“Life in the Conservative Bubble” • Celia Murray
Barack Obama won re-election with 332 electoral votes to Mr. Romney’s 206, and won the popular vote by more than three million votes. As Conor Friedersdorf, writing for The Atlantic points out, the results were unexpected, shocking even, for many Romney supporters.
So many on the right had predicted a Romney victory – Dick Morris, George Will, and Michael Barone all predicted the GOP would break 300 electoral votes. Peggy Noonan and Karl Rove insisted that those predicting an Obama victory were ignoring the world around them. Their voices drove the coverage on Fox News, the Drudge Report, and conservative talk radio and blogs, and the audiences listening to those voices were misinformed.
For months, Nate Silver, political analyst for The New York Times, explained daily why his model showed that President Obama enjoyed a very good chance of being re-elected. As Friedersdorf writes, “other experts echoed his (Silver’s) findings. Readers of The New York Times, The Atlantic, and other "mainstream media" sites…knew the expert predictions… 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.”
The conservative media is, in actually, just an echo chamber. Right-leaning outlets like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh's show are far more intellectually closed than CNN or public radio. So says David Frum, GOP political analyst and former speech writer for George W. Bush.
Frum, in his e-book Why Romney Lost, cites the media bubble as a major problem for the GOP. Frum contends that outlets such as Fox exist simply to reiterate desired “facts” to its viewers. By watching Fox one gets to chose one’s own answer to basic questions such as: Did taxes go up or down in the Obama years? Did government employment increase or decrease?
“A pair of surveys by Farleigh Dickinson University in 2011 and 2012 found that those people who most consistently watched Fox News were the least informed on basic questions of fact, such as: who was then leading in the race for the Republican nomination? Fox viewers were 10 points less likely to answer that question correctly than MSNBC viewers.”
Frum: “The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan liked to repeat the saying, ‘You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.’ Not anymore. By choosing what to read and watch, you get to choose your own answers to…basic questions.”
“The alternative information system built by conservative elites imprisons them as much as it does the movement’s rank-and-file. Exactly at the moment when realism and restraint are most needed, those qualities are spurned by a political movement that has furnished its collective mind with pseudo-facts and pretend information,”
Friedersdorf is more cynical. “A lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption,” he says.
The question is why do voters on the right continue to put up with it?
Celia Murray is a member of the Morgan County Democratic Committee.
Printed in the November 22, 2012 edition