That Guy

Catching Fox News on a public TV screen can create an irresistible urge to reach for the off button

by Sean Bugg
Published on November 24, 2011, 2:48pm | Comments

For much of my life, I've tried hard not to be that guy.

You know that guy, the one who has a number of sincerely held and generally laudable opinions and beliefs that unfortunately are always conveyed with just the slightest sense of smugness. That guy who so obviously feels a sense of moral superiority when holding forth on whatever topic might be at hand. That guy who is on the crusade to turn off or change the channel on public TV screens that are showing Fox News.

It's that last one where I may have turned a bit of a corner on the road to that guy.

So my gym's locker room is filled with video screens, which are generally set to one of four cable networks: CNN, MSNBC, ESPN and Fox News. My own personal preference is for ESPN, because it's a gym and it just makes a certain amount of logical sense to me. Not everyone feels the same, which is why the channels get changed so often. Notably, when the earlier and older crowd is about, more screens get turned to Fox. The later evening, younger and basketball-playing crowd turns more of them back to ESPN.

Normally, I try to ignore most of what's onscreen because it's a locker room, and hanging out for an hour or so watching television while guys are showering and changing would just make me that creepy guy. But Fox News can be hard to ignore. This week, they caught my attention with a discussion focused on justifying the use of pepper spray by heavily militarized police officers on nonviolent college protestors. Because Fox News apparently hasn't met a police state it doesn't like.

So, click. And I will click again.

There are a couple of points to prove that I'm not yet totally that guy. I'm only turning off or switching to ESPN when I'm the only one watching. I have no desire to enter into a ''conversation'' or ''dialogue'' over the propagandistic evils of Fox News — I go to the gym to work out, not hone my political argumentation skills. And I can always find another locker near a screen where Rachel Maddow or Don Lemon are playing, giving me a more comforting cocoon to reinforce my beliefs.

Also, in fairness, I've turned off CNN and MSNBC as well when they're showing another annoying shout-fest between people from the ''left'' and people from the ''right.'' I know I'm not alone in finding them tedious, but I do find myself more alone in not finding them addictive. I'm all for news — I've been addicted to news since I was a kid — but I'm not so much into the all-spin, all-the-time mindset that's prevalent on most cable news channels and reigns supreme at Fox.

I'm pretty content getting most of my news through newspapers, magazines and websites. If anything of interest happens — say, Fox's Megyn Kelly dismissing pepper spray as ''a food product, essentially,'' as if UC Davis college police were serving up spicy Thai noodles rather than dousing students with a searingly painful compound with documented dangers — I'll catch it online because people on the Internet live for that stuff.

So I'm not completely that guy, yet. I see the signs and the potential smugness — I'm sure a Fox News fan would say, ''Potential?'' — and I'm keeping myself alert. I'll always think before I click.


Call 202-638-6830 to advertise here in Marketplace