Friday, September 2, 2016

The Right-Wing Bubble: What Do You Do When the News Feeds You Only Anger and Fear?

Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and other GOP leaders have a problem: Fox News and the emerging alt-right media say you don't belong here anymore.

First they came for your TV sets. Now they're coming for your government.

As a progressive liberal, I'm naturally alarmed at what's happening to our media. Both mainstream and radical right media aren't working they way they told you in civics class they were supposed to. The mainstream media are running on five cylinders, hampered by both-sides-do-it, critics-differ-on-shape-of-Earth, fair-and-balanced news reporting, and the radical right media are running on thirteen cylinders powered by the-sky-is-falling-we're-all-doomed 500-octane fear fuel.

While I think this election cycle will end with Hillary Clinton in the White House and fewer Republicans in Congress, even progressives have to fear what's happening to the Republican Party. They might not run things anymore. In fact, they might not even run their own party:
Over the last few years, as 'government shutdown' went from being a crazy ass thing Newt Gingrich did twenty years ago - never to be tried again - to the top item on the Republican policy agenda, you could hear more and more Republicans saying something like this: We thought it was this great thing that we had our own cable news network as an arm of the GOP or the conservative movement, echoing talking points, spinning the news. But at a certain point we realized Fox News wasn't working for us. We're working for Fox News.
For the Republican leadership in Washington this becomes a come-to-Jesus moment: It was all well and good that Rush Limbaugh served their purposes, but a couple of cycles back, they began to notice that it wasn't wise to cross Rush. They laughed it off and issued a "clarification" saying they agreed with Limbaugh anyway. After all, he was still their boy. But they did look bad when they fawned over him, afraid to take him on.

Now the GOP finds itself outside of its own bubble. What happens when Fox News' Sean Hannity turns on you?
The Fox News host and conservative personality was fed up with Republican leaders in Washington — and he wasn’t hiding it from the millions of listeners tuned into his radio program.
“If in 96 days Trump loses this election, I am pointing the finger directly at people like [House Speaker] Paul Ryan and [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and John McCain and John Kasich and Ted Cruz — if he won’t endorse — and Jeb Bush and everybody else that made promises they’re not keeping,” Hannity exclaimed, later threatening to endorse Ryan’s far-right primary challenger.
Yikes. Here's more from that Washington Monthly post I got the above quote from:
That has left conservatives who oppose Trump in a tricky position when trying to get their message to supporters. No longer can Ryan or Cruz turn to Hannity for a softball interview. They can’t work with Breitbart or rely on Drudge to help with their legislative agenda.

These Republicans have effectively been exiled from the conservative news media, leaving them with a problem.

“They don’t have any place to go. How else do you get your message out? You can’t do it in the mainstream. This is the way you reach conservatives,” Ziegler said. “We have taught conservatives for many years to trust nothing other than what they hear in conservative media. Yet the conservative media has now proven to be untrustworthy.”
So we on the left could snicker if there weren't some deadly side effects here. Fine, it's good to see the opposition in disarray. But what do we do when we want sanity to return? The right has quite nearly stopped looking to the mainstream media "because they're totally liberal liars." Oh my.
One of the chief problems, Sykes said, was that it had become impossible to prove to listeners that Trump was telling falsehoods because over the past several decades, the conservative news media had “basically eliminated any of the referees, the gatekeepers.”

“There’s nobody,” he lamented. “Let’s say that Donald Trump basically makes whatever you want to say, whatever claim he wants to make. And everybody knows it’s a falsehood. The big question of my audience, it is impossible for me to say that, ‘By the way, you know it’s false.’ And they’ll say, ‘Why? I saw it on Allen B. West.’ Or they’ll say, ‘I saw it on a Facebook page.’ And I’ll say, ‘The New York Times did a fact check.’ And they’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s The New York Times. That’s bulls—.’ There’s nobody — you can’t go to anybody and say, ‘Look, here are the facts.'”

“And I have to say that’s one of the disorienting realities of this political year. You can be in this alternative media reality and there’s no way to break through it,” Sykes continued.
I find this borne out when I read comment sections in mainstream media outlets like the Washington Post that basically say that "all liberals are liars." Where do they come up with such beliefs? Oh, yeah, right.

the bottom line is that the right has long preached an anti-intellectual, anti-science creed, insisting that what current scientists hold as the likely truth in climate science, for example, is not merely wrong but an out and out hoax. That was understandable as a political ploy, but carried too far -- and misinformation has been carried way, way too far by now -- it leads to whole demographic groups who are hopelessly misled on so many fronts. Undereducated, working-class whites think the blacks and the browns are stealing their future, and American seniors believe it's in their interest to put the conservatives in power even when it's they who want to cut their Social Security and Medicare. Meanwhile, conservative governors like Scott Walker and Sam Brownback are slashing education spending left and right. "But they're pro-life, so that's good!"

Yeah, they're so pro-life that a segment of middle-aged whites are dying early at alarming rates for hard-to-grasp reasons (blacks and Hispanics aren't impacted by that trend).

Willful ignorance and anti-intellectual misinformation campaigns may work for the right for a while, but at some point, when we reach "dumbest advanced country on the planet" status, we may not be an advanced country anymore. But, hell, that might not matter. Because Fox News will be telling us that everything is just fine now that the liberals have been crushed.

Wasn't there a movie about that?

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