Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Blame the Media, Conservative Dissident Version

Conor Friedersdorf does conservatives a great service by keeping his eye on the conservative partisan media. But I'm not at all convinced that they're the ones who did in Jon Huntsman, as Friedersdorf would have it.

Here's the question, and it's one for which we don't really know the answer: to what extent does the conservative partisan media -- Rush Limbaugh, Fox News in general and their various hosts in particular, the other conservative talk radio hosts, and conservative web sites -- function independently of the rest of the Republican Party? Keeping in mind that when I say "Republican Party" I mean the expanded party -- both formal party organizations and the larger party network, which includes party-aligned groups and individuals.

I don't think we know the answer overall. But when it comes to Jon Huntsman, it's pretty clear to me at least that Fox News and the rest of them were perfectly in accord with the rest of the party. After all, Huntsman exits the campaign after earning practically no high-visibility endorsements from party actors (I think he managed a few minor ones in New Hampshire, but that's about it). Nor do I expect that he raised a lot of money from the party network. Of course, it's sometimes very difficult to figure out who is influencing who in these things, but in this particular case I don't think it's hard at all: Republicans just weren't interested in what Huntsman was selling. And while Friedersdorf's larger point is that the Republican partisan press influenced the entire environment that candidates must compete within, again I just don't buy the idea that Huntsman, 2012, could have been a major factor in any plausible GOP environment.

Again, however, I think that we just don't know enough about how independent the partisan press is, either individually or as a whole. There's certainly plenty of data being generated during this election cycle; with any luck, we'll know a whole lot more once the people who study this sort of thing report back in a while.

7 comments:

  1. Would it be fair to say that FOX "News" Channel and Limbaugh are outliers in the context of this question?

    By which I mean that Murdoch's foreign millions allowed him to buy his chair among heavyweight conservative opinion makers. And Limbaugh may have also blown up so big on his own, by doing AM radio like no one had done for years, and taking advantage of recently repealed 'fairness doctrine' rules. I don't know who (if anyone) backed him (EIB?) at the start.

    As for pretty much everyone other than Murdoch and Limbaugh among conservative opinion makers, is the universe of wingnut welfare doler-outers really all that large? Could you make even a 'Top 100' list of conservative media bankrollers without struggling to fill out a lineup?

    I'm just attempting to chip away at the question.. even using the "1%" leaves you 3 million suspects - but I don't think media is anywhere near as diversely held as people generally think it is.

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  2. One thing that we do know is that Clear Channel, which runs about 850 radio stations in this country including virtually all of right-wing talk radio, is owned by Bain Capitol. Talk about controlling the message! I believe that Huntsman was in the race as a foil, just in case it turned out that there were a few other adults among their voters. It's like a stable running two horses in the Kentucky Derby; the horse expected to lose is there to help the favored one win.

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  3. You may not know how well coordinated the right wing press is because you are unmotivated to find out. Why don't you order a copy of David Brock's Blinded By The RIght - that's a pretty good summary of how this works. Yet, you treat Media Matters as if it's important work is somehow illegitimate and ask this idiotic question as if you are sincerely out of the loop. Jesus. The evidence is clear on many counts (not least being the fact that these outlets all say the same things, cover the same topics, employ the same Luntz-tested talking points day after day. Limbaugh's program goes down the same check list as Ingraham who says the same things Levin says, and Savage and Hannity, all the way down to the minor leagues where the minot leaguers all take turns swinging the bat against Obama and the elitist libruls. If you read Media Matters, you would find all the information you need, yet you pretend now that you wish someone would get out there and report for you. It's common knowledge, except apparently to you, that Fox news is all coordinated around a series of daily outrages laid out for them by Salmon and before him John Ellis, and ultimately by ROger Ailes. This has been well documented by Media Matters and others who have gotten hold of many of Fox's internal e-mails (and cited by defexctors from the Fox monolith). We know that the K Street project meets all the time, that Kristol's blast faxes doomed Hilary-care, that Armstrong Williams was on the payroll of the Koch brothers and that this thing is highly organized and hugely funded. Read Jane Mayer's piece on the Koch brothers. For God sake, do your homework - it's ridiculous.

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    1. Anon,

      Yes, yes a lot of this stuff is co-ordinated. But most of that has to do with talking points produced by a current GOP White House, or a current GOP presidential nominee, or the current Congressional leadership. But I'm not talking about how talking points are disseminated by the partisan press; I'm talking about how parties make decisions when they disagree, or haven't yet agreed, internally. Very different question.

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  4. Look, the right wing just doesn't go into eclipse when they lose the White House. There is a permanent opposition class that does much the same thing when the party is in power as it does when they are out. Look how The Committe For The Present Danger or whatever they were called spent their time duriing the Clinton years. (The new book about Chalabi, which has gotten virtually no attention, but which is probably the most interesting account yet of how the Iraq war was begat, is a good account of just how coordinated and busy these fellows are - it's really all they do. Maybe I misread your piece, but I still don't understand the distinction you're making. IS the nuance here how the permanent right wing apparatus coordinates with the campaigns? I think that does not require much imagination. What is interesting - and unusual - about this process is what a clusterfuck it is, with Gingrich so off message. Fpr a few weeks the apparatus can't control the candidates, but it won't last much longer. Gingrich will quit after Florida if not before and then it will be one long concentrated propaganda blitz, as before.

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  5. An important question for your readers: why has Media Matters been so ghettoized? They do enormously important work compiling and archiving this junk, and connecting the dots. Brock's Blinded By The Right was enormously revealing - and entertaining. Yet they are never cited or given credit for the enormous job they do explaining where so much of this garbage comes from. The press and pundit class is so lazy and cynical that it wasn't until Jane Mayer did the research on the Koch brothers in The New Yorker that you ever heard their names anywhere. Now, the Kochs are the go to boogey men of right wing agitprop and big money manipulations. They are just one of many, as Mayer's subsequent expose on the behind the scenes machinations in South Carolina made clear. This is what makes the current controversy about whether reporters should be "Truth Vigiliantes' at The New York Times so important. We will look back at this era in amazement at how badly our press failed us, not just in Iraq or the housing market, but in so much else. And what's left of our lamented democracy slips further down the drain...

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  6. I'm not a liberal or conservative, and I don't expect to get the whole honest truth about the news from either side. Come on, you guys are too smart to expect that "your side" is telling the whole truth and not spinning, any more than the other side is. Make your commitment to honesty and truth wherever it leads, not to a conclusion that you have to back up with partial truths. Thanks for your time.

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