A Few Words on the “Conservative Entertainment Complex”

By now, you’ve probably seen this clip of conservative strategist David Frum, commenting on NBC News Friday on last week’s defeat of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

“Republicans have been fleeced and exploited, and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex,” Daily Beast and Newsweek contributing editor David Frum told Friday’s Morning Joe panel in a discussion on the outcome of the 2012 election.

Frum, who is a Republican and once served as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, has criticized conservative media outlets in the past for “immers[ing] their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.” Frum joined Morning Joe on Friday, in part, to discuss his new e-book “Why Romney Lost: And What the GOP Can Do About It.”

Politico’s Jonathan Martin explores the subject of an intellectually “closed” GOP, and self-reinforcing message environment further in a story today titled “The GOP’s media cocoon.”

Even this past weekend, days after a convincing Obama win, it wasn’t hard to find fringes of the right who are convinced he did so only because of mass voter fraud and mysteriously missing military ballots. Like a political version of “Thelma and Louise,” some far-right conservatives are in such denial that they’d just as soon keep on driving off the cliff than face up to a reality they’d rather not confront.

But if the Fox News-talk radio-Drudge Report axis is the most powerful force in the conservative cocoon, technology has rendered even those outlets as merely the most popular destinations in the choose-your-own-adventure news world in which consumers are more empowered than ever.

Facebook and Twitter feeds along with email in-boxes have taken the place of the old newspaper front page, except that the consumer is now entirely in charge of what he or she sees each day and can largely shut out dissenting voices. It’s the great irony of the Internet era: People have more access than ever to an array of viewpoints, but also the technological ability to screen out anything that doesn’t reinforce their views.

Here in Colorado, the 2012 election season saw the biggest explosion of “alternative” right wing media outlets we’ve ever seen. In previous elections, we’ve seen various blogs and “news” sites set up by Colorado conservatives come and go, never making much difference. In 2012, though, the local online punditry space was positively flooded by conservative sites like the Colorado Observer, Colorado Media Trackers, the Colorado News Agency, the Colorado Public Advocate, and My Colorado View–in addition to existing sites such as WhoSaidYouSaid, the People’s Press Collective, Complete Colorado and Colorado Peak Politics. That’s not even a full list.

In short, folks, the “conservative entertainment complex” was absolutely a major part of Colorado’s elections in 2012, and not just via the influence of national talking heads like Rush Limbaugh. As a critical swing state, a battery of local right wing “news” sites was set up to locally reinforce the platform and candidates the GOP fielded here and nationally.

These fake news sites served several important purposes for Republicans: some were used to provide “citations” for attack mailers, or to float attacks on Democrats that Republicans were unable to convince mainstream reporters to run with. Those were then picked up and distributed through more conventional distribution channels like local conservative AM talk radio, or fed up the chain into national conservative news giants like the Fox News Channel. In addition, these outlets “worked the refs,” shrilly attacking mainstream reporters via social media over stories they didn’t like. In October, they became ardent champions of Rasmussen’s increasingly unreal tracking polls. This model more or less depended on a weakened local mainstream media, unable to debunk the volume of material emanating from so many outlets.

And as you know, until Election Day, the confidence projected by the Republicans in Colorado was bulletproof. Not only would the GOP win, but they would win big.

David Frum continues:

“The problem with GOP leaders is they’re cowards, not that they’re fundamentally mistaken,” Frum said. “The real locus of the problem is the GOP activist base and the GOP donor base. They went apocalyptic over the past four years and that was exploited by a lot of people in the conservative world.”

“Apocalyptic” sums it up very well. Remember when Jon Caldara told “Tea Party” rallygoers that Obamacare would result, as in definitely, in Caldara “losing another child?” The kinds of irrational and apocalyptic arguments made by the right wing against Democrats in general, and Barack Obama in particular, have been so over the top that a self-reinforcing conservative media echo chamber environment was required in order to hold it all together. On Election Day, of course, it all came crashing down–but failure doesn’t change the fact that the extreme campaign of character assassination against Democrats in the last four years, reinforced in 2010 and not effectively repudiated until last Tuesday, was part of a very deliberate strategy.

But if you believe it, if you believe that Obamacare is going to kill Jon Caldara’s child, or that the President of the United States is “not an American,” or that the U.N. is coming to take your guns…well, it doesn’t matter if this indicates you are psychologically unbalanced. Because the people who fed you that nonsense only cared how you were going to vote.

It’s possible, given the apparently broad recognition after the election that journalistic information delivery was supplanted on the right with, essentially, a propaganda machine willingly embraced by those it sought to deceive, that we are in the last days of a long assault on objective truth for political purposes. But the true nature and failure of that campaign should never be forgotten by either party–especially Republicans, now brought to ruin, and these ugly truths on display.

Yes, the GOP must change, and their reality bubble is where we would begin.


12 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Automaticftp says:

    has not been a GOP strong suit in the last 20 or so years.  Facts appear to be curious things to the GOP as a whole.

    If that doesn’t change, nothing the GOP does will matter.

  2. Aristotle says:

    … conservatives might read this and learn from their mistakes.

    Just kidding. You know how people are more likely to cling to their incorrect beliefs when presented with the truth?

    In general, I eschew the Craig-like need to blow my own horn, but I’ve been predicting the self-marginalization of the right for a while now – more specifically, that the political pendulum has swung toward the left. The electorate is now concerned with traditionally liberal concerns, from the economy (specifically regulation and stimulus), to health care, to minority rights (e.g., marriage equality), to marijuana decriminalization, to energy (renewable and traditional). Traditionally conservative politics (DEregulation, military might, hawkish foreign policies, and social conservatism are all unpopular because they’re doing nothing to help anyone but the rich, or the old white men who need to feel superior to everyone else.

    The right wing media machine was doomed to failure, even without the impressive cocoon it built for its die-hard audience, because there’s only so long that those who aren’t die hard can give those policies a chance to make things work. Wages have been declining since before Reagan; maybe a true liberal front, which hasn’t existed in all that time, can finally turn that around.

    Obama and the Dems need to make the most of it over the next session, because the GOP won’t go away quietly, and they’re still more seasoned at hardball and dirty tricks. The Dems have to deliver something in order to retain the trust of the electorate, or it will be a hard slog. I don’t think that people are just going to give the GOP’s same old, same old another hearing, but they haven’t fully committed to the Dems yet, either. So don’t blow it, Dems. This opportunity won’t come around again anytime soon.

  3. caroman says:

    Allan Lichtman, an American University professor released his prediction model in August, 2011 and was proved correct.

    He puts to shame the CU poli sci professors who predicted Romney would win based on seemingly nothing more than the fur on ground squirrels.

    Richtman’s model states that a candidate who wins on a majority of 13 factors will win the election.

    Here are his 13 factors and his analysis as of August, 2011:

    Below are each of the keys and how it falls for Obama.

    1.Party mandate: After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections. Says Lichtman, “Even back in January 2010 when I first released my predictions, I was already counting on a significant loss.” Obama loses this key.

    2.Contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination. Says Lichtman on Obama’s unchallenged status, “I never thought there would be any serious contest against Barack Obama in the Democratic primary.” Obama wins this key.

    3.Incumbency: The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president. Easy win here for Obama.

    4.Third Party: There is no significant third party challenge. Obama wins this point.

    5.Short term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign. Here Lichtman declares an “undecided.”

    6.Long-term economy: Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms. Says Lichtman, “I discounted long term economy against Obama. Clearly we are in a recession.” Obama loses this key. [Read: Seven Ways Obama Can Gain Credibility on Jobs.]

    7.Policy change: The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy. “There have been major policy changes in this administration. We’ve seen the biggest stimulus in history and an complete overhaul of the healthcare system so I gave him policy change,” says the scholar. Another win for Obama.

    8.Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term. Says Lichtman, “There wasn’t any social unrest when I made my predictions for 2012 and there still isn’t.” Obama wins a fifth key here.

    9.Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal. “This administration has been squeaky clean. There’s nothing on scandal,” says Lichtman. Another Obama win.

    10.Foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs. Says Lichtman, “We haven’t seen any major failure that resembles something like the Bay of Pigs and don’t foresee anything.” Obama wins again.

    11.Foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs. “Since Osama bin Laden was found and killed, I think Obama has achieved military success.” Obama wins his eighth key.

    12.Incumbent charisma: The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero. Explains Lichtman, “I did not give President Obama the incumbent charisma key. I counted it against him. He’s really led from behind. He didn’t really take the lead in the healthcare debate, he didn’t use his speaking ability to move the American people during the recession. He’s lost his ability to connect since the 2008 election.” Obama loses this key. [See political cartoons about President Obama.]

    13.Challenger charisma: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero. Says Lichtman, “We haven’t seen any candidate in the GOP who meets this criteria and probably won’t.” Obama wins, bringing his total to nine keys, three more than needed to win reelection.

    So, Obama wins at least 10 out of 13 factors, and won the election.  It’s interesting how the economy counts for only 2 of the factors and Lichtman didn’t give Obama a win in either one.

    This was the most reality-based analysis that I saw during the election, yet it was upstaged by the morons at CU.

    Here’s a link to the article about Lichtman:


  4. Dark Cloud says:

    ColoradoPols originally posted, regarding the President of the Coors Curia of Conservative Catholic Chickenhawks:

    “We do think it would be quite appalling for Caldara to make such a statement about one’s own child knowing it’s not true. And if Caldara, who we believe to be an intelligent man not as given over to irrational ravings as some on the left might think, really does think that the Affordable Care Act will result in the death of his child, not “may” but “will,” reporters need to get over their squeamishness and ask him why he thinks that.

    We’d say Caldara should either be called out for misusing this tragedy so crassly, or brought up to speed on what Obamacare actually does so he doesn’t go through life thinking Obama wants to kill his child. And perhaps to set the guy with the “death panel mentors” sign straight.”

    So, since July, has anyone inquired?  Has anyone followed up?  

  5. cunninjo says:

    But if you believe it, if you believe that Obamacare is going to kill Jon Caldara’s child, or that the President of the United States is “not an American,” or that the U.N. is coming to take your guns…well, it doesn’t matter if this indicates you are psychologically unbalanced. Because the people who fed you that nonsense only cared how you were going to vote.

    I think what Frum is trying to say is that the people who fed conservatives such non-sense were capitalizing on an apocalyptic narrative to drive profits, not to win the election. The conservative media doesn’t live in the bubble, it intentionally created it knowing that uninformed Christian voters (not implying that all Christians are uniformed or, for that matter, voters) who both fear and welcome the idea of the end times will soak it all up. Barack Obama is big business for the Limbaughs, Hannitys and Becks of the world.    

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      I’ve read a lot about the profit motive, and maybe it became a profit motive, but I think that ignores the fact that they BELIEVED their own lies, all the way up to the Romney campaign itself. The shock of defeat Tuesday on the right was because they truly believed in Unskewed Polls, not that Unskewed Polls had conned them.

      At worst, both things are true. If the suspension of disbelief didn’t go to the very top, the claims of creating a profit bubble without interest in real political power would make more sense. And remember, in 2010, the two really were one and the same.

      Just food for thought…

      • Aristotle says:

        Let’s remember that Roger Ailes has been in charge since that outfit was started. They thrived just as much under Bush as Obama. Sure, there was terrorism and war for nearly his two full terms, but the Fox/radio/blog axis was still bashing Dems most of that time.

        They don’t need Obama or Clinton or any other Dem in office to make big profits. Being exposed like this isn’t good for them because it brings their objectivity into question. And while the hard right won’t care, Fox and the rest need more than just those people to succeed.

  6. caroman says:

    Rasmussen explains why they were wrong in picking the winner on 6 out of 9 swing states.  Summary: They are a GOP biased crap organization that is to “polling” as Fox News is to “news”.

    “A preliminary review indicates that one reason for this is that we underestimated the minority share of the electorate. In 2008, 26% of voters were non-white. We expected that to remain relatively constant. However, in 2012, 28% of voters were non-white. That was exactly the share projected by the Obama campaign. It is not clear at the moment whether minority turnout increased nationally, white turnout decreased, or if it was a combination of both. The increase in minority turnout has a significant impact on the final projections since Romney won nearly 60% of white votes while Obama won an even larger share of the minority vote.”

  7. parsingreality says:

    …London will soon be asking for mercy from the victorious Third Reich.  Heil Hitler!”

    As 600 Allied bombers hit Berlin in one night.  And the next.  And the next.

    Fucking right wing propaganda.  There may be 70 years apart in time, but the principles are the same.  And like the Germans who didn’t get to listen to the BBC (a treasonous offense), they couldn’t figure out how they lost while they were winning.

    I hope those righties keep doing the aural circle jerk.  

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