Beyond Faux News

Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution has an informative–and deeply disturbing–post on the influence of right-wing media on the GOP. As he notes, that media and that influence go well beyond the “usual suspects” like Fox News or Rush Limbaugh.

Mann cites a recent paper by Jackie Calmes, a national correspondent for The New York Times who was Joan Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School this past spring.

Its title, “They Don’t Give a Damn about Governing,” is a direct quote from one of her Republican sources. The subtitle, “Conservative Media’s Influence on the Republican Party,” describes the focus of her impressive research, reporting, and analysis.

Calmes goes well beyond the familiar Fox News and talk-radio celebrities Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham to chart an expanding world of web-based “news” sites and social media outlets closely aligned with far-right groups such as Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth and FreedomWorks. What began as a conservative insurgency nurtured and welcomed by the Republican establishment as a route to majority control of Congress has become a dominant force setting the party’s agenda and forcing repeated brinksmanship. This in turn impedes the Republicans’ ability to govern effectively and to win presidential elections…..

Her paper contains fascinating narrative on lesser-known personalities who have put themselves at the center of linkages between Republican activists and officeholders as well as case studies of why the Republican majority in Congress after the 2014 election has fallen well short of its stated objectives of restoring regular order and governing effectively.

A quote from a long-time, high-level Republican sums up the situation:

“It’s not just talk radio, but the blogosphere, the Internet – they’re all intertwined now. You’ve got this constant chorus of skepticism about anything the quote-unquote establishment does,” said a longtime former top aide to House Republican leaders, Dave Schnittger. And, he said, the chorus is loudest in opposition to those actions that are fundamental to governing: meeting basic fiscal deadlines for funding the government and allowing it to borrow. “Those are the things that leaders have to get done as part of governing,” the Republican said, “as much as conservative media may hate it.”

One of the unsettling realities of the Internet age is the ability to inhabit our preferred realities. Leaving aside the undeniably important question of who is really living in the “reality-based” community, at some point, we need to figure out how to live in a polis that is defined–and divided– by our expanded ability to reside within information bubbles of our own choosing.

And the reasonable Republicans–of whom there are still many–need to figure out how to get their party back.


  1. I heard Rand Paul several days ago again use the expression “starve the beast” in a speech. I think to many that now effectively means destroy our current government.

  2. Just as we have the ability to reside within information bubbles of our own choosing, we also have the ability to burst that bubble. A starting point might be to expand one’s information sources to include ones that consistently present a viewpoint you have previously dismissed. Read with an open mind.
    Another bubble bursting activity would be to have a conversation (actually listen more than talk) with someone you know to have a different world/ political view than you. No argueing … just open minded listening. Mull these different ideas over. Ask yourself, “Is there some truth to this?”
    And for the rest of today’s blog can we please all stay on topic and not descend into a pit of vindictiveness?

  3. Sad that those “reasonable Republicans” seem not to have a spine, and continue to vote the party line. Why don’t they speak up? Their silence is deafening.

  4. I do read and listen to the other side when it is not laced with name calling personal attacks that include questioning my intelligence and patriotism. There are people who sincerely believe that our President is not an American, is not intelligent and has every intention of taking over the country as dictator after using the military to round them and their guns up and put them in detention centers. The fact that none of this is true is beside the point. They Believe It Is True! It is extremely hard to listen when the facts so clearly are contrary to the viewpoint. It is the same with creationists, anti-LGBT and other fundamentalist religious folk who approach the issues from a “loving” place then tell you how evil has taken you over and condemned you to eternal hellfire.

    One of the reasons I like reading this blog and its respondents is that, for the most part, there is no name calling. Often, I may not respond until some time after reading it as I sort through my own reactions and try to formulate a response that will contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way. It is hard, however, to listen to another viewpoint when it starts with condescension and vitriol.

    I enjoy listening to the Diane Rehm show on NPR because she has guests who are from all across the political spectrum and invites comments from listeners but demands respect for others in the process.

    Sheila has mentioned Bill Bishop’s book, “The Big Sort,” in several of her blogs. It is an interesting and enlightening investigation into how we as a country have separated ourselves into communities of the like-minded, racial and economic classes that reinforce our own political beliefs. It is certainly germane to this discussion.

  5. Speaking of the Media… Why is it that the AWFUL Picture of Hillary in dark sunglasses is the dominant image of her on the TV new programs? It is an awful image. Surely not an accident.

  6. During the “red scare” of the 50’s and beyond, the GOP warned of Communistic takeover and desires to “overthrow” our government . Premier Nikita Kruschev augmented the “scare” by saying they would take us over from within our own country. The House UnAmerican Activities Committee and J. Edgar Hoover sought to find whoever personified “the danger within” to overthrow our government.

    Decades later, we are dangerously close to a takeover within by some in the party who want to ‘overthrow’ governing and to bear arms for the express right of doing so.

    Gerrymandering (as well as far right media) have made so many congressional districts safe for one Party or the other that Primaries determine the fall winner – replacing candidates’ needs to appeal to the broad middle of the electorate with appeals instead to the political fringes.

    I’m was glad to see that Sheila was appointed to a state legislative committee to study re-districting by an independent commission. If our legislators would ever surrender authority to draw their own and congressional districts to make them as non-competitive as possible, that would be a major step back to responsibility to govern.

  7. In the electronic age, we still need to be teaching critical thinking and encouraging students
    to question what they see and hear, without exception. Just because you agree with it, doesn’t mean it’s true.

  8. Perhaps I’m a loner, but whenever I see any article sprinkled with pejorative partisan terms such as “libtards” or “faux news”, flags are raised in my mind indicating I’m about to read a heavily slanted piece which may, or may not, confirm my particular partisan bias. Whether I possess critical thinking skills or the simple ability to recognize propaganda, I rarely read such articles unless I’m in need of a fix to validate my personal beliefs or am in need of penning some random hateful remarks.

  9. I enjoy reading Sheila’s blog and the comments following it. I also try to read the entire articles she provides links to in order to gain a better understanding on the topic. I try to keep my mind open to others opinions that are contrary to mine.

    I run on a tread mill sometimes at the gym. While I am running, I like to read the closed captions to help pass the time. Many times I will be in front of a screen running Fox News. It’s not that I am not willing to listen to another opinion, it’s just so hard to keep listening when their ignorance is so glaring.

    I agree with JD, I love listening to NPR, Diane Rehm, Fresh Air, All Things Considered. Really there is not a show on NPR, I do not like. While many would call this “Liberal Media”, I consider it fact based, truthful and thought provoking. Many times there are guests on all sides of the table during the open discussions. I’m not living in a bubble. I know my opinions or positions differ from many of my friends and neighbors. I respect their right to their own opinions. I would just prefer that when they are repeating the latest sound bite, that they have actually read about it and understand the facts.

  10. Theresa Bowers. . . “amen, sister. . . ”

    I get distressed when certain commentators hijack the discussion and others follow the dissenter rather than Sheila’s content. . .

  11. I can tolerate a lot of raucous nonsense if over time I can see people accept any new information and let it influence them enough to correct a mistake or review a previously held position. I don’t mind passion or vigor. I oppose seriously the loudest most egregious claptrap with the proportional reply and try to remember what I heard from a CSPAN piece about LBJ, “Don’t ever tell someone to go to hell without having the means to put him there” which I take to mean don’t display an absence of emotional control inartfully and don’t unintentionally strengthen your opponents.

    Now to read the referenced articles.

  12. Pingback: Beyond Faux News
  13. And it s not as if this is the first time Fox News has used this tactic. Fox News must know that most of their viewers at home read books with only pictures instead of reading the actual information being provided to them.

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