Media, Left and Right

Well, I see that the Republican Governors’ Association has decided to enter the “fake news” sweepstakes. According to reports,

The Republican Governors Association has quietly launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media. The Free Telegraph blares headlines about the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It asks readers to sign up for breaking news alerts. It launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected.

The website was registered July 7 through Domains By Proxy, a company that allows the originators of a website to shield their identities. […] As of early Monday afternoon, The Free Telegraph’s Twitter account and Facebook page still had no obvious identifiers tying the site to RGA. The site described itself on Twitter as “bringing you the political news that matters outside of Washington.” The Facebook account labeled The Free Telegraph a “Media/News Company.”

Evidently, after the Associated Press made inquiries, the site added a very small, grey box at the bottom of the page, disclosing its origins.

The “mastermind” behind this effort is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker; he may have been inspired (if that’s the word) by Mike Pence’s ill-fated attempt to establish a state-owned Indiana “news bureau”(aka propaganda site).  Dubbed by critics “Pravda on the Prairie,” it was embarrassingly obvious and ignominiously withdrawn. Walker is evidently better at stealth.

The problem is, this sort of disinformation campaign works–especially with people who want to believe, who want both their own opinions and their own “facts.” As an article in the American Prospect put it,

As we learn more about how Russia used social media as part of its campaign to help elect Donald Trump, what stands out is how easy it was. Spend $100,000 on Facebook ads, create a bunch of Twitter bots, and before you know it you’ve whipped up a fog of disinformation that gives Trump just the boost he needs to get over the finish line. Even if it’s almost impossible to quantify how many votes it might have swayed, it was one of the many factors contributing to the atmosphere of chaos and confusion that helped Trump get elected.

As new as it might seem, this is just the latest manifestation of a broader problem that goes back a long way, one of the degradation of truth, a conservative electorate taught to disbelieve what’s real and accept whatever lunatic things their media figures tell them, and liberals who can’t figure out how to respond.

As the author points out, a liberal version of these mechanisms won’t work. The effect that right-wing media has on its audiences is of a “profoundly different character than what conservative media achieve.”

There’s a doctrinal basis to conservative media that makes it fundamentally different from liberal media, that makes Rush Limbaugh most definitely not the mirror image of a liberal radio host and Sean Hannity not the mirror image of Rachel Maddow. It’s not merely about the conservatives’ and liberals’ respective adherence to truth or penchant for ugly demonization of their opponents, though they differ in that too. It’s that an argument about the larger media world is the foundation of conservative media. Conservative hosts and writers tell their audiences over and over again that nothing they read in the mainstream media can be accepted, that it’s all twisted by a liberal agenda, and therefore they can only believe what conservatives tell them. It’s the driving backbeat to every episode, every story, and every rant.

Liberals complain about media coverage of one story or another all the time. What they don’t do is tell their audiences that any news source that is not explicitly and exclusively devoted to their ideological agenda cannot be trusted. But conservatives do.

The bottom line is that very few of the people who fall within the liberal camp are “good soldiers” in the same way that the Fox News audience is. Liberals still occupy a pretty big tent, and even when they agree on a broad premise–healthcare is a right, for example–they differ significantly on the policies to achieve their goals. As recent research has conclusively shown, conservative and liberal minds work differently.

Which leaves us at the mercy of propaganda. When some people are saying, in effect, “lie to me to reassure me that my tribe is right”–what do we do?


  1. OK, I’ve got to say this, “The Free Telegraph”???? TELEGRAPH??? How many people under the age of 30 know what that is? Perhaps the name is more truthful than they know… an out of date mode of communication for out of date ideas.

  2. The Fascists WILL NOT STOP until they have taken over complete control of our country and they will use whatever means necessary to accomplish their goal.

  3. “Media, Left and Right”

    I knew you meant their political inclinations, but for an instant I read it to mean we are surrounded by the media…as we are. We must depend on media in all it’s forms for information but can no longer rely on any source fully as being factual. They are not sworn to report “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” (but like freedom of speech is still protected by the Constitution); of course, we can no longer depend on that sworn oath as truth in our courts. I have often read that the judicial system expects lies today; of course I read that in the media. Was it left or right? Or was it factual media reporting and the politics are beside the point?

    Sheila; we have a mutual friend who had a large banner over his office desk; “There is no free lunch!” Theresa’s comment about people under the age of 30 (I believe few over the age of 30) know that a “telegraph” is. Apparently trusting in “The Free Telegraph” would cost us our self-respect along with our ability to think for ourselves and I must ask; it that publication the only “telegraph” left in existence?

  4. Nancy,

    “The Fascists WILL NOT STOP until they have taken over complete control of our country and they will use whatever means necessary to accomplish their goal”

    You’re absolutely right.

    We are all now facing a looming, domestic, WAR based on the FAKE NEWS of the RIGHT and the FAKE DEFENSES of the LEFT. That’s a CATASTROPHIC MIXTURE for a DISASTROUS MISCALCULATION resulting from GROSS MISPERCEPTIONS which will effect AMERICA as well as PLANET EARTH.

  5. Josef Goebbels would be so proud and also very likely laughing his ass off. Pathetic in the extreme.

  6. Our problem is that we believe in the fundamental rationality of human beings, and that rational beings are capable of seeing the same things in pretty much the same way. Hence, reason and sound logic should be persuasive, and ignorance in the face of facts is willful. This screws us up all the time. As long as the right wing propaganda machine is effective, the hope of civil engagement and a rational dialectic of contrasting ideas producing a better society is probably empty, and worse, naive. I think maybe our virtue, though, is that we just don’t want to give up. But I’m beginning to think we should just let a couple of states secede, and let all the nut jobs move there and gorge on all the Limbaugh, Hannity, Palin, Trump, etc. they want. The rest of us can get on with building and living in a just society.

  7. Theresa Bowers, I had the same reaction to their use of the word “Telegraph”, but I was equally floored that they would use the word “Free”! FREE??? The GOP embraces the philosophy that ANYTHING can be and SHOULD be montetized for profit! I suppose they picked this name because they want their readers to think that under complete and permanent control of the GOP that we will go back to the days of watching the community band play John Phillip Souza songs at the gazebo in the town square while eating ice cream and drinking lemonade made with real sugar.

    And while such a rag (can you call a website or FB page a rag?) may have a certain appeal to the AARP crowd, some of whom MIGHT remember grandma talking about those days, most people won’t have a clue, and the often-maligned-and-underestimated Millenniel generation will see right through it and laugh. That crowd by the way, is entering their early thirties, and many of them are settling into careers after being given a big shit sandwich of an economy in which to start them in, and starting families. And getting politically active. I can only hope and pray that, to paraphrase our VP, they relegate the GOP to the trash heap of political history.

  8. Also, I shared the page on my FB feed by going to its page at and clicking on “share” and included this an an intro: “Like we need another source of fake news. This page and website is owned and operated by the Republican Governors Association but you won’t find any reference to that fact anywhere. I’m glad to see they picked a name that reflects their forward look on things. Telegraph?? LOL”.

  9. To All:

    Before we lose everything and all of us are branded as being pathetic, I would suggest reading “Crossing Hitler: The Man Who Put the Nazis on the Witness Stand” by Benjamin Carter Hett (Oxford University Press, New York, 2008).

    “Rudolf Olden, a distinguished lawyer and journalist, remembered the first time he saw [Hanz] Litton. It was in 1928 at a meeting of the League for Human Rights (Liga fur Menschenrechte), a very modern kind of political lobby group that that had grown out of a left-leaning association called New Fatherland founded during the First World War by Albert Einstein and the future mayor of West Berlin, ERNST REUTER.” p. 3

    “In her later years his still-grieving mother would remind anyone who listened that “Hitler’s first victims were Germans,” and there were many reasons why, almost from the beginning, the Nazis condemned Litten to imprisonment in a concentration camp, hard labor, prolonged interrogations, beatings and torture.” p. 3

    “But above all it was Hitler’s personal fear and hatred that landed Litten in the concentration camps, and this fear and hatred stemmed from the handwritten summons of April 1931. For when Hitler appeared in court on May 8, Litten subjected him to withering cross-examination, laying bare the violence at the heart of the Nazi movement. The Eden Dance Palace trial exposed Hitler to mutiple dangers: criminal prosecution, disintegration of his party, public exposure of the contradictions on which the Nazis’ appeal was based. It was only through luck that Hitler survived with his political career intact.” p.4

    Suing a few minor KKK leaders and their organizations is not the same thing.

    That’s why I contend it is pathetic on both sides. That’s one argument I won’t lose.

  10. We’re now involved in the prelude to a domestic war. Wars involve propaganda. The Republicans see nothing wrong in their “Fake News.” We should expect nothing less.

    Our only salvation is to understand what had been happening to us for at least 50 years, instead of “burying our heads in the sand” and prepare to defend what is left of our democracy before it is too late. Maybe it already is.

  11. At the bottom of Free Telegraph FB page, their policy statement says: “Paid for by Republican Governors Association”.

    Meanwhile, the GOP controlled congress is chasing leads that Russian actors influenced the election. Like the $100,000 ad buys made by “Russian companies” on Facebook.

    I guess political parties aren’t concerned that maybe the $9.8 billion spent in 2016 by Donors might have influenced the election. Rational actors might be working up a new bill to overturn Citizens United and implement a public finance campaign option. 😉

  12. PJ- Many of the young millennial families in our neighborhood are actually DT voters. They are young professionals for the most part. The majority of non-DT supporters in the same area are older (over 50).

  13. There MUST be some connection among the Republican Governors Association, the Republican Electoral College, Trumpism, and American political malaise.

  14. OMG,

    “There MUST be some connection among the Republican Governors Association, the Republican Electoral College, Trumpism, and American political malaise.”

    They are all part of a long-term, weblike, slow-moving, political takeover which had its genesis in Dallas during the late 60’s. The strategy has always been a continuing 2 steps forward then 1 step back. This strategy has made it almost impossible to “pin them down.”

  15. Subliminal messages were posted everywhere in the movie, “They Live.”


    and on the money itself,


    In the movie the elite were actually disguised aliens. In reality the truth is much more disturbing. The human mind is capable of that level of evil all by itself.

  16. I think ad agency experts would agree that key to success in selling is pig lipstick. Anyone can sell products that offer undisputed value but the pros can sell, well, pigs. A lot of experience in doing this was gained in our lifetimes from selling junk cars and cigarettes. There’s a way to gloss over the flaws and enhance desire for virtually anything. In fact while product innovation gets a little credit what’s behind the seemingly endless power of commercialism is more due to the combination of pervasive media and advertising.

    So nobody should be surprised at the application of that to selling politicians whose currency is not dollars but sufficient votes to get and stay elected.

    Just think. Somebody had the job of creating such a market for Mitch McConnell.

    Advertising is expensive, ask Proctor and Gamble or big pharma, but if you don’t have to fund innovation it allows companies to sell ordinary for premium. It’s like free money.

    In fact experience has shown that advertising is more powerful than democracy.

  17. How amusing…reading the Antifa supporters comments. Who is it that shouts down those who they disagree with? Liberals.

  18. Gaylon Nettles,
    You are absurd. You need to refresh your recollection and review the many Trump supporters shown during any and all of their gatherings.
    Honestly, what a ridiculous thing to say.

  19. You can only disagree when you are arguing from the same factual context. We liberals and the right wingers have come to no such agreement since we argue our respective framings. I do not agree that fascism is in control – not yet – though that is a possibility. One commentator suggested that Goebbels would be amused by our propaganda attempts, and he is right, but let’s remember that Goebbels and Hitler were losers. We won, and while our tattered democracy is limping these days, it is ambulatory, and as soon as we rid ourselves (with millennial support and other encouraging demographics) of the buffoons and moneychangers of the present administration, there is hope that we can turn this country around, again ignite our passion for democracy, and go from there.

    This is no time for despair, quite the contrary. This is the time bear down on truth-telling and fight through right wing propaganda with a view toward really making America great again. As I often blog, democracy is our most important asset held in common, and one of the last few things left worth dying for.

    We have been left for dead before by naysayers in the transitions from the divisive Articles of Confederation to Constitutional government; from slavery through Reconstruction, from the Gilded Age and the Great Depression to the New Deal, coming back from the politically dead each time chastened and having learned from the experience which led us to a new appreciation of our democratic institutions, and I think if we keep fighting off propaganda with incessant truth-telling, especially with such promising and rapidly accruing demographics, that we will once again survive and be the stronger for it. A Pollyanna exercise? Negative. I have history on my side.

  20. Its very dangerous to say that “they” fall for propaganda, and “we” do not. And it’s demonstrably inaccurate. Note:
    (1) the number of liberals who bought into false propaganda about Hillary, proceeded to split liberals between HRC and Bernie – and maintain that split today.
    (2) the anti-vax, anti-GMO crowd is generally on the liberal side of the fence. Now we have “liberal science” and “conservative science”, which is an insanity guaranteed to produce hysterical chaos.
    (3) the relatively fast move to uneven renewable energy sources, while ignoring the physics of electricity, and the necessity of maintaining balanced backup power, to avoid crashes and brownouts. A transition is important, but has to be managed carefully, based on scientific reality and not on wishful thinking. Read “The Grid” and learn why it’s a bad idea to make entirely ignorant political and ideological decisions that go contrary to physics. Physics always wins, whether you believe in it or not.

    That’s just three areas where rather large numbers of liberals go off the rails, believe nutso stuff, and ignore learning about hard facts, in favor of belief-first, propaganda. Good governance, and wise decisions are based on practical reality, as well as philosphy. I’m not seeing much of anything but emotion based ideology on either side right now. Especially when I read something that says, in effect, we don’t fall for crap, but they do.

  21. I agree, Joslyn, except that if you step back and look at Hillary supporters and Trump supporters, you can’t really see equivalence there, can you? The Trump phenomenon was in fact a know-nothing movement, or perhaps more accurately a reality-keeps-intruding-on-our-fantasy-world-so-we-are-going-to-fall-back-on-our-deepest-fears-and-insecurities-and-reject-knowledge movement. The left contains far too many people I think of as The Aggrieved, people who would rather go on about microaggressions and intersectionality than figure out how to win elections, and there are a fair number of uneducated liberals who want to pretend (anti-vaxxers and others). But really, when nearly 100% of scientists and vast majorities of people with higher education are progressive, and the vast majority of uneducated white people voted for Trump, let’s not pretend that there is any equivalence in terms of ignorance, belief in propaganda, or emotion based ideology.

  22. The problem is that people like Rachel Maddow, for instance, aren’t going to stoop to the level of a Hannity because then they’d be just like them and that is antithetical to their core values. They take the high road, and, I’m assuming, it’s partly because they believe that virtue is its own reward–i.e., if you expose people like Trump, and you tell the truth and don’t engage in hyperbole, people will see that you are credible, even if they don’t agree with you.

    I’ve also thought about what drives Trump enthusiasts, and I think it is repugnant things like racism, misogyny and xenophobia. These values are un-American, and are no longer tolerated, at least officially, and victims can assert their rights in Court. No longer do blacks, women and foreigners “know their place”, which is beneath their place. They see Trump as their hero–a guy who can grab womens’ genitalia without consequences, who can insult Puerto Ricans as ingrates and lazy, who insults world leaders and does everything possible to deconstruct the accomplishments of the country’s first black President. They tune in to Fox, to see the empty-headed, skin-baring bottle blondies, and their heroes–Hannity, et al. who remind them every day about what a piece of garbage HRC is. Not a day goes by that they don’t find some reason to criticize her. They are told not to trust the “lame stream media”, a phrase made popular by equally empty-headed Sarah Palin, and since this network promotes their hero, they buy it. Because liberals abhor such conduct, they can’t fight back.

  23. I disagree with so many of these comments but just don’t have the patience to type it all up today. How can we overcome the GOP when they keep cheating with Citizens United, gerrymandering, voter suppression and Fox? We have to fix these first before we can move our country forward. Have a great day.

  24. Taking control of communications is the first thing dictators do to cement control. Decrying the communications they don’t yet control is another of their tactics.

  25. Over It, I didn’t say anything about equivalence of numbers, because I don’t have the data to back up that assertion. I said it was dangerous to believe that your side does not fall for propaganda and emotional arguments, while the other side falls for them. Then I gave 3 examples of failures on the liberal side – my side. I made no wider conclusion.

    Here’s another example of widespread belief on both sides. Liberal misinformation about climate change says humans caused it. Conservative attitudes declare it’s natural. Both sides claim scientists. But this is mass market misinformation from both sides. If you read what many scientists say themselves, in peer reviewed papers, and interviews, the facts contain bits of both sides. In fact, the earth has been warming since the last ice age maximum, variously 20,000-25,000 years ago. Ocean levels have risen some 300′ since then. There have been periods of faster warming, and mini ice ages during the warming, because of volcanic eruptions, the imposition of glacial fresh water melts from Greenland, that stopped the Gulf Stream, and I am sure other incidents I don’t know about. In addition, since the industrial revolution, humans have had a much larger effect on the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, primarily because we are digging up fossil fuels, that were sequestered underground, and burning them into the atmosphere in very large amounts, since there are over 7 billion of us who use them. The trend of the rate of warming has increased, still allowing for yearly and decades long variations. Most scientists seem to agree on that. But despite the clarity of the explanation, that both historic natural effects plus human effects are changing the climate, the left, in popular media, still sticks to – it’s all our fault. And the right sticks doggedly to – not our fault at all.

    It is useful to know about a paid right-wing governors’ site. I will watch out for it. But, while jumping from that useful info, to venting about how awful, or gullible, or dishonest “they” are (and we aren’t) is fun, it is eventually counter-productive. There is no escape from a political circular blame spiral, unless people find ways to lay down the ideology, and begin to focus on practical solutions to our problems. To that end, I suggested The Grid, a well sourced layman’s book on understanding electrical transmission problems, that are in a dangerous state because of general lack of understanding of how electricity works, and why both feeding a lot of power into the system, and removing it suddenly, destabilizes the grid, and requires some knowledge and careful thought about how to use more renewable energy. This affects all of us. Learn real stuff first, and try to effect change based on that.

    Try not to fall for propaganda on either side.

  26. G. E. Stinson: – “I do not agree that fascism is in control – not yet – though that is a possibility. ”

    In your statement of Oct 3 quoted above, do you include kristofascism in your suggestion that some fascism, at least kristofascism, has no widespread controlling influence?

  27. The way the Republicans frame their propaganda would make Joseph Goebbels proud. It worked for the Nazis, and it’s working for our brand of fascists, the Republican National Party.

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