I used to have a really big problem, stretching back 20 years or more: I liked to get angry. Not at people, or anything, but ideas, concepts, situations—the larger state of society, culture and life today. Okay, I didn’t like it, at all, but I recognized that anger at things I can’t control has some actual real life benefits. Not enough to counter all the negative aspects of anger, like stress, depression, and the social toll of not being particularly pleasant to be around much of the time, but I mean, if you were working some dead end desk job in Dalton, Ga., in the lead up to 2003’s bullshit invasion of Iraq, you’d probably be looking for an impersonal outlet for your anger, too.
All that time the best, fastest and easiest way to get angry was to spend even 10 seconds listening to far right media. Hannity’s execrable radio show was my drug of choice in ‘03—dude’s the purest of dicks—but I’ve kept a general tab on the scene since the late ‘90s. Anybody who’s paid attention to the complete fantasy world that the far right has been building for decades—one built entirely on lies, grievances, and shameless pandering to racial, class and religious identities—realized immediately that Donald Trump’s absurd and unthinkable presidency was everything they had been hoping for all that time. And yes, as they’ve manifested their own weird Chicago School / Southern Strategy version of the Black Lodge into reality, it’s made watching or listening to their shameless, disingenuous shows almost impossible. Trump killed whatever temporary buzz I got from mainlining the far right’s lies, and if that is a good thing, it’s the only good thing about the last four or five years.
Everybody knows Fox News and its distorted take on the world, as well as the major talk radio shysters like Hannity, Limbaugh, and Michael Savage. And the internet is a bottomless chasm of increasingly reactionary, increasingly dangerous sites, message boards and podcasts that take right-wing hatred and revisionism to even more extremes. But there are other channels that now appear on many mainstream cable TV packages that occupy a space somewhere between those two—Fox News wannabes trying to make their name by being more “conservative” than Rupert Murdoch’s channel, which usually means being even more subservient to Trump. The most prominent, and thus most dangerous of those, is One America News. And as a long time hate-consumer of far right bullshit and conspiracy theories who remembers tuning into OAN on its very first day of broadcasting, it’s kind of frightening to see how much this operation has grown by shamelessly defending Trump at every turn.
OAN’s notoriety has increased steadily during Trump’s presidency, reaching a new peak in the last couple of weeks due to its “reporters” tossing up some of the most laughable softball questions during the daily coronavirus briefings. Most infamously, one of its employees launched an utterly unhinged conspiratorial rant about how mainstream (ie, legitimate) media was working with China to spread anti-Trump propaganda about his administration’s response to the pandemic—saying this in a room full of actual journalists who worked for many of those mainstream outlets.
With a raised profile comes even greater scrutiny from media and political watchdogs, and that would normally be a good thing, if there was any reason to believe it was possible to puncture the ideological bubble of the Trump-loving right-wing. John Oliver spends almost 20 minutes exposing OAN for the fact-free non-news station that it is in the clip below, and as satisfying as it is to watch for anybody who’s still in conversation with the truth, a familiar core of sadness remains, that constant realization that almost nobody who consumes right-wing media like OAN will be deterred from doing so by exposés like this. The best Oliver can hope for is raising awareness about how terrible OAN is among those who aren’t hopelessly in thrall to the right-wing media apparatus. If you aren’t aware of OAN’s irresponsible and unprofessional non-journalism, let Oliver reveal it all for you in the video below. If stuff as detailed and funny as this existed 20 years ago, maybe I wouldn’t have felt the need to listen to talk radio for six hours a day while vacantly typing in some long-dead insurance company’s database.