Normally I'm about as interested in Hollywood divorces as I am in grass-growing competitions and NASCAR, but I thought Camille Grammer's dissing of her ex-husband, wingnut actor Kelsey Grammer, was interesting for what it said about the state of our national discourse and how that filters down into our private lives and personal relationships.
Camille Grammer, interviewed early this week on Joy Behar's HNN show, indicated early on that she and her now-ex-husband no longer saw eye-to-eye politically. And that seemed to be part of a larger drifting apart in the relationship, because they no longer had sex, either:
BEHAR: Was it his fault or your fault or both?
GRAMMER: It could be both, but it was more on his end.
BEHAR: More on his end?
BEHAR: OK, well then again, good to be rid of him.
GRAMMER: [Laughs] You know. I miss intimacy. I think that's a really important part of a marriage, is to be intimate with your partner. And we didn't really have that.
BEHAR: It really is nice. But cuddling is fun.
GRAMMER: Oh, I love cuddling.
BEHAR: You didn't do that.
GRAMMER: He was too busy watching Fox News. He didn't want to cuddle.
BEHAR: Well, there's a real turn-on.
Of course, when Fox's Bret Baier ran an item on this yesterday -- minus any video -- he was properly appalled: "Fox News has been blamed for a lot of thing, but this probably takes the cake."
And on the superficial level of Hollywood divorces, it would be silly indeed to read too much into this. It is, after all, purely anecdotal evidence from a single relationship.
Nevertheless, the general phenomenon she's describing is a dynamic I believe has been repeated on a massive scale over the past decade and more: friendships, family relationships, marriages and other close personal relationships soured because one of the two people involved has become a fanatical devotee of movement conservatism, particularly through the cultlike auspices of talk radio and Fox News TV -- and the other person in the relationship does not.
We've all encountered it: former college pals, or hometown buds, or old flames, or coworkers, or brothers-in-law, or grandfathers -- all convinced now that you've become a bad person because you're aiding and abetting those evil liberals in their attempt to destroy America. And what happens on an interpersonal scale is often ugly. It happens at Thanksgiving tables, at weddings and family reunions, when you go home to visit and see your old friends, or at work with people you've been friends with for years.
There are several reasons for it. The first is that the relentless message of the right-wing talkers, whether at Fox or on the radio, is simple and unmistakable: Liberals are bad people, sick in their souls, and they want to destroy America and your way of life. Day and day out, that's the message the True Believers get. And boy, do they believe it.
The second is that, as Nicole reported awhile back, it's been definitively established that Fox News watchers are deliberately malinformed -- that is, they believe a broad array of things that are factually untrue, but have been told by Fox News that they are true:
Fox News is deliberately misinforming its viewers and it is doing so for a reason. Every issue above is one in which the Republican Party had a vested interest. The GOP benefited from the ignorance that Fox News helped to proliferate.
As we've explained on many occasions, this kind of rhetoric alienates people from reality -- including the people who choose to live in that reality. By functionally unhinging people -- there is no other way to describe the effect of persuading people to believe, doggedly and unshakably, in things that are provably untrue, even in the fact of irrevocable factual evidence -- it serves to drive a real wedge between them and everyone else, while conversely forging powerful bonds with the like-minded.
Finally, it must be understood that the mission of both Fox News and talk radio is not merely to propagandize with disinformation, but also to inflame. This is why conspiracy theories -- which, functionally speaking, are narratives intended to induce simultaneous feelings of powerlessness and paranoia -- abound on Fox News. There's no one quite as congenitally angry as a congenital Fox Watcher.
No wonder Grammer didn't want to snuggle. What Fox News does is make people want to go out and beat up liberals. As Joy Behar says: What a turn-on, eh?
This isn't a problem just affecting Hollywood marriages. It's affecting millions of personal relationships, and in a decidedly poisonous way. Fox News, as Bill O'Reilly likes to say about the "far left," really is bad for America -- bad for our politics, bad for national discourse, and really, really bad for our friendships and family ties, the very real fabric of our society.