I read a Sean Hannity book about a decade and a half ago, but I'm feeling much better now...
It can be mind-numbingly frustrating, whenever someone furrows their brow and shakes their head and muses aloud about the current political climate, and how we as a people became so divided. “Just how in the world did everything get so toxic?” they might ask, in sincere earnestness. But it’s extremely important to refrain from just reaching out and slapping someone like this, demand they wake up, and then exhort them in a tirade about how it’s that very sense of obliviousness that is largely responsible for the political crisis we all now have to deal with.
No, there is obviously a mind worth salvaging in a situation like that, and those are at a premium these days, and so the best course of action is gently to steer them in the age-old adage and indisputable wisdom that we are, in fact, exactly where we have always been headed. And once you get to at least that level of agreement, then and only then can you proceed to start trying to gently nudge them to start taking the blinders off, and steer them towards focusing their anger on the people who properly deserve it.
The problem is that it took the insanity of the Trump years, and his supporters eventually storming the capitol to smear their own shit on the walls, for most people even to realize the scope of the issue. But the fact of the matter is that this train wreck has been happening in slow motion for at least a couple decades now, to anyone who was willing to look at it for what it was. But we, as Americans, have had it easy in many regards, and have developed a false sense of security that somehow democracy was beyond the reach of danger, and that the constitution is some kind of magic document that will always protect us from the worst of human weakness.
The signs were varied, but they were clear and obvious as well. And there is plenty of room for debate about how they interplay with one another to set the stage for today’s disastrous political landscape. But one of the most prominent and puss-filled pimples leaving its stain on the American Ideal is named Sean Hannity, and his role in spiraling the population into it’s almost schizophrenic state of self-loathing and paranoid fury should never be underestimated.
I first became familiar with Hannity by reading one of his books many years ago, back when he was still just a right-wing bootlick and aspiring fascist. After being raised in an environment where NPR and New Yorker magazines where the standard sources of information about cultural and political news, I wanted to give things a fair shake and see what “the other side” had to say.
And that’s where the first piece of bullshit comes in - the “gateway turd”, if you will. I’d blindly accepted the false narrative that left and right wing media in this country were just two different sides of the same coin. But they aren’t even close, and it’s only now that people are finally starting to wake up to this reality.
The rest of the bullshit - the stuff that came in his book - came in the form of cherry picked facts, dubious conclusions, and an aggressive attempt to dumb history down and twist it into a narrative about how “liberals” are responsible for the undoing of the American Dream. The tagline of the books was, after all, The War Against Terrorism, Communism, and Liberals.” Looking back I can’t recall too many specifics about the book, other than the sound it made as I dropped it on the bathroom floor when I finished, startling my girlfriend in the next room, and punctuating the fear I had that I had just finished reading a dangerous example of stupidity that was specifically designed not to inform or enlighten it’s audience, but to convince them that an unholy alliance of commie professors, lying journalists and coastal elites were hell bent on destroying the American way of life, and needed to be stopped at all costs.
Fast forward a decade and a half, and Sean Hannity would wind up having arguable one of the most influential voices in the President’s ear, as our country careened further and further into a war with itself. The pages of his shitty book and the alternative history that they created had joined like a creek into an ongoing river of angry bullshit that was flowing out into the American population, day after day, and night after night, whether it be insane rants by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones about how the public water supply is turning the frogs gay, or just general local right-wing radio bitching about inept Democrats, high taxes, and gay marriage. The outrage machine had been turned on full, spewing its anger and conspiracy theories and bullshit, and we were well on our way to tearing ourselves apart.
Make no mistake about it, there was plenty of fertile ground to sow the seeds of anger. Globalism, poor economic policies, regulations that didn’t seem to make sense, and technologies that were making human workers obsolete were all just part of a landscape that was shaping things in a way that wasn’t working out so great for middle America. Democrats and “liberals” have a history of being tone-deaf and making their fair share of mistakes, and there is plenty of reason for a huge portion of the population to feel left behind. And their biggest mistake of all was to cede the territory to conservative voices like Hannity, to feel free pour poison into people’s ears on a nightly basis.
Not that he he could really even qualify as a principled conservative standing up for a certain set of values, or that he was some kind of pioneer in the field. He’s just another cheerleader in the culture wars that were started years ago on AM radio when it became clear that there were ratings to be had in outrage. His special place in the downward spiral of American history is that he is among the top performers to normalize it. The plan was never to offer an solutions to their audiences problems, merely to truly obfuscate the difference between what is actual news and his ever-flexible bullshit opinion in which facts and history don’t matter, just how he needs to spin them to get his fans gnashing their teeth at the dreaded liberals.
Of course, cable news and the 24 hour news cycle has changed the way people have consumed their media for a long time, and there is enough bias and the cheapening of information to go around in every outlet. But the idea that they are somehow just two different sides of the same coin is what led us to this place in time in history, where “alternative facts” have made their way into the White House and become acceptable, it’s somehow patriotic to storm the capitol of democracy and beat police officers ruthlessly, and there is a deep longing - especially among those that consider themselves traditional conservatives - for back when the debate used to be about actual policies, and was Right versus Left rather than Right versus Reality.