Thursday, February 28, 2013

Conservativism's Information Disadvatage

Conor Friedersdorf over at The Atlantic pointed out yesterday a troubling trend with many of the news organs of modern conservatism, namely they often get basic facts and predictions wrong, which in turn does their readers a great disservice: 
Americans who get their news from anti-Hagel conservatives discovered Tuesday that much of the analysis they've long been fed on this subject left them as misinformed about the likely course of events as they were about Mitt Romney's prospects for victory during Election 2012. Of course, a single nomination battle isn't nearly so consequential as a presidential election. This is nevertheless another reminder for the rank-and-file on the right: Demand better from the journalists whose work you patronize, or remain at an information disadvantage relative to consumers of a "mainstream media" that is regularly outperforming conservative journalists.
Friedersdorf has recorded a rather impressive list of conservative writers who get paid to keep their readers informed doing the exact opposite over the past few months.  One that stands out is the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin who as early as 2010 was responding to suggestions about Hagel as a Secretary of Defense with statements like "Maybe this is a trial balloon. If it's more than that, it will go over like a lead one." And as recently as February 11th with statements like:
When a Democratic insider and top adviser to President Obama like Stephanie Cutter laughs on the Sunday shows at the prospect of defending Chuck Hagel, you know things are not going well. She essentially said that the disastrous hearing doesn't matter.
The point here is not that Rubin is a sorry excuse for a journalist and the Washington Post should be embarrassed to keep her on the pay roll, although she is and they should be, it's that this sort of coverage makes the jobs of conservative readers who are trying to stay informed about politics that much harder.  To make matter worse, when the events that other journalist have been predicting do in fact come to past, conservatives who depend on people like Rubin to stay informed must be left dumbstruck and politics becomes even more impenetrable.  Why on earth did some guy who hates Israel and wants Iran to get the Bomb get confirmed by the Senate?  The obvious answer is that Hagel doesn't have those views and since he has no personal scandals he's likely to get confirmed, like every other Secretary of Defense, but you'd never learn that from reading Rubin.  I'd wager that this is in no small part a reason for conservatives to be more prone to a lot of conspiracy theories out there.  If the economy is not improving according to Rush, even though it is according to CNN or The New York Times, the idea that people in the Government invented monthly job report numbers makes much more sense.

Ironically its conservatives themselves that should be the most outraged by things like this as in the long run it only makes their attempts to get politicians they like elected and policies they like enacted that much harder.

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