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March 18, 2016

THE BRAINWASHING OF MY DAD

Brainwashing-of-My-DadJen Senko’s workmanlike (Kickstarter-funded) documentary examines American media’s propaganda-led phenomenon of extreme rightwing bigotry with a fine-tooth comb. The right’s “media phenomenon” of sophisticated public think tank-invented propaganda has accomplished its goals on a lot of citizens, even if however not as many as its primary architect Roger Ailes intends.

Senko does her homework. Interviews with such key figures as Noam Chomsky, David Brock (Media Matters), former Fox News commentator Jeff Cohens, and authors Gabriel Sherman and Claire Conner provide a wealth of background information and context. This is a solid political documentary with style and grace to spare.

Senko’s filmic journey comes from personal experience. Jen’s once Kennedy-loving father used to be the kind of guy who would address a homeless person as “sir.” Long hours spent listening to Rush Limbaugh while commuting alone in his car turned the old man into a hate mongering “ditto-head,” furious about such non-threats as “feminazis.” Frank’s discovery of Fox News amped him up further into a proper monster who treated even his own family members like dirt. Frank spent his time reading and forwarding dozens of rightwing emails to his friends and family members daily.

The Kickstarter element is significant to “The Brainwashing of My Dad” because the fund-raising format caused dozens of people to reach out to Senko with their own stories about people close to them “becoming enraged and unreachable after obsessively listening to, or watching, rightwing media.” Through interview clips with some of these victims we get a sense of the enormous toll that right’s 24/7 media propaganda campaign has taken on millions of families in America.

A canny clip from a Hilary Clinton “Today Show” television interview from 1993 captures the career politician speaking from the gut when Clinton says, “The great story here for anybody willing to find it, write about it, and explain it, is this vast rightwing conspiracy.” She is (no doubt) referring in part at least to the rightwing media cabal that monopolized American print, television, and radio media in the years after Reagan became President. Conservative think tanks play a role in what gets taught in universities and which professors get hired. Senko uses captivating visual techniques, such as animation (courtesy of Bill Plympton) to help her audience process a deceptively large amount of information on hand.

Keep in mind that Clarence Thomas likes to brag that he tries to listen to Rush Limbaugh three-hours a day. If you’re wondering where so many Trump-voters came from, here’s your answer.

Not Rated. 90 mins. (B+) (Four stars — out of five / no halves)

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