By now, you’ve probably seen this clip of conservative strategist David Frum, commenting on NBC News Friday on last week’s defeat of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney:
“Republicans have been fleeced and exploited, and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex,” Daily Beast and Newsweek contributing editor David Frum told Friday’s Morning Joe panel in a discussion on the outcome of the 2012 election.
Frum, who is a Republican and once served as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, has criticized conservative media outlets in the past for “immers[ing] their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.” Frum joined Morning Joe on Friday, in part, to discuss his new e-book “Why Romney Lost: And What the GOP Can Do About It.”
Politico’s Jonathan Martin explores the subject of an intellectually “closed” GOP, and self-reinforcing message environment further in a story today titled “The GOP’s media cocoon.”
Even this past weekend, days after a convincing Obama win, it wasn’t hard to find fringes of the right who are convinced he did so only because of mass voter fraud and mysteriously missing military ballots. Like a political version of “Thelma and Louise,” some far-right conservatives are in such denial that they’d just as soon keep on driving off the cliff than face up to a reality they’d rather not confront.
But if the Fox News-talk radio-Drudge Report axis is the most powerful force in the conservative cocoon, technology has rendered even those outlets as merely the most popular destinations in the choose-your-own-adventure news world in which consumers are more empowered than ever.
Facebook and Twitter feeds along with email in-boxes have taken the place of the old newspaper front page, except that the consumer is now entirely in charge of what he or she sees each day and can largely shut out dissenting voices. It’s the great irony of the Internet era: People have more access than ever to an array of viewpoints, but also the technological ability to screen out anything that doesn’t reinforce their views.
Here in Colorado, the 2012 election season saw the biggest explosion of “alternative” right wing media outlets we’ve ever seen. In previous elections, we’ve seen various blogs and “news” sites set up by Colorado conservatives come and go, never making much difference. In 2012, though, the local online punditry space was positively flooded by conservative sites like the Colorado Observer, Colorado Media Trackers, the Colorado News Agency, the Colorado Public Advocate, and My Colorado View–in addition to existing sites such as WhoSaidYouSaid, the People’s Press Collective, Complete Colorado and Colorado Peak Politics. That’s not even a full list.
In short, folks, the “conservative entertainment complex” was absolutely a major part of Colorado’s elections in 2012, and not just via the influence of national talking heads like Rush Limbaugh. As a critical swing state, a battery of local right wing “news” sites was set up to locally reinforce the platform and candidates the GOP fielded here and nationally.
These fake news sites served several important purposes for Republicans: some were used to provide “citations” for attack mailers, or to float attacks on Democrats that Republicans were unable to convince mainstream reporters to run with. Those were then picked up and distributed through more conventional distribution channels like local conservative AM talk radio, or fed up the chain into national conservative news giants like the Fox News Channel. In addition, these outlets “worked the refs,” shrilly attacking mainstream reporters via social media over stories they didn’t like. In October, they became ardent champions of Rasmussen’s increasingly unreal tracking polls. This model more or less depended on a weakened local mainstream media, unable to debunk the volume of material emanating from so many outlets.
And as you know, until Election Day, the confidence projected by the Republicans in Colorado was bulletproof. Not only would the GOP win, but they would win big.
David Frum continues:
“The problem with GOP leaders is they’re cowards, not that they’re fundamentally mistaken,” Frum said. “The real locus of the problem is the GOP activist base and the GOP donor base. They went apocalyptic over the past four years and that was exploited by a lot of people in the conservative world.”
“Apocalyptic” sums it up very well. Remember when Jon Caldara told “Tea Party” rallygoers that Obamacare would result, as in definitely, in Caldara “losing another child?” The kinds of irrational and apocalyptic arguments made by the right wing against Democrats in general, and Barack Obama in particular, have been so over the top that a self-reinforcing conservative media echo chamber environment was required in order to hold it all together. On Election Day, of course, it all came crashing down–but failure doesn’t change the fact that the extreme campaign of character assassination against Democrats in the last four years, reinforced in 2010 and not effectively repudiated until last Tuesday, was part of a very deliberate strategy.
But if you believe it, if you believe that Obamacare is going to kill Jon Caldara’s child, or that the President of the United States is “not an American,” or that the U.N. is coming to take your guns…well, it doesn’t matter if this indicates you are psychologically unbalanced. Because the people who fed you that nonsense only cared how you were going to vote.
It’s possible, given the apparently broad recognition after the election that journalistic information delivery was supplanted on the right with, essentially, a propaganda machine willingly embraced by those it sought to deceive, that we are in the last days of a long assault on objective truth for political purposes. But the true nature and failure of that campaign should never be forgotten by either party–especially Republicans, now brought to ruin, and these ugly truths on display.
Yes, the GOP must change, and their reality bubble is where we would begin.