Wednesday, November 07, 2012
The Bubble Bursts
Sorry, but I can't stop going back to Fox News's reaction to last night's Obama victory because it's just so fascinating on so many different levels. It really is shocking how quickly and dramatically the wheels came off the entire operation and how a group of people who are dedicated to relentlessly pushing their agenda would break down and allow their political enemies so much delicious, tears of unfathomable sadness-style, schadenfreude. They had to know that by behaving this way -- taking the loss of their fully backed candidate with such indignity -- they'd be personally providing their critics with plenty of salt to rub into their wounds.
Of course if you believe that Fox News doesn't just cynically generate an epistemic bubble for its viewers but actually lives inside it as well then it makes perfect sense that this would be the reaction when that bubble explodes all over them.
Some of the best things said about the sadness, desperation and complete loss of professionalism over at Fox so far:
"(It) looks like it was scripted by Ricky Gervais... Last night, Roger Ailes' walls came tumbling down. Because their foundations were not based in reality, just ratings. Fox deserves a great deal of credit for re-electing president Obama. Because they refused to see who he actually was, they could not effectively counter him. They countered a figment of their imagination - and it was a particularly nasty, bilious, mean figment. Their universe became a black hole last night, sucking almost all of them in."
-- Andrew Sullivan
"What is unusual–really, one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen on cable news–is for one arm of a network to basically turn against itself on-air. 'Here’s what we’re going to do!' said anchor Bret Baier. 'We’re going to get someone from the decision desk and we’re going to bring them in here and we’re going to have them on air and we’re going to interview them about this decision.' That’s right: One of you nerds had better get in here and explain yourselves to Karl Rove! You have made an important Republican very upset!
It was a fitting moment for an election that often seemed to be a campaign over the idea of mathematical knowability itself. But it was also a glaring, and embarrassing, example of the extent to which Fox News has become an arm of the Republican Party and is expected by GOP operatives to behave as one. Rove may be a party big shot, but he’s just a guy giving analysis on Fox’s air. He does not run the network, even if his friends do.
And yet apparently no one in Fox’s studio felt empowered to tell him that, just because he’d raised a squillion dollars for his Republican SuperPAC this election, he is not entitled to have the decision desk hauled out to answer to him like chefs who sent out an undercooked steak. It’s the sort of thing that might cause you to examine your mission as a journalistic network. I’m not waiting up for that to happen, though.
In the end, Rove is a numbers guy too, and he finally had to concede to the arithmetic–but not before creating a defining image of a partisan, and a network, at war with the very reality it could not avoid reporting. Kelly, who at least took the whole interlude in good humor, at one point deadpanned, 'That’s awkward.' Yes, it was. And kind of amazing."
-- James Poniewozik of Time Magazine
"The Right used ideology as the intellectual underpinning of their projections, while everyone else used facts. Nate Silver isn’t a mystic or the modern incarnation of Nostradamus – he’s an extraordinarily thorough polling analyst who bases predictions on a formula that accounts for real world margins of error and reporting discrepancies. It isn’t perfect, but the methodology is pretty airtight when it comes to projecting accurate odds. That’s why every half decent political analyst took Silver’s projections seriously and discounted the Right wing noise machine when it came to picking a winner."
-- Ben Cohen at the Daily Banter
One other possibility, at least as far as one guy's reaction is concerned: Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS superPAC spent nearly $300-million on Romney. If you'd just watched that much money go down the drain in one bad bet, you'd probably be angry too.