Conservative Media and the Information Gap

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I think Conor Friedersdorf has it exactly right when he argues that conservative media failed conservatives:


Conservatives were at a disadvantage because Romney supporters like Jennifer Rubin and Hugh Hewitt saw it as their duty to spin constantly for their favored candidate rather than being frank about his strengths and weaknesses. What conservative Washington Post readers got, when they traded in Dave Weigel for Rubin, was a lot more hackery and a lot less informed about the presidential election. 

Conservatives were at an information disadvantage because so many right-leaning outlets wasted time on stories the rest of America dismissed as nonsense. WorldNetDaily brought you birtherism. Forbes brought you Kenyan anti-colonialism. National Review obsessed about an imaginary rejection of American exceptionalism, misrepresenting an Obama quote in the process, and Andy McCarthy was interviewed widely about his theory that Obama, aka the Drone Warrior in Chief, allied himself with our Islamist enemies in a "Grand Jihad" against America. Seriously? 

Conservatives were at a disadvantage because their information elites pandered in the most cynical, self-defeating ways, treating would-be candidates like Sarah Palin and Herman Cain as if they were plausible presidents rather than national jokes who'd lose worse than George McGovern.

As I've said many times, I'm a big fan of opinion media. I think you could fairly call the New Yorker a magazine with a strong liberal bent. (The Atlantic, I'd argue, has a "meritocratic" bent, with all good and bad that implies.) But I also think the New Yorker does great journalism. I don't believe that "objectivity" is essential, or even necessary, to effectively convey information.

Respect for your reader, however, is. To put Conor's questions differently, does conservative media actually evince a respect for its patrons? Think about like this: Nixonland is a book by the unabashedly liberal Rick Perlstein. But it isn't a book dedicated to telling you that Nixon was an awful politician who got lucky at every turn, won by magic, and had no impact on American history. Or take Ariel Levy's recent profile of conservative ghost-writer Lynn Vincent. This isn't a piece about how much Vincent hates America.

Again, both conservatives and liberals will have loony ideas. But liberals have a press. Conservatives have a press office. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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