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George Zimmerman Couldn't Change the Conversation — But Can 'The Newsroom'?

I’ve had many infuriating conversations with my incredibly conservative, Republican stepdad. He’s laughed in my face for pointing out with facts the inadequacy of Mitt Romney during the 2012 election. We argued over the political reputation of Obama in 2008. We’ve also silently disagreed about immigration reform, birth control, gun control, and health care reform, because we both know how that conversation will end. Every time I turn on the television in his and my mother’s home it’s already on Fox News. Every time I get in his car the sexually frustrated, diabetic voice of Rush Limbaugh rattles the dash of the old pickup.

I’ve always just accepted his ignorance though. I stoke the fire every now and then out of boredom, curiosity, or just to give my mom an alternative opinion than the one of the man she lives with. But recently I hit a ceiling with LarBear (as I affectionately refer to my stepdad). Having grown up in Nashville, I never thought I would be reduced to tears out of sheer frustration after having a political conversation with a man raised in Philadelphia. But I was, and it was during a discussion of the Zimmerman verdict the day after it was announced.

This time I decided to come out of the gate swinging because I needed to take out my frustration with my country on someone close to me. In a rant that I’m sure my parent’s neighbors heard, I angrily listed all of the facts and then posed to them the question that I really did desperately need an answer to: How did this happen? I genuinely thought that LarBear might say something moderate about state’s rights and then pontificate on how my generation would have to save the future, and then I would be able to breathe a little easier knowing that it’s just Florida that needs to be sunk like the Titanic. Instead he gazed into his whiskey and refused to make eye contact. 

“Do you not think it’s wrong?” I asked hoping he was just mulling over an eloquent way to communicate through our divide. “Well you know, you can’t make it about racial implications, Chloe.” I felt my face turn red. “You mean to say I can’t make it about race?” I asked starting to raise my voice, because nothing makes a racist more of a coward than using terms like “racial implications” when what they really mean is race, the color of someone’s skin. "Racial implications" are not a real thing — they’re an idea that makes racists feel better, an idea placing the emphasis on the thing that makes them uncomfortable rather than the fact that they are uncomfortable with it.

The rest of the exchange went as follows: 

Larry: “Well there wasn’t enough evidence to determine if racial implications were involved." 

Me: “That’s not even a real sentence. And Zimmerman’s crime and the trial is one giant racial implication. It doesn’t need evidence, it’s a matter of right and wrong.”

Larry: “It’s not politically correct to say racial implications played a part.”

Me: “It’s not politically correct to kill black children.”

I sat in my car crying because I was so mad at him and the situation in general. For as often as our political views don’t align, I’ve still always revered my stepdad as an intelligent man. But the argument we had went beyond anything intelligible. It was a feeling I had seen on television before in debates and on shows like Meet The Press, in which one addresses a conservative with facts and in return is met with complete nonsensical Fox News propaganda. 

And that’s the problem with this country more than anything. There are no longer standards for productive discourse. Conservatives have been pushing forward legislation that is bigoted, racist, religious, and dangerous, and instead of having to articulately explain why it they want us to revert back to the 1700s, they start saying things that don’t make sense.

Which leads us to my ultimate, less important point: that HBO’s The Newsroom is a great show. It’s great for many reasons, one of which is that while you’re watching it you can pretend that there is actually some forum where Jeff Daniels holds corporations, legislators, and public figures responsible for their actions and statements. For me though, it was the first time I felt a unified notion of camaraderie with my fellow liberals, because even though it’s fiction, if this show has an audience then I’m not alone.

There’s a moment in season one where Sam Waterston is defending the show within the show to Jane Fonda, the head of the network. Fonda’s character is pissed that a show on her network is attacking the right wing nutjobs that fund the network and whom she has to directly do business with. She accuses the show of being biased to the left. Waterston’s character then has a brilliant response. He says that the show represents the center, because the center is neither left nor right, it is where the facts are.

This article was supposed to be more about The Newsroom and less about a conversation that I had, but that conversation I had is a prime example of why I think that The Newsroom is way more important than just a television show. Slowly the GOP is self-destructing, and with the potential for Texas’ next governor (or perhaps even the next president) to be a Democratic woman, it’s not far-fetched to say that the tides are changing. There will always be conservative fodder on TV for their followers to salivate over. But I can only hope that if such an ideal format for news exists in fiction, it won’t be long before broadcasting the actual news won’t be considered attacking the GOP — it will just be the news.

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