"Boston is a bit amazed," the Republican said. "Experienced political operatives say they've never seen the press be so unhinged and determined to write 'Republican in disarray' stories. Many conservatives concerned this is becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy are urging Boston to change the tone and the topic; they think the best way is to go on offense and be substantive, talk about the big issues."Oh noes, the press is doing "Republicans are divided" stories? Welcome to our world. Difference is, Republicans are actually divided. So this is quite refreshing and brings to mind something Atrios wrote a few days ago:
It's a bit weird now, seeing the floundering Republican Noise Machine. I have some theories why they're such miserable failures these days, but not quite sure of any of them ... It used to be that when the Republicans would kick the soccer ball, the press would chase it and then coo "oooo, pretty soccer ball." Now they still chase the ball, but at least some of them might notice that it ain't so pretty. They don't always praise the ball, but they still follow it most of the time.When I checked in yesterday morning, most of the craziness of the day (the murder of our ambassador to Libya, Romney's smirking, gleeful reaction, and the responses by Pres. Barack Obama and Sec of State Hillary Clinton) had already taken place. As I caught up on the facts of the situation, I fully expected the media to do its dutiful "bash Democrats as weak on foreign affairs" schtick and was initially disoriented when the exact opposite was happening. Eight years ago ... heck, four years ago this wouldn't be happening.
Atrios didn't share any of his theories with us, but I've got a few:
- The internet: Once upon a time, there was no grassroots feedback to the coverage provided by the media masters. Sure, there were letters to the editor, but those were relegated to the last page of the paper. They were as effective a check on the media as Grandpa Simpson shaking his fist at clouds.
Republicans found out long ago the value of working the media refs and created entire institutions designed to shift the tenor of media coverage—from media watchdogs to Fox News. Liberals were late to the game, but the internet allowed us to play catchup, from blogs and community sites like this one, to Media Matters.
But the biggest change has come from Social Media. Because while those Gang of 500 media guys could ignore the blogs all day long, they all play on Twitter and Facebook. And it's hard to ignore the criticism you get there not just from the grassroots, but from their peers in the industry. Thus, the last thing they want to do is look stupid to the world, like Politico's David Catanese.
- The fact checkers. Yes, they are consistently stupid, particularly when searching for "balance" in their targets. But they have provided other media guidance on how to cover campaign claims. So Romney can go around claiming all he wants that Obama went on a world apology tour and tried to end welfare reform; the fact that it's patently false means that no one will cover that nonsense, or if they do, they'll include a line about it not being true. Indeed, the Romney campaign has been so flustered by the media fact checkers that they famously proclaimed that "we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers."
- The GOP's rightward shift. When Missouri Republican Todd Akin said his crazy stuff a couple of months ago, we at Daily Kos jumped on the comments immediately (I first wrote it up on Sunday, which is usually sacrosanct family time for me). Little did I expect for the rest of the traditional media to join the attacks. Fact is, Republicans have become so divorced from the American mainstream that their radicalism cannot be ignored ... or taken seriously.
Now Romney himself is having issues as well because, you know, he's a dick. And for those poor souls trapped covering his campaign for another insufferable two months, it's all they can do to simply jump out a window and end their agony. Just wait until after the campaign, when more than one journalist covering the campaign writes a tell-all book about what an asshole Romney and his staff were to reporters. It's as inevitable as the book Game Change was.
But it's not just Romney suffering from this changing media environment. Republicans aren't used to a media that won't uncritically swallow their bullshit, and their sense of alienation is enhanced by their self-imposed ideological bubble. The more Fox News and company get divorced from reality, the more jarring reality will seem to conservatives.