Every few months, I get a certain kind of text message from my dad. It might be a meme he found on Facebook of a picture of Bill Gates with the caption, “Don’t take health advice from people who think the world is overpopulated.” It might be an article about the murders that Hillary Clinton commits to cover up her past. It might be a 30-minute YouTube documentary about the impending one-world government under the New World Order. Responding to his texts is a lose-lose: Either I dispute the conspiracy, and we argue, or I leave it be and implicitly condone it.
My dad isn’t just mildly susceptible to conspiracies about election fraud, or why the media can’t be trusted. Conspiracies are his information, his entertainment, and his worldview. (When I remind him that I’m in the media, he says that I’m different.)
When I was growing up, my dad would listen to AM talk radio on every car ride—either sports, or political hosts like Eric “Mancow” Muller, Michael Savage, and Rush Limbaugh. When we’d arrive home, those pundits would resume talking on his Bose Wave radio, playing loud enough to fill the house. When he would doze off, my brother and I would scheme to lower the volume one decibel at a time until we turned it off completely, but dad would notice—every time, somehow—and tell us to turn it back on.
I remember watching an episode of the TV series 24 one day, and inviting my dad to watch it with me. “I don’t know how you could watch that show; it’s so unrealistic,” he said, before pausing to reconsider. “It gets one thing right, though—all the government does is lie.”