Ignorance Ain’t Bliss

I have a feeling that I need to preface this article by stating that I am not a Democrat. (Nor a Republican, but that’s beside the point). Supporters of Fox News will be tempted to chalk these words up to liberal hogwash, but rest assured, this is sensible centrism from an individual who frequently critiques both of the major political parties and their constituents.

Last week, an elderly female relative of mine and I had a leisurely discussion about the current “situation” in the Middle East, and she displayed such slovenly and careless ignorance that I feared I might tear my hair out from rage. Lest she stumble upon this article, I won’t be naming her here, nor will I be stating our exact relation. I do not mean her any disrespect, and I acknowledge that she comes from an older generation – a generation of white Americans whose inexcusable ignorance can be excused because, quite frankly, they seem not to know better.

“It’s so frightening over there, isn’t it, Ryan?” she begins, and I don’t know what she’s talking about at first. Lucky for me, she’s quick to elaborate on what awful things “those Muslims” were up to in the Middle East.

For those of you that don’t know, some braying jackass named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula from our own Cerritos, CA and his buddies got together and made a film called “The Innocence of Muslims,” which claims that the Prophet Mohammed was a rapist, fraud, child molester and accountable for any other horrible crime one could ascribe to a historical figure without evidence. Unsurprisingly, the film caused an uproar. Riots broke out in Egypt, Yemen and Libya, where the U.S. Ambassador and several others were killed.

This is, of course, horrible. Religious dogma has never been an acceptable justification for murder, and there is no justification for the murder of an innocent man like Ambassador Stevens, who had nothing to do with the film. In fact, the very nature of the riots is wholly illogical and goalless, but that’s what rage is. Rage and indignance against an absurdist film.

All of this has left my elderly female relative terrified, terrified that these riots are the first in an Islamist plot that will result in a full-scale invasion of the United States. She believes that American-Muslims will soon protest as well. She states these things as a matter of fact, and merely shakes her head when I try to explain the absurdity. I try to explain that the Middle East is an infrastructural mess because of the Arab Spring revolutions, and that the actions of a few pissed off religious extremists and mobs in countries that have been off-and-on rioting for six months , but none of this gets through to her.

“It’s this video. And these Muslims. They don’t think like we do.”

I am flabbergasted. I ask what she means.

“Those countries are backwards,” she says, and I drop the subject. I can’t be too cross with her; if you had been told all your life that red was blue, you’d have trouble changing too. Especially if there was a 24-hour television news station that insisted, in spite of facts, figures and common sense, that red was in fact, blue.

I speak of Fox News, of course. A station that parades pretty (American) people in nice suits with flags pinned to their lapels who conjecture madness, fly off the handle and speculate about the end of everything you hold dear. They pander to ignorance. Liberal or Conservative, it shouldn’t matter; there’s nothing political about Fox News. It’s fear mongering, plain and simple.

A quick glance on their website shows a gallery of images portraying the Middle East protestors as savages, Obama as a coward (or worse, a Muslim-sympathizer) and more and more and more until you just want to scream. I can’t understand how my elderly female relative and her husband can stay glued to the screen for hours on end. All they do is pander and pontificate. Their champion is Bill O’Reilly, a man who was once rhetorically bested by the Insane Clown Posse. Five minutes of their programming, and I’m tempted to vote Democrat.

I’m not saying that all news stations aren’t biased. We’re only humans, after all, and all of our knowledge comes from each other. But some spins are so obvious it makes your head reel. After all, let’s be frank: if someone made an obviously false and fragrantly offensive film about the life of Christ, and a handful of extremist Christians took it too personally and started rioting, would Fox News call them “backward”?

I don’t think so. If you go to Fox looking for honest, unbiased news, don’t say I didn’t warn you; you’re better off with the Onion, as far as truth is concerned.

Ryan M. Cady is a third-year Psychology and English double major, and he can be reached at rcady@uci.edu