The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf argues that conservative media alternatives have become a “Conservative echo chamber” that creates the problem of informational disadvantage—in short, a conservative pipe-dream, or delusion, based more on “red meat” than reality.
If you’re a rank-and-file conservative, you’re probably ready to acknowledge that ideologically friendly media didn’t accurately inform you about Election 2012. Some pundits engaged in wishful thinking; others feigned confidence in hopes that it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy; still others decided it was smart to keep telling right-leaning audiences what they wanted to hear. . . .
So many on the right had predicted a Mitt Romney victory, or even a blowout — Dick Morris, George Will, and Michael Barone all predicted the GOP would break 300 electoral votes. Joe Scarborough scoffed at the notion that the election was anything other than a toss-up. Peggy Noonan insisted that those predicting an Obama victory were ignoring the world around them. Even Karl Rove, supposed political genius, missed the bulls-eye. These voices drove the coverage on Fox News, talk radio, the Drudge Report, and conservative blogs.
Those audiences were misinformed. . . .
Conservatives were at a disadvantage because their information elites pandered in the most cynical, self-defeating ways. . . .
Why don’t Americans trust Republicans on foreign policy as they once did? In part because conservatism hasn’t grappled with the foreign-policy failures of George W. Bush. A conspiracy of silence surrounds the subject. Romney could neither run on the man’s record nor repudiate it. . . .
In conservative fantasy-land, Richard Nixon was a champion of ideological conservatism, tax cuts are the only way to raise revenue, adding neoconservatives to a foreign-policy team reassures American voters, Benghazi was a winning campaign issue, Clint Eastwood’s convention speech was a brilliant triumph, and Obama’s America is a place where black kids can beat up white kids with impunity.
Most important is this conclusion:
Most conservative pundits know better than this nonsense — not that they speak up against it. They see criticizing their own side as a sign of disloyalty. I see a coalition that has lost all perspective, partly because there’s no cost to broadcasting or publishing inane [#$@!]. In fact, it’s often very profitable. A lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption.
Conservative media outlets are not informing their audiences, they’re profiting from them. It is profit-driven, and this means it will spread that version of the story that is most profitable to them. This means sensationalism, exaggeration, spin, pipe dreams—tell them what they want to hear. This is not the only problem, but it is a huge one. It is widespread, and it will neutralize the conservative movement as well as any conservative who places their trust in those who are part of it.
Nor is this a condemnation of the profit motive in general. But in the information business, if profit comes before truth, you can only anticipate that the temptations to increase profit will eventually impinge against the truth to some degree, perhaps greatly. At high-stakes political moments, you can then only expect delusion to pay off big time.