Alongside their benefits, let's examine the costs.
These are inseparable from the success of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh's status as the right's most popular entertainer. Foremost is the echo chamber effect: a bubble where the Iraq War was always going swimmingly, patriotism seemed to require support for torture, and the Bush Administration's domestic agenda never lacked for defenders happy to obscure the manifold ways that it violated even the principles of conservatism. The conservative media isn't wholly responsible for 8 years of Republican rule that left the right exceptionally unhappy. But it acted as a consistent enabler of policies that did long term damage to the country and brought about an electoral flameout that handed progressives their biggest opportunity in years.
Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and friends have also succeeded in dumbing down the right's ideas. How could it be otherwise when they traffic in absurd conspiracy theories that many prominent conservatives are afraid to directly contradict? If you only trust right-leaning media sources that is true of many conservatives who is pushing back against the notion that Barack Obama is a Kenyan anti-colonialist, or that all liberals are power-hungry statists bent on spreading tyranny as their preferred end? Perhaps there are instances when these sorts of lies produce a short term political advantage. In the long run, it is never worth the extra distance put between the right and an accurate grasp of reality.
Do you still want your own Fox News, your own Rush Limbaugh? If the left resembled the right in that way, what would become of your next generation of young thinkers? Someone high up at MSNBC once told me that Ezra Klein was blacklisted from the network for a time because he criticized Keith Olbermann. Would it be better if that sort of thing happend more often? If there were more talking heads liberals never criticized for fear of losing TV spots and book deals? Or is it preferable that an honest guy like Chris Hayes is getting get hosting gigs at MSNBC, while writers like Adam Serwer at a progressive magazine like The American Prospect is free to speak his mind when he disagrees with an ideological ally? Is there anyone a writer at Tapped coul criticize that would result in as much of a backlash as when Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin is criticized at The Corner? Do you wish there were?
If the left better resembled the right, surely Matthew Yglesias would've stayed at The Atlantic rather than going to the Center For American Progress in the alternative universe where the move included the intellectual strait-jacket The Heritage Foundation's bloggers wear. Would that have been good for liberals?
Or take Matthew Continetti, an exceptionally smart, talented young writer who has produced a book and many magazine articles that are to be admired. Due to the incentive system on the right, it made sense for him to write a book called "The Persecution of Sarah Palin." Is that a win for conservatives who want to advance smaller government or any other policy goal? Where I'm sitting, it seems like a waste for an ideological project when one of its best young writers labors over a book whose subject is a polarizing one-term governor's supposedly unique victimization. Do you think the left is capable of having the equivalent of Fox News and talk radio without ever ending up with its own Sarah Palin, and its own Matthew Continetti to squander precious time acting as her apologist?