At the conservative gathering CPAC last week the enormity of this media world was remarkable. The hall was packed with talk radio shows, conservative publishers and authors signing their latest books, many of which were bestsellers. This is a world where it is seriously believed that the United Nations is trying to take over the US, and Obama is a Kenyan socialist, an Islamist, a Marxist or the biological son of communist-sympathiser Frank Marshall Davis. This is a world where Obama wants to take away all guns, where he has dictatorial powers worthy of an emperor and where the US media is a liberal conspiracy pushing abortions and being gay. This is the world where Glenn Beck, former Fox TV host turned popular publisher of The Blaze website, is hugely powerful and shock jock Rush Limbaugh is king.The basic thesis behind the alternate universe is that the right-wing authoritarian personalities, perhaps best described by John Dean, feed off a media echo chamber that must become increasingly hyperbolic to gin up the necessary outrage to produce desired electoral outcomes. All the while, conservative media authority figures, chiefly Rush Limbaugh, enforce orthodoxy by keeping politicians who know better from bursting anyone's bubble. It's an adequate methodology for drawing in and permanently entrapping those who were already in conservatism's orbit, but not so good for attracting new followers to the cause. Unfortunately, for anyone with an appreciation for facts, however, it looks like the conservative media operation is no longer content just with selling its existing "nonfiction" wares to adults.
More below the fold.
As Heather "digby" Parton writes at Salon, conservative media has been experiencing a slowdown recently, at least in the book-published part of the echo chamber. According to McKay Coppins, the market for conservative nonfiction has remained stagnant, and the genre never quite went mainstream in the way that the industry's founders once envisioned. Meanwhile, competition among authors for shares of the pie has grown, and publishers are beginning to shy away from the increased risks associated with certain elements of the genre. In other words, the current model of increasing conservative mania is unsustainable either from an economic perspective or from the point of view of actually growing the movement. The only thing left to do, then? Start the indoctrination process many years earlier. And wouldn't you know it: Rush Limbaugh seems to be pioneering the effort.
Recently, however, there’s been a major slowdown in the industry as the system that kept it going for years has fallen prey to too much competition. (Or at least that’s the excuse — it’s always possible that their captive audience has finally gotten tired of reading the same shrill screed over and over again.)Now, we could all wish this weren't happening; after all, if the excerpts Parton quoted are any representation of the work as a whole, the books leave much to be desired from the perspective of both literacy and intellectual decency. But for the conservative movement, this development makes far too much sense. Your average Republican may not care too much about dumping another $30 into the latest screed about how Obama is a gay Marxist Muslim Nazi, but might be all too willing to spend a little less on a book "for the children" written by an authority figure she respects and that reflects the values she wishes to instill. It seems somehow cleaner and more genteel than investing in the latest nonfiction polemic—and for the conservative movement, it represents an opportunity to get away from selling books to a stagnant market share, and instead introduce right-wing ideology and the ideologues who stand to profit to much younger readers who could theoretically become lifelong customers.
That hasn’t stopped conservative political celebrities from writing them, however. And some of them are getting creative, trying to reach their audience in a new way. Rush Limbaugh, for instance, had a huge success last year writing a children’s book series called “Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time Travel Adventures With Exceptional Americans.”
He’s teaching his audience about American history through the conceit of a time-traveling character named Rush Revere and his talking horse named Liberty.
And the private sector only represents one small aspect of this opportunity. As Parton writes, the real money might be found through government-funded wingnut welfare in the form of textbooks:
This week a third grade teacher called in to his show to tell him that she was using his pilgrim book to teach kids about the civil war. Apparently, the lessons conveyed by the talking horse and the football player (did I fail to mention the football player who travels through time with Rush and his whiskered equine pal?) are so universal they can be applied to any historical period. More important, she believed that reading from the book in the classroom, even if it has absolutely nothing to do with the lesson they are supposed to be learning, will get them excited about Rush Limbaugh and his books and they’ll rush off to the taxpayer-funded library (if it isn’t closed) to devour more of them.Who knows—maybe Limbaugh can get the benefit of state legislators proposing laws mandating the inclusion of his books in school curricula as Florida State Senator Alan Hays is attempting to do with convicted felon Dinesh D'Souza's embarrasingly bad film tribute to American exceptionalism. That would be the ultimate wingnut welfare.
All of this, of course, will only serve to further divide red America from both blue America and the benefits of truth, education, and historical context. But what's to worry, as long as the leading ideologues of conservative authoritarianism get to keep the gravy train rolling along?