Another television season is upon us without anyone having yet unmasked the hidden agenda behind the cynical humor broadcast by the Fox television network.
Fox shows such as "The Simpsons," "Family Guy," "Arrested Development" and "Malcolm in the Middle" have in common an over-the-top humor that skewers everything and is, frankly, quite funny. You might think that good satire is the salve that American democracy needs -- but in this instance you'd be wrong.
Behind Fox's media farrago of dysfunctional families, venal politicians, hypocritical hypermoralists and even corporate greed, lies a very unfunny message right out of Dante's Inferno: you can't believe in anything and your generous heart will only be broken if you strive for better, so abandon all hope.
Bart Simpson's celebration of slackerdom, diabolical infant Stewie in "Family Guy," "Malcolm's" sadistic mother and figuratively castrated father, and Ken Lay-esque corporate defrauder George Bluth in "Arrested Development" all paint the world in the color of deep despair.
Yet Fox, whose commentator Tony Snow was tapped to be George W. Bush's press secretary this year, is an odd bearer for a message of despondency. No one who examines the facts can walk away unconvinced that, starting from its inception as a brainchild of Reagan political operative Roger Ailes, Fox Cable News and its affiliates were conceived to operate as a propaganda beam.
Bush and Fox share a fondness for the most flowery of family values, misty eyed hand-on-heart flag waving and Christian evangelicalism's waggingest moral finger.
So if this is the neocons' broadcasting megaphone, you'd think, this is not your father's Republican Party. Not quite: it's your grandfather's or great-grandfather's GOP. Let's recall that the America conservatives want to conserve is that of 1906 or 1806 -- not 2006.
Indeed, having failed for generations to win in the open marketplace of ideas, conservatives have seized upon a new formula to complement their fear mongering: ridicule everything until nobody cares. Then right-wing operatives can hack democracy to pieces without opposition.