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How the Right Wins the News Cycle: Quantity over Quality

December 5th, 2010

My brother outguns me with a barrage of post-Thanksgiving talking points

It’s tempting for most liberals to write off Fox News conservatives as uninformed, or just plain dense.

But calling the Hannity Fan Club dumb is a cheap shot at best, an empty and meaningless label at worst. It’s no more accurate to say that conservatives are “stupid” than it is for Michael Savage to call liberalism a “mental illness.” They are all essentially playground epithets.

I was thinking of this last week, after driving home from My Crazy Right Wing Brother’s house the day after Thanksgiving.

I live across the country from my family and don’t get to see nearly enough of my brother, his saintly wife or his adorable kids. So last week, I drove through the Northeast’s endless suburban civilization and shared Thanksgiving leftovers with my brother’s clan, like a normal family might.

But this is my brother, so we did exchange a few quick volleys of artillery fire before his wife put a stop to it.

My brother’s Rightist talking points were predictable—Israel’s absolute moral superiority, global climate change as a grand international hoax, the still-undisclosed radicalism of President Obama’s past associations, etc.—but it wasn’t the content of his comments that impressed me…it was their sheer number.

Qualitatively, the Right is flailing for a substantive governing philosophy, or even sensible attacks that don’t contain the words “Muslim” or “Socialist.” Their economic platform doesn’t extend past “lower taxes, especially for rich people.” But in the rack-em-up quantitative game the news cycle has become, the Right is absolutely kicking ass.

Here’s what I took away from that eye-opening night at my brother’s place:

1) My Crazy Right Wing Brother is not dumb. (He’s got his eccentricities, but that’s for another blog).

2) The Rightist Media’s reach is extending far beyond what it could produce even three years ago. Today, if an American with access to most forms of media so chooses, he/she can has access to a constantly regenerating body of political talking points masquerading as information. Add up Fox News (itself a baroque cathedral of cheap flack parading as news), AM Radio (Limbaugh’s cheap spawn have embedded in stations nationwide and are on-air so often, their dominance is untouched), Breitbart and Drudge (the origin of most of the Right’s ginned up “news”)…and then there’s the conservative establishment: The National Review, the Heritage Foundation, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board.

The point is, any notion of a Liberal Press is not just obsolete, it’s a clever curtain behind which the now-dominant Rightist press hides.

If your crazy right wing relative or friend is a half-intelligent person, try this experiment: Bring up a topic from the news, Obama’s recent trip to Asia for instance, and see which of you has more information on the topic. Disregard, for a moment, which of you is correct (or sane). Just sit back and appreciate, for a stomach-turning moment, which of you has MORE to say about it. These days, depressingly, My Crazy Right Wing Brother has far more battle-ready talking point bullets than I do.