Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, October 06, 2021

Why do conservatives seem more adept at using the Web and other non-traditional news channels to their advantage than do the left-wingers? As diverse ideologues as Dick Cheney and Bill Clinton agree that it’s a comfort level issue:

But [Bill Clinton] said Democrats of his generation tend to be naive about new media realities. There is an expectation among Democrats that establishment old media organizations are de facto allies — and will rebut political accusations and serve as referees on new-media excesses.

“We’re all that way, and I think a part of it is we grew up in the ’60s and the press led us against the war and the press led us on civil rights and the press led us on Watergate,” Clinton said. “Those of us of a certain age grew up with this almost unrealistic set of expectations.”

Few conservatives would make a similar miscalculation. Many of the first generation of new media platforms, including Limbaugh’s show and Drudge’s Web site, first flourished because of a conviction among conservatives that old media were unfair.

All this has given Republicans a comfort and skill at using new media to political advantage that most Democrats have not matched. At the Republican National Committee, leaking items to the Drudge Report is an official part of communications strategy.

At first glance, this confirms the old attitude about the mainstream media being slanted toward the left. But read a little deeper, and it turns out that television, newspapers and radio are crucial amplifiers/disseminators of all the leaks and trial balloons that buzz around the Web. The scandals of the day — Mark Foley and the Congressional pages, George Allen’s “macaca” flap — caught fire on blogs and online forums. But had they not been picked up by old media outlets, they never would have blown up to the point where they had real-world impact. (The issue of whether or not traditional media had the option to ignore those stories is irrelevant — the fact is that without those saturated channels, most of the population wouldn’t have heard the news.)

But as what Cheney dubs the “old media monopoly” gets fragmented, what takes its place doesn’t necessarily translate into more reliable news outlets:

Those comments are a reminder that a changed media culture that creates new perils for politicians also provides new forms of refuge. For a full generation on the conservative side, and more recently among liberals, ideologues have created a menu of new media alternatives, including talk radio and Web sites. New media have also elevated flamboyant political entrepreneurs such as Ann Coulter on the right and Michael Moore on the left to prominent places in the political dialogue. New media platforms make criticism of traditional “mainstream media” part of their stock in trade.

This development usually ensures that any politician in trouble can count on some sympathetic forums to make his or her case. It often ensures that any controversy is marked by intense disagreement over the basic facts or relevance of the story, and obscured by clouds of accusation over the opposition’s motives.

New channels are forced to adopt slants one way or the other, just to distinguish themselves. And they’re required to commit to those perspectives in order to maintain their audiences. Becoming safe havens for either Republican or Democratic ideology makes them less reliable as complete news sources, and in fact comes pretty close to pandering. Giving the audience only what they want to hear, how they want to hear it, is popular, but not particularly enlightening. Sadly, the success of such outlets only encourages people to stay in their own worldview cocoons, rarely ever considering viewpoints other than their own.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 10/06/2021 06:39pm
Category: Internet, Media Mondays, Politics
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