Talk Radio And The Conservative Fantasy World

I’ve had a number of posts on how the Republicans lost due to being out of touch with reality and making arguments which making voting for them unpalatable to many educated voters. This includes some of the following recent posts:

The Republican Ship of Fools

Republicans and Meshugeneh Jewish Voters

Charlie Cook On The Republican Party’s Loss of Upscale Voters

Christine Todd Whitman Calls for Freeing the GOP From The Social Fundamentalists

Republicans Lost By Fighting the Wrong Battles

The GOP: Celebrating Ignorance

The Onion Has Serious Ideas On Meaning Of Obama’s Victory

The Reality-Based Argument for Barack Obama

These posts have two common  ideas. The Republicans base their arguments on religious dogma and on misinformation spread by the right wing noise machine. Nate Silver looks at this from the perspective of the harm done by talk radio. He begins with an interview with John Ziegler who conducted the rather strange poll I discussed here in which those who did not repeat conservative talking points as fact, even when totally incorrect, were considered to be ignorant. He highlighted a response where Ziegler considered the false conservative claim that Obama “launched his career” in the living room of Bill Ayers:

This might be the key passage of my interview with John Ziegler on Tuesday, for it is, in a nutshell, why conservatives don’t win elections anymore. It is not that conservatism generally permits less nuance than liberalism (in terms of political messaging, that is probably one of conservatism’s strengths). Rather, the key lies in the second passage that I highlighted. There are a certain segment of conservatives who literally cannot believe that anybody would see the world differently than the way they do. They have not just forgotten how to persuade; they have forgotten about the necessity of persuasion.

John Ziegler is a shining example of such a conservative. During my interview with him, Ziegler made absolutely no effort to persuade me about the veracity of any of his viewpoints. He simply asserted them — and then became frustrated, paranoid, or vulgar when I rebutted them.

This mindset of believing the right wing talking points and ignoring all evidence that their claims are untrue is common among conservatives. Nate moves into a lengthy discussion of talk radio which is better read in its entirety. A key point is that talk radio concentrates on stimulation to capture the attention of those who are also engaged in other activities while the radio is on as opposed to pursuasion.

Invariably, the times when Ziegler became really, really angry with me during the interview was when I was not permitting him to be stimulating, but instead asking him specific, banal questions that required specific, banal answers. Those questions would have made for terrible radio! And Ziegler had no idea how to answer them.

Stimulation, however, is somewhat the opposite of persuasion. You’re not going to persuade someone of something when you’re (literally, in Ziegler’s case) yelling in their ear.

The McCain campaign was all about stimulation. The Britney Spears ads weren’t persuasive, but they sure were stimulating! “Drill, baby, drill” wasn’t persuasive, but it sure was stimulating! Sarah Palin wasn’t persuasive, but she sure was (literally, in Rich Lowry’s case) stimulating!

Talk radio is only one portion of the right wing noise machine, but it does contribute to the disconnect between conservatives and reality. Talking points which are repeatedly yelled on talk radio are reinforced on Fox, in conservative publications, and blogs. Such repetition replaces any serious attempts at persuasion as well as consideration of the actual facts. Any news outlet which fails to repeat their misconceptions is labeled as part of the liberal media and ignored. This leads to a dwindling number of true believers among conservatives, who are no longer able to meaningfully engage in meaninful discussion of the issues. While they are convinced that their arguments are true, they increasingly lose the support of educated voters who gradually begin to see though them.

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