(Image: Private Media)

It’s good to see that readers have been too busy with holiday imperatives to write to Dear Leslie this week. Accordingly, she has picked up the slack with an open letter to Rupert Murdoch. 

Dear Rupert,

Wishing you the best of the season, which I trust will be as everything can be made in your world: exactly as you want it. 

I’m writing to you about my father. Gosh, even typing the word makes me tear up. I miss him so much, though he’s actually not dead. In fact, for a man in his 80s, he’s physically healthy and fit. 

But the person he’s become, Rupert, is so unfamiliar and hard to deal with. If he wasn’t my dad I’d be keeping the same distance adopted by his former friends and golf buddies who, my brother says, got so sick of Dad’s constant political aggression — even after they all agreed not to discuss current events any more — they dropped him. 

My stepfather almost did the same the other day after yet another pugnacious assertion by my father of a false fact, this time that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States. 

“Why is he even talking about Obama?” I asked when my brother called to tell me about the near implosion of my extended family in Boynton Beach.

“Who knows? But I told him `Dad, if you don’t stop talking about politics, you’re going to lose what’s left of your friends.’” 

But my father can’t stop because he can’t bring himself to stop watching Fox News and compulsively regurgitating its content. “So do you have the Omni, Ovri…” he asked me the other day. 

“Omicron. Yeah, we have it.” 

“How are they handling it in Australia?” 

“Well…”

“In Florida, there are people at the restaurants, people in the shopping malls, people out on the strips, people in all the stores, people driving on the roads, people…” 

“I’m not sure what this is telling you, Dad.” 

“That everything’s fine here in Florida. CNBC and the `liberals’ are saying that…” 

Suddenly I get it. I’m in the middle of an American network war. He’s not even talking to me.

“Why are you telling me this?” I blurt, hurt and exasperated. “I’m not CNBC. I don’t even know what you’re talking ab…” 

“You went to Wesleyan. Everyone says that Wesleyan is the most liberal college.” 

“I went there 35 years ago, dad. Can we stop talking about this?” 

“What about the Steele Dossier?” he challenged. 

It ends badly.

For the past five years, since he tuned the TV to Fox and left it there, it always ends badly. 

Which leaves me shaken and bereft. There’s not a lot of time left for me and my dad. After a childhood filled with the trauma of an ugly separation and barely avoided custody battle, and me now living permanently on the other side of the world, all we have is phone calls — which I’d love to be peaceful. Filled with trivial chitchat about the things that he used to care about. Like the amazing lay-up or jump shot by some legendary NBA player or the exercise program he was doing — or even teaching — at the club or how he’d be willing to risk his heart on another little poodle if my stepmother would relent and let him get one (which she won’t).

Enjoying his love and letting him feel loved and appreciated for the ways he’s been a good father — instead of deeming me the enemy. 

Not forcing me to confront the sad fact the man who taught me right from wrong doesn’t recognise, or care, about the difference anymore.

I’ve tried everything to return the soul of the man I once knew to the void beneath his skin; ignoring him, reasoning with him and trying to distract. But this holiday season I’ve suddenly accepted I just can’t win. Fox News is more present than I am in his life, and the way it’s taught him to “think” and what he’s come to believe is true has made him a citizen of a planet of resentful unreason where I can’t — and won’t — follow.

No one will, not even my brother who loves him more than anything in the world, which means he’s been left there on his own, destroying his legacy as a person as he stamps his foot and says mean and silly things.

So, here’s to you Rupert. For what your evil disinformation empire has unleashed on the most precious things in this world: the love of family and the freedom guaranteed by democracy. As we head towards the close of another difficult year on Earth One, I hope life in the alternative reality your fact-free infotainment complex has created — and the jangle of coin in your pocket — is worth it.

Leslie 

Send your dilemmas to [email protected] with “Dear Leslie” in the subject line and you could get a reply from Dr Cannold in this columnWe reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity.