When Director Jen Senko set out to make a documentary about her father, boldly titled, The Brainwashing of My Dad, little did she know she would be starting a small revolution. She always knew the influence of the media was an important subject – after all, how is it that something as basic as listening to the news could completely alter and change her father's very personality and philosophy of life in a way that promoted fear, anger and racism? She knew it was big. But she had no idea how big.
Jen's father was a non-political Democrat in his younger years. She describes him as funny, fun, and friendly. She never knew him to have a bad word to say about any race, religion, or social class. Fast forward to the 1980's, the family moved and her father changed jobs to which he now had a long commute. And on that commute he would listen to talk radio to pass the time. Gradually, he completely changed. Now he didn't like anyone, and had bad words to say about everyone.
Once Jen announced her documentary on social media sites, the comments, emails, and phone calls came pouring in. It turned out that what happened to her father was happening to others all over the country, in exactly the same way. Thus, The Brainwashing of My Dad is not only about Jen's dad, but fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and friends from all over the United States of America.
Though I was one of the many out there who didn't know of this active phenomenon, I became her film editor. After seeing the trailer, Hollywood actor and political activist Matthew Modine and his partner Adam Rackoff came on board as Producers. Over the course of two years, and using Jen's outline for the film that she had been developing for years previously, I began to research and study the media and its manipulative tactics on us all. I learned more than I could've imagined; we all became passionately involved. Soon I began to co-write the film with Jen and writer Melodie Bryant. Matthew and Jen narrated the film together, and artist Bill Plymptoncontributed to the story with his unique animations.
The heartbreaking stories of people around the country kept coming in. The devastated cries of families divided because someone close to them had become hateful and angry, motivated us even more. We thought: these people need to have their stories heard, too. And so one by one, they were interviewed for the film. As much as we would have liked to honor each one of them by featuring their story in the film, we had to narrow it down to about a dozen. There are some juicy bits we had to leave on the cutting room floor, or it would have turned out to be a three-hour movie. But on thefilm's website and social media sites, some of these personal stories live, along with an array of videos and articles and updates.
It's not too hard to believe this phenomenon when you simply look around at what is happening today during the Presidential Primaries in the Unites States. To quote the social activist and philosopher Professor Cornel West, "the corporate media has produced Trump in a fundamental way – every minute he is covered, every second he is covered. Bernie Sanders hardly gets covered at all, but he has the same number of people following [as Trump does]. Hillary Clinton gets covered more than Bernie, but not as much as Trump."
And it worked. Because of this massive coverage, Trump with all of his rhetoric, has become an actual candidate in the running, beating out the other Republican candidates, often in a landslide. As the documentary explains, the corporate media motivates viewers to vote against their own interests, and instead support large corporations.
The most influential and dangerous of the news channels is Fox News, run by the insidious Roger Ailes, and owned by media giant, Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch himself admits in the documentary that he uses his news outlets as a vehicle to put out his own political agenda. And when fact-checking Fox News statistics and polls, we found that they outright lie to their viewers.
But Fox News channel is most threatening because it has become extremely influential on the other mainstream news channels. For example, even CNN and MSNBC ran the entire extended news conference that Donald Trump held in Florida, even though it is customary for a news channel to flip back and forth to two conferences happening at the same time. These major news channels simply held the tape on Donald Trump, and didn't bother to show Hillary Clinton's conference. So what does that say about our media today? When electing someone as important as the next candidate for President of the United States, where do we get the information necessary to make informed and intelligent decisions on who to vote for?
Neuroscientist Kathleen Taylor explains in the documentary that this kind of media is a certain form of brainwashing on the American people. If the news only provides certain information, and purposefully withholds other information, this will, over time, change the neural circuits of the viewer's brain. Even those of us who think more independently aren't immune to its power.
So is there no way out of this trap? Awareness will always be the key to salvation. It will encourage people to question what they hear, change the channel, fact-check their media sources. The Brainwashing of My Dadteam has started a movement for awareness. Join the fight. We've teamed up with independent news sources such as Steve Rendall's FAIR, and grassroots organizations such as HearYourselfThink who also appear the documentary.
Founders Erin and Dave Ninehouser of HearYourselfThink say it best: "Break the grip of media manipulators, and reclaim the space to hear yourself think."