If Fox News has changed, apart from discharging Glenn Beck to even more frothy pastures, I haven't been able to discern it. The usual pattern of "actual news" hosts bloviating against Obama decisions, or of Fox & Friends welcoming each day with a nice, warm cup of asinine, fact-free banter, or Sean Hannity valiantly taking on strawmen so flimsy as to nearly qualify as hauntings, or host after host coming up with the exact same arguments as the Republican National Committee, sometimes accompanied by displayed bullet points copying the exact language of Republican memos; it all looks the same to me. But like many things conservative, this change is apparently something only dogs and True Conservatives can hear. And they're pissed about it.
Politico tracked the conservative disgruntlement at this year's CPAC, the biggest convention for conservative show dogs in America today. They quoted a crazy person and conservative talk radio host (but I repeat myself) as saying this:
“I’ve gone from all Fox to no Fox, and replaced it with CNN, which I think right now is giving me a much fairer analysis of what’s going on,” he said. “I feel they’ve lost that independent conservative mantra that had drove people like me to them. I used to feel that I got it straight, and I got an independent conservative view. Now, what I get is some wholly owned subsidiary of the RNC.”Sherlock here may be on to something; by Jove, it does seem like Fox seems to toe the Republican line, and the Republican line is not necessarily always the most conservative line—at least, not when "conservatism" has devolved into the least common denominator of conspiracy theorizing, race-baiting, and the world's most pissed off costume parties. I think the real story here is that the Republican party itself decided that the tea partiers and assorted hangers-on were getting far too crazy for even them to be able to control, and Fox News made the exact same choice: Fox has always catered to the "Republican" version of conservatism first (even when that requires a dizzying array of rapid policy shifts on things like spending, the deficit and the like) and social conservatism only as necessary evil. When good Republican lobbyists were crafting the tea partiers, and providing cash to the tea partiers, and making nicely printed signs for the tea partiers both party and network were pleased as punch; then, at some point, things went off the rails and the fellows in tight pants and triangular hats thought they ought to really run the show. Things began to be less narrowly focused on Cutting Taxes For Rich People (Blessings and Peace Be Upon Them) and more about ammo-based conspiracies, and Agenda 21-based conspiracies, and racism thinly disguised as birtherism, and in general things went to hell from there.
No, the Republicans said! Remember the Cutting Taxes On Rich People (Blessings and Peace Be Upon Them) part? That was the part you were supposed to run with! Alas, too late. So the Republicans began distancing themselves, and Fox News began in turn to devote less and less fawning coverage to the small roving packs of teabagging patriots, a group whose rallies they previously had built up with weeks of advance work, multiple camera teams and gushing, on-site hosts. The GOP and Fox built the tea party movement; by quietly withdrawing their support, the GOP and Fox effectively ended them as political force, as well.
Now, True Conservatives are not the brightest bulbs in the political world, but it seems even True Conservative radio talk show hosts can eventually come to moments of epiphany, if you give them long enough. Now the True Conservative crowd is getting pissed off. And they're getting pissed off because they see the supposed Fox News deemphasis of batshit insane chalkboard-enhanced debunked conspiracy mongering as being an unforgivable offense against them.
“To tell you the truth, a lot of conservatives see Fox News as being somewhat skewed on certain issues,” said Patrick Brown, who runs Internet marketing for The Western Center for Journalism, a conservative nonprofit that features stories questioning the president’s eligibility for office. “We actually did a poll recently that said, ‘Is Fox News actually conservative, or has it moved left?’ And some 70 percent of our readers thought it had moved left.”I'm just going to pause here a moment, take a sip of a refreshing beverage, and imagine in my mind's eye how absolutely, manically insane one would have to be to consider Fox Fucking News as not conservative. Are Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity Marxists, now? How long will it be before they, too, are not pure enough for conservatism? No—we seem to be well past that point already:
Cliff Kincaid, president of America’s Survival, had a whole booth at CPAC dedicated to questioning Fox’s programming choices, complete with “Bring Back Beck” buttons and bumper stickers.You may recognize the name Cliff Kincaid from his long history of being batshit insane; if not, no matter. The conspiracy theory of Fox caving to pressure from He Who Must Always Be Named was well-represented at the conference. Kincaid cited as dire offense the appearance of several specific token liberals on the network (Jehmu Greene and Sally Kohn, neither of who I have heard of but who apparently are the devil's own personal feminist bodyguards). Apparently even the token non-conservatives rankle, now. (Is Juan Williams allowed back on the network anymore, I wonder? I was unclear on what his punishment would be, after he asked a question about black people at one of the recent Republican debates.)
“What happened is they buckled under pressure from George Soros and his operatives to get rid of Glenn Beck,” said Kincaid, who wants Beck back on the air so he can continue his “investigative journalism” into Soros’s influence on the media.
Another tea partier, this one working for an internet video outfit that perhaps sees itself as a fledgling competitor to Fox:
[...] agrees that Fox has shifted left over the past year, and was particularly disturbed to hear that Fox Business Network announced last week it was canceling Glenn Beck protégé Andrew Napolitano’s “Freedom Watch,” a favorite among tea partiers. The Internet was abuzz with speculation that Napolitano was canceled for supporting Ron Paul [...]... as opposed to for dismal ratings and the general on-air demeanor of the world's most pompous serial killer ...
“Something is happening at Fox News,” wrote one Red State blogger last month. “More often these days I hear the language of the Left entering their news programs. Conservative points of view are becoming more rare on Fox and/or treated with scorn…it may not be admitted, but I believe the left’s boycott of Fox is having an effect.”Think of it. Conservative points of view being treated with scorn on Fox News. Why, you or I may not be able to see it, and may wonder at exactly what sort of delusional band of nitwits would think of Fox as being too "Left," but that's just the point. True Conservatism is now so very, very goddamn conservative that Fox News looks like hostile ground to them. Merely having their own world view affirmed is no longer enough for a movement that invents new conspiracies and new positions at a steady clip; it is now required that others embrace each new nutty theory as quickly as the base can come up with it.
“When I wake up, I go to two sites, instantly; they never close down in my browser: The Drudge Report and The Blaze,” said Ben Johnson, new media director of the conservative media watchdog Accuracy in Media. “They have proven to me to break the most interesting, underreported stories, and that’s what I want.”You might also recognize the Drudge Report and Glenn Beck's Blaze as being two outlets conspicuous for their legendary lack of accuracy, something the Accuracy in Media fellow really ought to check up on. Or not.
The takeaway lesson from this year's CPAC is, I think, that True Conservatives are staying the course. There is no reflection on whether turning uncontroversial Bush policies into socialist-armageddon-klaxon-Marxist-dangers under Obama might be an unwise thing to do. No contemplation on whether or not the steady purge of past conservative stalwarts might be a symptom of a movement that has decayed into radicalism and denialism. No concern for poll after poll demonstrating that the American public is not following them down their little conservative rabbit hole. The Bush years were too liberal; the Reagan years were too liberal; the Nixon years were too liberal; Abraham Freaking Lincoln was too damn liberal, and by a long shot. Debate audiences applaud executions and shout that uninsured Americans should be left to die. Rick Santorum, poster child for many, many things, is the newest conservative savior in a season that has seen a half dozen conservative saviors come in like lions, and go out like lambs. The fights in Congress now are between the GOP leaders, who sense in their electorally-all-too-conscious little hearts that perhaps something ought to get done, every once in a while, and freshmen members who would rather watch the whole town burn just so they could say they had a hand in it.
There doesn't seem to be, even at the beginning of an election year, the slightest inclination to tone things down. Heaven knows the Republicans aren't conservative enough for them, even though the Republicans have done their damnedest at it. Fox News is no longer conservative enough for them, since being a True Conservative means embracing the most conservative possible thing, and Fox News stands accused of neglecting to embrace some of the _most conservative possible things, due to their obvious-to-all-observers ridiculousness.
I wonder, though, just how isolated this movement can get. They seem hell bent on doing it, and do not seem to be phased at all by pesky intrusions of reality. The current congress has racked up approval ratings only slightly better than syphilis. The economy may or may not be improving, but it certainly hasn't been because of a damn thing Congress has done, and whether the economy is good or bad seems to have absolutely no bearing on what policy prescriptions conservatives propose for dealing with it. We seem to be down to the Tax Cuts For Rich People part, and everything else is a haze. A conspiracy-permeated, self-reenforcing, Fox-News-blaming haze.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2005:
Bush dug in his heels yesterday and declared open partisan war. The Republicans are going to the mattresses:
Following through on a promise he has made repeatedly since his victory in November, President Bush yesterday renominated 12 candidates for federal appeals court seats whose confirmations were blocked by Senate Democrats during his first term. The renomination of the judicial candidates promises to once again ignite an intense partisan battle with Senate Democrats. They have vowed to thwart Bush's nominees, whom they consider too conservative.
The battle over the makeup of the federal bench is also a key issue for conservative evangelicals and others at the core of the president's political base who see judges as crucial to their efforts to outlaw abortion, allow for a broader religious presence in daily life and limit the influence of the federal government. Bush has said that his nominees are well qualified and deserve a vote in the Senate. "Every judicial nominee deserves a prompt hearing and an up-or-down vote on the floor of the United States Senate," he said yesterday.
This will be the big fight. Dems will filibuster. And the GOP may go "nuclear." Try to eliminate the filibuster. [...]