Posts Tagged ‘conservative media’


Probably the biggest exaggeration maybe in American history

Condi Rice on George W. Bush’s bullhorn speech:

“But President Bush had at Ground Zero probably the most important moment maybe in American history. It was when this wounded nation watched their commander-in-chief stand on that rubble and say that they will hear us, we are going to avenge this.”

I suppose it could go without saying that this was said on Fox News.

Filed: We R in Control || 18:33, May 3 || No Comments »


Some thoughts on violent rhetoric

In the wake of the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (and the collateral murder of half a dozen others), much discussion has turned to Sarah Palin’s infamous target map, the gun-heavy campaign events held by Jesse Kelly (Giffords’s 2010 opponent) and various examples of violent campaign rhetoric that have come from candidates and opinion-leaders on the Right over the past few years. This is pretty predictable, as is the response: There’s no evidence that Jared Loughner is a Palin supporter, a Kelly supporter or a Tea Party supporter. He’s just a lone nut! Well, maybe. His seemingly insane rhetoric about grammar and mind control strongly recalls that of David Wynn Miller, a prominent figure in the far-right “sovereign citizen” movement. Maybe Miller is insane, too, but the ideology that underlies the sovereign citizen movement has popped up before.

But focusing on Palin’s map — which she ridiculously now wants to claim has “surveyor’s marks” on it — and allowing people to just dismiss Loughner as crazy misses an important, bigger point. For the past two years, conservatives have made their case primarily by stoking fear. They have repeatedly claimed that Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress are going to kill people, trash the economy, let foreign terrorists have the run of the place, etc. This isn’t an exaggeration of what they’re saying — they’ve taken the rhetoric of “genocide” from the far-right anti-abortion movement and scaled it up to their entire platform. So let’s say that Loughner is unstable, as various armchair psychiatrists have already diagnosed him as schizophrenic. A hallmark of this sort of mental illness is the perception of grand forces conspiring against you, or of someone or something being out to get you. Palin’s map is disgusting as campaign rhetoric, but it doesn’t say to an unstable person, “Hey, here’s a reason to go after this person.” But telling your followers that the government is going to pull the plug on grandma or that it’s deliberately setting murderous terrorists loose in America is different. Referring to an abortion provider as “Tiller the killer,” as Bill O’Reilly did repeatedly, is different. When that kind of rhetoric is tolerated, we shouldn’t be surprised when someone murders Dr. George Tiller, or tries to murder Democratic officials.

As much as this behavior, as well as more explicit threats — Sharron Angle’s “Second Amendment remedies,” the Tea Party’s “We Came Unarmed This Time” t-shirts — seems to be majorly cresting right now, this is part of a pattern dating back at least to early in the Clinton Administration. In 1994, both Sen. Jesse Helms (Clinton “better not show up around here [Fort Bragg] without a bodyguard”) and Rep. Bob Dornan (“The Second Amendment is…for hunting politicians, like in Grozny, and in the colonies in 1776, or when they take your independence away”) made violent threats against President Clinton. The difference then was that those comments were scandalous, and they were condemned by Republicans and media figures along with Democrats. Now, the conservative media machine allows this type of rhetoric to percolate and largely hide from the mainstream. Most of our officials and media figures now probably have little idea what’s happening in conservative social media, or even much of talk radio and Fox News; meanwhile, there’s much more of it than there was in 1994. To understand the implications of this type of violent and delegitimizing rhetoric, we first need to understand just how prevalent it is and how ingrained it has become in a particular segment of the population.

Filed: We R in Control || 16:56, January 10 || 1 Comment »


Who controls the Tea Party narrative?

There’s a question going around the blogosphere today of whether John Boehner’s quick-hit Affordable Care Act repeal bill — a largely symbolic measure that will go nowhere in the Senate — will be enough to appease the Tea Party activists who made rabid ACA opposition one of their litmus tests in 2010. The bill is scheduled for a vote two weeks before the State of the Union address, with no debate or CBO scoring, so it will likely not become an ongoing news story, but will be checked off the GOP’s list of campaign promises and will continue to be used as a fundraising and turnout tool in 2012.

While Jonathan Bernstein takes this move as evidence that Boehner sees the Tea Party as “a fairly easy bunch to manage,” Matthew Yglesias points to conservative messengers’ power in this process:

Suppose there’s some sellout that John Boehner wants to implement. Boehner recognizes that he needs to pair this with a symbolic but meaningless gesture. Now suppose he sits down in a room with Rupert Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Donohue, and David Koch and persuades all three of those people that this is the right way to proceed. Then the next day, Boehner unleashes his symbolic gesture and his compromise, and the coverage of it on Fox News, The Rush Limbaugh Show, and the fox-affiliated radio shows is all positive. That alone gets you the three most popular talk radio shows, the television network, The Weekly Standard, a dose of influence at every single conservative think tank in America, and the important organizing efforts of Americans For Prosperity.

I think this misses a couple layers of complexity. First, any discussion of the Tea Party needs to keep in mind that there really isn’t a Tea Party, per se, whether or not you buy the formulation of the movement as largely elite-created. You may recall that the whole thing seemed to kick off when CNBC barker Rick Santelli delivered a rant against foreclosed homeowners who didn’t deserve the same consideration as the banks who’d lent to them. Then it turned into a traveling health care town hall freak show. Then it became about the UN’s plot to make us all ride bikes and Michelle Obama’s War on Dessert. This is why it’s so easy to find large numbers of people claiming Tea Party membership — every angry conservative in the country can find something within the “movement” to latch on to.

Given that, it’s easy to see major conservative media as the organizing loci of the Tea Party, because that’s where these ideas can all come together and be passed around. But suggesting, as Yglesias does, that nobody will be willing to cross Rush on these matters, and thus potentially split the ideaspace, doesn’t quite make sense to me. First, while the dominance of institutional media in the Tea Party is certainly one of the key factors in its growth, we shouldn’t ignore the role played by social media. For every birther flirtation by a respectable conservative pundit on Fox, there are a dozen images of Obama as a Kenyan tribal chief being distributed through social networks online. The woman who interrupted today’s partial reading of the Constitution in the House may have gotten the birtherism idea from some recognizable source, but I’m sure wasn’t Limbaugh and Hannity supporting her at her blog or her Facebook page. Social media makes it much easier to tell that when someone’s pissing on your head, it’s not actually raining.

The other factor here is the likely make-up of the 2012 GOP field. Some candidates will be in no position to be too aggressive with Rush (i.e., Mitt Romney) and will have to show their fealty at every opportunity. But some — Palin, Huckabee — are conservative media figures in their own right. Given that there will probably be several candidates vying for the hardcore Tea Party vote, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for someone like Palin to pick a fight with the established bigwigs, both to try to differentiate herself as a candidate and, more importantly, to try to leapfrog Limbaugh as the biggest of big names in conservative media going forward.

Filed: We R in Control || 12:40, January 6 || No Comments »