Monday, January 31, 2011

Out Foxed

Connor Friedersdorf asks an intelligent question: Do Liberals really want their own version of Fox News?

The right and the left aren't mirrors of one another. The strengths and flaws of both sides are different, as are the people who make up the ideological coalitions. For this reason, I very much doubt that the left is capable of building its own talk radio empire or Fox style news channel even if it wanted to do so. But I want to explain at greater length why liberals shouldn't envy the right for its blowhards.

Alongside their benefits, let's examine the costs.

These are inseparable from the success of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh's status as the right's most popular entertainer. Foremost is the echo chamber effect: a bubble where the Iraq War was always going swimmingly, patriotism seemed to require support for torture, and the Bush Administration's domestic agenda never lacked for defenders happy to obscure the manifold ways that it violated even the principles of conservatism. The conservative media isn't wholly responsible for 8 years of Republican rule that left the right exceptionally unhappy. But it acted as a consistent enabler of policies that did long term damage to the country and brought about an electoral flameout that handed progressives their biggest opportunity in years. 

Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and friends have also succeeded in dumbing down the right's ideas. How could it be otherwise when they traffic in absurd conspiracy theories that many prominent conservatives are afraid to directly contradict? If you only trust right-leaning media sources – that is true of many conservatives – who is pushing back against the notion that Barack Obama is a Kenyan anti-colonialist, or that all liberals are power-hungry statists bent on spreading tyranny as their preferred end? Perhaps there are instances when these sorts of lies produce a short term political advantage. In the long run, it is never worth the extra distance put between the right and an accurate grasp of reality.

It's a strong argument and one that I agree with quite a bit. What you see in the relationship between Conservative thought and Fox News is a clash of interests. It is in the interests of Conservatives to provide pragmatic alternatives to Liberal programs, in line with their ideology. It is in the interest of Fox to get ratings and advertisement sales.

Unfortunately in this clash, entertainment has clearly won out over sensible politics. Would the Left really want to saddle themselves with the same albatross? He concludes:

The antidote for Fox News isn't Keith Olbermann. It's Jon Stewart. It isn't a new left-leaning host who turns Glenn Beck-style destructive absurdity to different ideological ends – it's someone who effectively demosntrates the absudity of blowhards.

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