Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Welcome To the Real World
As much as I occasionally disagree with Eric Boehlert's inexplicable willingness to engage in petty bickering on Twitter, there are plenty of times that I can't dispute the arguments he's making. Like right now.
He posted a piece over at Media Matters this morning that tries to deconstruct the right-wing "nervous breakdown" we've witnessed in the lead-up to the health care reform vote, and what might still be to come. Hidden within this lengthy column is a really good little point about how the conservative media feedback loop contributed to the absolute shock the right seems to be experiencing at the moment in the wake of its crushing defeat. I've mentioned before that we now live in a country in which each side of the political aisle can go about its business -- day after day after day -- never hearing an opinion that's contrary to the one it's already biased toward. Both the left and the right have their own respective sets of media bullhorns shouting their own respective sets of "facts," which means that the extreme on either side can often be blinded to the reality of what's happening outside the little fantasy realm it's constructed.
That said, I'm not going to play a game of false-equivalence; the right tends to stay on message infinitely better than the left, and that can often mean that the right is more susceptible to being deafened by its own echo chamber. Why are Fox News's ratings through the roof? Not because there are millions and millions of people out there who make Fox a part of their recommended daily allowance of assorted news and information, but because among those who consider themselves die-hard conservatives, Fox is the only news source. Fox is the McDonald's French Fries of news organizations: Nothing else tastes quite like it and, as such, it's its own separate and specific brand. If you love McDonald's fries, there's only one place to get them. From the beginning, FNC adopted a brilliant business model in which it would cater to the belief system of one select audience -- an audience that had always felt disenfranchised and which very much wanted to see its belief system catered to -- and it's reaped the rewards of that decision ever since.
The problem, of course, is that when you watch and listen to one view of the world -- with blinders on to anything that might contradict that strict position -- and you do it pretty much 24/7, you lose not only perspective but a handle on reality. For months now, all Fox viewers have seen -- and heard parroted by Rush Limbaugh, and read at Breitbart, Drudge or RedState -- is that health care reform was doomed to fail. That was never offered as a mere opinion, mind you. Fox News's audience had it presented to them as fact: The health care reform bill is socialism, therefore millions and millions of people are taking to the streets to stand against it, therefore it's destined to fail and fail miserably because this is America and in America the good guys always win -- and we're the good guys. Oh, and you can trust us because we speak for the entire country. Listen to this message every minute of every day, with no dissenting opinion or opposing facts, and what would you think if you were suddenly told that health care reform had actually passed? You'd think exactly what the right is thinking now -- that somehow the evil opposition must've stolen the vote or otherwise engaged in underhanded malfeasance on a grand scale and in defiance of the will of the American people. And you'd be very, very pissed.
These people see deception and corruption and treason because that's the only possible explanation for why they were wrong all this time. It's not because Fox and Rush told them only what they wanted to hear and what they'd hoped was true, and it certainly wasn't because there was an entirely alternate reality out there in which a majority of Americans didn't agree with their way of thinking -- a reality they never sought out because taking the blue pill and hooking into a world in which their personal biases were constantly stroked was much more comfortable. No, it's nothing like that; it's that Barack Obama -- a Muslim foreign national who palled around with terrorists and stole the White House through the dirty work of ACORN -- along with the Democratic Congress committed high crimes and misdemeanors by forcing an unpopular bill on the country, Third World dictatorship-style.
But just because you choose not to see the outside world doesn't mean it isn't there.
When you consistently only hear one side of the story, that wake up call's a brutal one. Conservative Americans just got it, and they're furious about it -- and from the way it looks, they're going to turn over and go right back to sleep.