I've often wondered how conservatives can tolerate a steady diet of the likes of Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and Hannity. I don't mean why they find those kinds of programs appealing, because there are many reasons for that. I mean as a steady, long-term part of your daily routine. Doesn't the steady stream of outrage just become overwhelming after a while? Can you really shake your fist at the TV and sputter with rage every single night without making yourself crazy? That's not to say there aren't liberals with similar rhetoric, but there are fewer, and they aren't as successful. Keith Olbermann did it for a while, and Ed Schultz isn't that far off. But it does seem that liberals' taste in talk runs more to people like Rachel Maddow, who delivers her outrage with a smile and a joke, or the wonkishly thoughtful Chris Hayes. People on the left aren't averse to getting mad, but they don't want to be mad all the time.
Which brings us to this very interesting paper by Sarah Sobieraj and her colleagues, which sought to examine "outrage-based political opinion media" from a sociological point of view. That is, they talked to both liberals and conservatives who tune in to these programs about what they get out of them. Since the article is paywalled, all I have to go on is a description of it in Pacific Standard, so it's possible that some or all of my questions are discussed in the article itself. In any case, their main point is that these programs provide a kind of no-risk community, where people can feel a connection to others without the potential pitfalls that come from talking about politics in other contexts like work.
I'd add that there's a particular kind of emotional interaction going on when you watch one of these programs. The host—someone who is almost certainly more articulate than you (that's why he has a job talking for hours on the radio and TV, and you don't)—mirrors the emotions you feel about current events and controversies back at you in a way that's satisfying on multiple levels. He assures you that you're right, and he offers you clever arguments you can use to convince yourself (or others) that you're right. He usually tells you your side is going to prevail. And he validates your feelings by giving them back to you in a heightened way. Are you mad at Barack Obama? Well watch this: I'll give you the thunderous rant you wish you could deliver right to that jerk's face. You think he's a liar? Let me tell you all about his lies.