Friedersdorf on the abject failure of conservative media

Rush Limbaugh

Conservative radio theater host, Rush Limbaugh [Image credit]

Over the last few weeks I have come to appreciate the writings of Conor Friedersdorf, columnist for The Atlantic. Following last night’s election results he addressed the failure of the conservative media to see the big pre-election stories, opting instead for conspiracy theories, and faux news.

The losers, according to Friedersdorf, were the “rank-and-file” conservatives who took Limbaugh, Hannity, et al, as authoritative and truthful casting a wary eye at all other outlets.

From the article:

Barack Obama just trounced a Republican opponent for the second time. But unlike 4 years ago, when most conservatives saw it coming, Tuesday’s result was, for them, an unpleasant surprise. So many on the right had predicted a Mitt Romney victory, or even a blowout — Dick Morris, George Will, and Michael Barone all predicted the GOP would break 300 electoral votes. Joe Scarborough scoffed at the notion that the election was anything other than a toss-up. Peggy Noonan insisted that those predicting an Obama victory were ignoring the world around them. Even Karl Rove, supposed political genius, missed the bulls-eye. These voices drove the coverage on Fox News, talk radio, the Drudge Report, and conservative blogs.

Those audiences were misinformed.

Outside the conservative media, the narrative was completely different. Its driving force was Nate Silver, whose performance forecasting Election ’08 gave him credibility as he daily explained why his model showed President Obama enjoyed a very good chance of being reelected. Other experts echoed his findings. Readers of The New York Times, The Atlantic, and other “mainstream media” sites besides knew the expert predictions, which have been largely born out. The conclusions of experts are not sacrosanct. But Silver’s expertise was always a better bet than relying on ideological hacks like Morris or the anecdotal impressions of Noonan. Sure, Silver could’ve wound up wrong, but people who rejected the possibility of his being right?

They were operating at a self-imposed information disadvantage.


You haven’t just been misinformed about the horse race. Since the very beginning of the election cycle, conservative media has been failing you. With a few exceptions, they haven’t tried to rigorously tell you the truth, or even to bring you intellectually honest opinion. What they’ve done instead helps to explain why the right failed to triumph in a very winnable election.

Why do you keep putting up with it?

Conservatives were at a disadvantage because Romney supporters like Jennifer Rubin and Hugh Hewitt saw it as their duty to spin constantly for their favored candidate rather than being frank about his strengths and weaknesses. What conservative Washington Post readers got, when they traded in Dave Weigel for Rubin, was a lot more hackery and a lot less informed about the presidential election.

Conservatives were at an information disadvantage because so many right-leaning outlets wasted time on stories the rest of America dismissed as nonsense. World Net Daily brought you Birtherism. Forbes brought you Kenyan anti-colonialism. National Review obsessed about an imaginary rejection of American exceptionalism, misrepresenting an Obama quote in the process, and Andy McCarthy was interviewed widely about his theory that Obama, aka Drone Warrior in Chief, allied himself with our Islamist enemy in a “Grand Jihad” against America. Seriously?

Conservatives were at a disadvantage because their information elites pander in the most cynical, self-defeating ways, treating would-be candidates like Sarah Palin and Herman Cain as if they’re plausible presidents, rather than national jokes who’d lose worse than George McGovern.

I encourage you to read the entire piece.

I’m sure some will say, “But what about Benghazi? What about Fast and Furious? What about socialism? What about Obamacare?”

To which I answer, “What about the boy who cried wolf?” As conservative media beats the birther drum, the Obama 2016 drum, and every other drum of suspiciousness, why should conservatives be surprised to find the wolf soundly dismissed even when loudly announced?

Conservative media, like liberal media, does not exist to tell the truth. It exists to relate a narrative. Each narrative fulfills–they hope–two functions: to sell ads and to make money. I really do not see this as cynicism. This is just reality.

The air inside any bubble eventually becomes toxic.

As long as Americans–conservative and liberal, Right and Left–eat pablum like it is a 5-star breakfast and drink muddy water like Italian roast, media sources will be content to serve it up as a never ending feast.

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.