.

Brand and Label (01:41)

The right-wing media's brainwashing tactic labels democrats, liberals and progressives as big government spending, dishonest, America-hating elitists. It brands the media as liberal and claims it censors stories. Analysis reveals the mainstream news is center-right, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats.

Language and Framing (01:39)

In 1994, Newt Gingrich hired Frank Luntz to rephrase political language with a conservative bias. An example of the right-wing media's brainwashing tactic is calling the estate tax the "death" tax.

Fear Mongering and Use of Emotion (01:20)

As a brainwashing tactic, the right-wing media terrorizes its audience; when people are afraid, they do not think rationally and are more gullible. Fox News viewers believe ISIS is already in America.

Bullying and Shaming (00:53)

As a brainwashing tactic, the right-wing media cuts guests off from making points and fakes outrage to justify their bullying.

In Your Face (01:45)

The right-wing media deluges the public through Fox News, talk radio stations, websites and publications. Fox News is the primary television outlet for conservatives. Limbaugh's show is aired on military bases.

Non-Verbal Manipulation (01:14)

Fox News uses stimulating sound and visual effects to mesmerize audiences. Hosts like Bill O'Reilly use enticing body language and tell viewers who to blame for confusion.

Right-Wing Media Brainwashing Effects (02:10)

People share how loved ones fundamentally changed after watching Fox News. Militia groups have grown since 2001. Hear talk radio interpretations of Black Lives Matter, immigration, and gun control issues.

Brainwashing Deprogramming Efforts (04:25)

Former "Dittohead" Steve explains how he realized right-wing radio was propaganda. Cohen's book debunks Limbaugh's false statements while Flush Rush monitors advertisers on radio stations. The HearYourselfThink Project helps people expose and stand up to right-wing media manipulation.

Returning From the Right (05:53)

Senko's father's radio broke and he stopped listening to Limbaugh; his wife reprogrammed the television to avoid Fox News. He is happier and considers himself somewhere between a Democrat and a Republican. Senko reflects on their relationship.

Credits: The Brainwashing of My Dad (01:42)

Credits: The Brainwashing of My Dad

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The Brainwashing of My Dad

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This film looks at the rise of right-wing media through the lens of the filmmaker’s World War II vet father, who transformed from a non-political Democrat into an angry, right-wing fanatic after discovering talk radio on his lengthy commute to work. We learn that this is a common phenomenon, and, startlingly, that it is the result of the way the media has developed over the last 30-40 years. Beginning with the work of Roger Ailes to create a media for the GOP during Nixon’s campaign, she traces various developments that have changed the nation’s political direction and culture. This phenomenon has created the biggest division in the US since the Civil War.

Length: 90 minutes

Item#: BVL162956

ISBN: 978-1-64481-180-1

Copyright date: ©2016

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

QUOTES: Ken Levy in Moyers & Company: This kind of cynical indoctrination and the divisions it has caused not only among citizens but also among family members are vividly captured in Jen Senko’s brilliant but tragic movie, The Brainwashing of My Dad." DAVID ALM, Forbes “It’s about all of us.” DAILY KOS- Joe Strike "I was extremely impressed! I occasionally blog on the progressive website and I plan to tell people on the site about the film; it had me outraged at the concerted right-wing manipulation, then depressed over what seems like a hopeless situation--and optimistic at the end when Jen and her mom were able to wean her father off Fox poison." CLAIRE CONNER, Best selling Author: "Wrapped in the Flag": "Gripping . . . poignant . . . important. "The Brainwashing of My Dad" uncovers how radical right-wing leaders and Fox News created and nurtured the anger, paranoia, and hate now strangling our nation. Weaving history, political and media commentators, and the experiences of real people caught in the radical web, Jen Senko turns a complex story into a watchable, interesting, personal film. A definite must-see." RON WILLIAMS, Executive Director, Free Speech TV "A heartbreaking story with a happy ending, "The Brainwashing of My Dad" skillfully weaves the personal and the analytical into a prescription to heal the polarization and hate that is tearing our society apart." KAROLI KUNS In Crooks and Liars: "The Brainwashing Of Crazy Uncle Liberty -- And How To Counter It" “This isn't a film that you've seen before. No matter how many posts we write here about Fox News' lies, no matter how many times we warn about billionaires funding right-wing messaging, no matter how much we talk about how destructive it is, this film goes farther, and actually looks at how they do it. It's more complex than you think.” CAROLE DI TOST in Blog 5 Stars “The documentary is well edited and tells a fascinating story of propagandists, stealth and wealth. It is also the story of well-meaning Americans who have been derailed by a meretricious, power manipulative group to abrogate their freedoms and chain themselves to harmful, self-nullifying behaviors.“ “Senko’s amazing, comprehensive documentary identifies the growth of conservatism through media and its resulting impact on our lives. She reveals the systematic way that conservatives from The John Birch Society, etc. once thought to be “nutty” gradually joined with others of a conservative bent to “legitimize” a way of thinking that would in increments move Americans from embracing democracy to shrinking it.“ “Senko’s documentary is both highly informative and entertaining. “ “Senko’s documentary is a must see for its revelations and perspective, … “This is a studied, informative perspective in how to lose one’s democracy and freedom of speech, especially when one is divided from one’s friends and family by media that is blatantly political and works to take over one’s ability to think and decide for oneself. “

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