I have envied British media. Its allegiances are so known comedians can bank on a laugh. I know The Guardian is read by the people who think they ought to run the country. The Times is read by the people who actually do run the country. And The Sun is read by, well, you probably know the skit.
American media, in contrast, pretends. Outlets market themselves on objectivity, impartiality, and trust and then do not deliver. Twenty years ago, it seemed that the Internet solved part of that problem. Talk radio, Fox News, and the right blogosphere gave conservatives a place to fight back against the stealth propaganda in old media.
Alas, we became victims of that success.
I had a front row seat as an expat political blogger who moved in house with PJMedia, one of the first blogger consolidations built off the frame of the most well-known single writer blog, Instapundit. It felt good to be heard, and some of the successes were so spectacular that many stopped paying attention to who was listening. Even while we accused leftists of being in their New York Times bubble, we began to huddle in our own.
We contented ourselves with preaching to the choir. In fact, that was the first feature length piece I pitched at PJMedia, a wordy version of what became 8 Rules for Conservative Rebels five years and a few heavy edits later.
Right media denied our bubble with the data telling us we read left far more than the left read right, and that we understood the opposition while they could hardly make head nor tail of us. Our leaders knew that conservatives listened to talk radio and Fox and if you wanted to speak to them, you had to get on Fox.
We forgot that these endeavours were big businesses with bottom lines. They would serve those bottom lines. Which brings us to the current day.
Donald Trump ran on on his hard immigration stance that carried him through the primaries. Many of us knew he would. But the Republican media personalities, the big names who had assured their tens of millions fans that he wouldn’t. He was a golden egg for media and its personalities.
Ann Coulter wrote a book off his campaign. With perfect ironic timing, “In Trump We Trust” launched as Trump softened on Sean Hannity’s Fox show. For his part, Hannity has spent the last few weeks berating Trump’s right detractors for not getting on board the Trump Train even though the presidential pivot Trump promised Hannity in March has yet to materialise.
Feminists do a version of this diversion. They berate women who refuse the term while allowing the declared feminists who engage in misandry and women on women offenses a pass. It is no less annoying when someone claiming to be on my political side does it. (Actually, it’s more annoying then.)
Hannity might have earned a little respect if he had called Trump to account for failing to mount a competent campaign. But yelling at distractors entertains the audience.
Then there is Rush Limbaugh, The conservative radio personality. Now he tells his listeners that he never really believed that Trump would follow through on his immigration stance. Connor Friedersdorf covered that betrayal of audience well at The Atlantic.
Trump is pivoting to the establishment positions without the establishment polish or even competence. Hillary Clinton looks set to beat him soundly. And thus, the conservative movement has been betrayed by the media machine we sustained.
David French, readers might recall him as the guy who almost ran as the establishment’s third party candidate, names the Right’s problem with split-shaft accuracy. Steve Deace has a series on the same, which is now on week five.
I present all of this as a cautionary tale for right media in the UK. Conservative voices have gathered and found success against the BBC and its ilk. This is a wonderful development, and I know it feels fabulous, vibrant. But remember, keep the focus on the ideas, on open debate, and honesty. When the sites serve their bottom line and thinkers and leaders fall to the temptation to brand themselves, then you are only one agent of chaos away from being back at the mercy of the BBC.
We have a silver lining. The exposed entertainers of the Right will never be trusted by significant numbers again. Other outlets like CNN have taken the time out of Fox’s popularity shadow to at least attempt new formats. Online media is replacing radio. Fox itself has a shot at remaking itself after mastermind of so much of this debacle, Roger Ailes, has been ousted over multiple sexual harassment claims.
There is potential in this destruction, but make no mistake, first we must endure the destruction.
(Image: Gage Skidmore)