A recent article from a publication called Fusion (with which I am unfamiliar) has been making the rounds on social media; I think the reason for its popularity is that it offers a perspective that strikes many of us–especially former Republicans– as persuasive.
If you want to understand intra-GOP warfare, the decision-making process of our president, the implosion of the Republican healthcare plan, and the rest of the politics of the Trump era, you don’t need to know about Russian espionage tactics, the state of the white working class, or even the beliefs of the “alt-right.” You pretty much just need to be in semi-regular contact with a white, reasonably comfortable, male retiree. We are now ruled by men who think and act very much like that ordinary man you might know, and if you want to know why they believe so many strange and terrible things, you can basically blame the fact that a large and lucrative industry is dedicated to lying to them.
The basic premise of the article is that, over the past decades, we have seen the emergence of a parallel media dedicated to lying to a particular demographic. Little by little, that “project” has created an alternate reality, and Americans find ourselves at the mercy of those who reside in that reality.
The inmates are running the asylum, if there is a kind of asylum that takes in many mostly sane people and then gradually, over many years, drives one subset of its inmates insane, and also this asylum has the largest military in the world.
These quotations from the article confirm what most of us know; where the author makes a point that hadn’t occurred to me, at least, was the intra-party nature of this media strategy. The talking points delivered via talk radio, Fox News and rightwing blogs were, in this telling, different from the “more grounded and reality-based” media consumed by conservative “elites.” The “rubes”
were fed apocalyptic paranoia about threats to their liberty, racial hysteria about the generalized menace posed by various groups of brown people, and hysterical lies about the criminal misdeeds of various Democratic politicians. The people in charge, meanwhile, read The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard, and they tended to have a better grasp of political reality, as when those sources deceived their readers, it was mostly unintentionally, with comforting fantasies about the efficacy of conservative policies.
The consumers of the conspiracy theories–those the author calls the “rubes”–became the ground troops that helped the GOP win elections. But the article’s second–and more important–insight is that sponsorship of this worldview is no longer simply political.
But if this was a reasonably useful arrangement for Republicans, who won a couple close elections with the help of their army of riled-up kooks, it was a fantastic deal for the real engine of the right-wing propaganda machine: companies selling newly patented drugs designed to treat the various conditions of old age, authors of dubious investing newsletters, sellers of survival seeds, hawkers of poorly written conservative books, and a whole array of similar con artists and ethically compromised corporations and financial institutions. The original strategy behind demonizing the “mainstream media” may have purely political, to steer voters away from outlets that tended to present information damaging to the conservative cause, but the creation of the conservative media was also a revenue opportunity for shameless grifters…
Conservative media became a goldmine for those willing to con trusting retirees, who have, as the article puts it, “a bit of disposable income, and a natural inclination to hate modernity and change—an inclination that could be heightened, radicalized, and exploited.” It was especially easy to prey on those inclinations during the term of a black President.
From there, it’s been all downhill.
Republicans realized they’d radicalized their base to a point where nothing they did in power could satisfy their most fervent constituents. Then—in a much more consequential development—a large portion of the Republican Congressional caucus became people who themselves consume garbage conservative media, and nothing else.
There is much more, especially about Trump and “Trumpians,” and the entire article is well worth reading and pondering.
The only thing missing from the spot-on analysis is the reason for the election of that “large portion” of GOP representatives who are delusional: gerrymandering.( If you don’t believe me, click through to read how it works….)