What I Learned From a Scalia-Style Diet of Conservative Media

Even on the most avowedly right-wing outlets, it's clear that Republicans are losing. The difference is what conclusions the left and right draw from that.

A strict Scalia diet of exclusively right-leaning media consumption got off to an auspicious start. It began en route to the religious right's Values Voter Summit by flipping on Fox Radio and hearing an archived audio clip from Gore Vidal:

You're born into a society and you are shaped by it whether you know it of not, whether you like it or not. Each of us is born into a prison of received opinion, of superstition, and of prejudices. Now, one of the functions of art is to try and define the prison. The artist must know he's in it, and many of them don't, and those are the bad artists.

This writes itself, I thought. And in some ways, time listening to Rush Limbaugh and reading Erick Erickson on RedState.com did predictably feel like being inside a high-vaulted cell where the echoes of likeminded lifers drown out all other sounds.

"I have been making the point, trying to anyway, that the Republicans are winning," Rush Limbaugh told his listeners on Columbus Day. "That at least the Cruz and Lee faction is winning." Agreed, says the Daily Caller in a story headlined "How Cruz, Lee and Paul shut down Obama's agenda," in which author Christopher Bedford says: "One thing is undeniable: Their stand has lit a much-needed fire in D.C."

So yes, there certainly is a strain of believing only what you want to believe—known in technical terms as "epistemic closure"—happening in sections of the media. It's this type of groupthink that allows Senator Ted Cruz to head to a lunch with his colleagues last week to tell them according to his polls, things are going great.

But many of Cruz's colleagues didn't buy it. And neither does everyone in the conservative media.

"Look, this isn't working out that well for Republicans. I think the facts show that, so it's not that controversial to say that," Megyn Kelly said on her Fox News show last week.

"The Republicans are underwater by 30 points," Charles Krauthammer agreed. "That is a catastrophe."

Even Antonin Scalia, who recently told New York that he stopped reading "liberal" news outlets like The New York Times because it made him angry in the morning, probably has a sense of how poorly things are playing for Republicans. And yet, the battle rages on.

There's a vein of underdogism that runs from Fox News, to the Daily Caller, all the way to RedState that makes the fiscal fight understandable. Programming is filled with stories about WWII veterans who gave their "blood, sweat and tears" for this country only to be turned away at their own memorials. And making things worse, according to anchors like Kelly, is that channels "other than Fox" only want to cover the rally as a means to point out Confederate flag-toting protesters. "They want you to think it was all about the so-called fringe," she said.

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Ben Terris is a staff reporter for National Journal.

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