Are Conservative Media Only Hurting Conservatives?

Liberals like me have spent a lot of time in recent years mocking conservatives for the silliness of their media, wherein Steve Doocy is a star, Sean Hannity is an insightful analyst, and Rush Limbaugh is a brave crusader for truth. Beyond the jokes, we've talked a lot about the pathologies produced by the self-reinforcing worldviews propagated in the conservative media ether. One of the key features of those media, and what differentiates them from partisan left media, is the way they talk about the rest of the media. Liberals may like to watch MSNBC, but if you watch MSNBC you won't be reminded ten times an hour that everything you see in your newspaper or on another television station is a vicious lie concocted by conservatives to deceive you as part of their plan to destroy the country you love.

But that is what you'll get if you watch Fox, listen to Rush Limbaugh, or consume many other kinds of conservative media. It's not just a diet of information congenial to your beliefs; it's also a message of distrust of any other source of information that isn't explicitly conservative. Which is why it's not in the least bit surprising that many conservatives were so shocked by the results of Tuesday's election; if you're soaking in that rhetoric, the idea that a majority of American voters could voluntarily choose to give Barack Obama—the socialist, the foreigner, the apologist, the black nationalist—another term in office makes no sense whatsoever. It cannot be.

As the election approached, conservatives gobsmacked that Mitt Romney was trailing—and who were regularly being told by allegedly authoritative analysts like Dick Morris, Karl Rove, and Michael Barone that Romney would win easily—concocted increasingly absurd explanations for why everyone else was wrong. Then on Election Day, it turned out there was no polling or media conspiracy to hide the truth of Romney's impending victory. As Conor Friedersdorf writes, "On the biggest political story of the year, the conservative media just got its ass handed to it by the mainstream media. And movement conservatives, who believe the MSM is more biased and less rigorous than their alternatives, have no way to explain how their trusted outlets got it wrong, while The New York Times got it right."

For a long time, liberals envied conservatives their media, the echo chamber capable of whipping up stories out of nothing and forcing the mainstream media to pay attention, capable of keeping their troops in line and bucking up their morale, capable of quickly disseminating messages far and wide, creating new stars and enforcing discipline. But perhaps it's time to look at the conservative media as a weakness, even the right's Achilles' Heel.

It isn't only that their media cause them to delude themselves; the effects sometimes bleed out beyond their brains. Consider the single most damaging moment for Mitt Romney in this election, the 47 percent tape. Where did Romney learn that number, wrapped as it was in an argument about the shocking numbers of Americans who mooch off the efforts of virtuous hard-working job creators? He almost certainly got it from Fox or conservative talk radio, where it had been in wide circulation for some time, and if it wasn't directly from listening to Limbaugh or Hannity, it came to him from somebody who did.

The next four years will be boom times for conservative media; it's always good for business when your enemies are in power. They will continue to infuriate liberals. But the next time you see Fox propagating some absurd fantasy of Barack Obama's perfidy, or see Limbaugh and Carlson ramping up another episode of race-baiting, remind yourself that they're probably doing the most harm to their own side.


I was thinking something along those lines while reading conservative reactions to the election yesterday: the GOPers who voluntarily limited themselves to the echo chamber have become incapable of distinguishing which arguments or positions have traction with the larger public and which don't (regardless of their truth value).
Of course, the initial push to get traction often happens in partisan media, but after a while it becomes clear if something is working as an attack (eg the Obama Medicare 'cuts') or is falling flat (eg Fast & Furious). Pushing an attack that doesnt get traction hurts both in credibility and in opportunity cost.
When I read Dems (before and after the election), they're sometimes puzzled that one attack worked while another didn't, but they aren't usually *unaware* of which attacks are working and which aren't. On GOP websites, I see people wondering how Obama could win with the big Fast & Furious coverup, or with his apology tour, etc- since they don't listen to anything outside of the echo chamber, they can't hear which arguments are resonating in the electorate as a whole.
I think this even gets to some of the mistakes of the Romney campaign itself. The Jeep ads were terrible- not just dishonest, but dishonest in a dumb way. The ads didn't fit effectively into a narrative (indeed, it wasn't even clear to me *why* Obama was supposed to want to ship jobs to China, other than 'he hates America'), and were obviously open to counters from both the Dems and the automakers... not being able to see these flaws, thinking that the electorate was similar to a FOX audience in thinking that Obama hates America & is just waiting for evidence, this demonstrates that the GOP campaign was also trapped in that echo chamber with their loyal troops.

I wonder if Obama has found the key to defeat the Fox Conservatives.
He seemed to play right into their "trap" and then used their reaction against them.

His first test was helping the car industry. The Fox Cons went nuclear. He went right to those people worried about their jobs in those swing states and said see I am trying to help you.

He then pushed for Health Care reform with provision to offer free breast exams and birth control. The Fox cons went Nuclear. He went to women and said, see they really to support you.

He then pushed for immigration reform. The Fox Cons went Nuclear. He went to the Latinos and said, "I got your back" and gave them the DEAM act which focused on their kids. When the Fox Cons attacked, the kid's parents rose up to defend their children.

Then Joe "leaked" that Obama was really pro marriage equality. The Fox Cons went nuclear. He went to the LGBT citizens and gave us a thumbs up that he wasn't defending DOMA in the courts.

He played the Fox Cons as fools and they gleefully marched right behind him wringing their hands with anticipation of his defeat. All the time he was secretly smiling and saying to himself, "Suckers".

Now the Republicans are now trapped by the Fox Cons and can't move without their blessing.

Republicans aren't the only ones who should love right wing media; progressives should too! Here's why:


Image of this quote for sharing :

I'm a liberal, and conservative media managed to fool me. I was actually worried things had gotten so bad, that the Murdochs, Kochs, Walls, and others would actually manage to either steal the election, or bring about some kind of coup d'etat. That's how dedicated I thought they were to their version of reality. I am so happy to find out they could simply lose, and accept that fact. They may be sore losers, but they are not as crazy as I thought they might be. Nor as violent and disloyal to democracy.

"[Conservative media] . . . is not just a diet of information congenial to your beliefs; it's also a message of distrust of any other source of information that isn't explicitly conservative. Which is why it's not in the least bit surprising that many conservatives were so shocked by the results of Tuesday's election."

Precisely. This is a political drinking of the Kool-Aid in true Jonestown style.

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