Monday, June 10, 2019


Dave Weigel, who's following the Democratic presidential hopefuls in Iowa, spotted a nasty anti-Biden story on the local Sinclair channel, a piece Sinclair requires every one of its local stations to run:

Matt Yglesias responds:

I agree with Yglesias on that -- but I have my doubts about this:

I think the 24/7, in-your-face propaganda of Fox News (and right-wing talk radio) has done much more harm than insidious Sinclair propaganda has done, or is likely to do. I understand Yglesias's point: The Sinclair propaganda might reach swing voters who aren't fans of wall-to-wall conservative invective. It's dangerous.

But right-wing propaganda has succeeded in America by making conservatism seem like a way of life. It's not enough to vote Republican or agree with conservative stances on the issues -- Fox and talk radio make it seem as if every aspect of life is under threat from the left and the only possible response is constant fear, outrage, and vigilance. Long before YouTube or Facebook developed sophisticated algorithms to keep web surfers on their sites, Fox and talk radio discovered a potent mix of scare tactics and anger inducement that led to marathon viewing and listening.

All of which turned entire communities in America into places where a signifcant portion of the citizenry can't get much past "Hi, how are you?" without proclaiming their desire to deport Ilhan Omar and watch Hillary Clinton do a perp walk. The result is not just a pool of voters who'd crawl over ground glass to vote GOP every Election Day. It's neighbors who now believe that the obsessives' beliefs constitute a normal set of opinions.

The Sinclair propaganda might nudge a few fence-sitters into the Republican camp -- but I wonder whether it's very successful at that. One lesson we should draw from Donald Trump's 2016 campaign is that even swing voters respond to brash, condfident absolutism. Trump may have taken a few positions on issues that weren't in line with right-wing orthodoxy, but his list of enemies -- Democrats, liberals, scary non-white people, the non-conservative media -- was Fox's list. The anger was non-stop -- and Trump made it to the White House, succeeding where the less rabid Mitt Romney and John McCain had failed.

Fox is more of a danger than Sinclair. It sets out to rally the populace -- and that works.

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