FNC: GOP Hindrance?

James Fallows in The Atlantic notes a recently released study by Bruce Bartlett that is going to be getting some play in certain media circles…and probably some FNC pushback to boot…

Let me recommend for your weekend reading, or for your weekday reading if you’re seeing it then, a detailed study by Bruce Bartlett called “How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics.” You can download the 18-page PDF from this site of the Social Science Research Network.

The idea that Fox News operates with different aims and by different norms from those of, say, the BBC is familiar. But this presentation is notable for two reasons.

The first is its source—for those who don’t know, Barlett is a veteran of the Reagan and Bush-41 administrations and was an influential early proponent of supply-side / tax-cut economics. He also worked for Ron Paul. Since then he’s harshly criticized the Bush-43 administration, but in no sense does he come at this as a Democratic party operative.

The second and more important reason is Bartlett’s accumulation of detail showing (a) that Fox’s core viewers are factually worse-informed than people who follow other sources, and even those who don’t follow news at all, and (b) that the mode of perpetual outrage that is Fox’s goal and effect has become a serious problem for the Republican party, in that it pushes its candidates to sound always-outraged themselves.


20 Responses to “FNC: GOP Hindrance?”

  1. Cure outrage from the usual suspects in 3…2…1…

  2. As someone with a brother who is a diehard conservative New Mexico cattle rancher I have seen first hand how passionate and outraged he, his wife, his daughter and his three grown gandchildren can be.

    I admire their passion, if not their positions.

    On a larger scale nationally this passion and outrage leads to voter turnout the dems would die for.

    Of course, it also causes many on the far right to stay home in protest on election day when a more moderate Republican like Romney wins the nomination.

    So is the outrage promulgated by the conservative media a net plus or a net minus?

    I don’t know the answer. But few would argue that it doesn’t produce enviable ratings for Fox News. Not to mention fierce defenders of FNC in most comments sections on the Internet where the topic of Fox News might appear.

  3. I don’t think you can blame FNC for the outrage harnessing. Blame the internet. Blame sites like Free Republic which were doing the outrage thing long before FNC started it up. FNC sees what’s going on with the internet and it tapped into that. Can’t argue with a winning business strategy.

    Is there going to be collateral damage from said strategy? Probably. Politicians by nature are idiots…they’ll say and do most anything no matter how long term damaging if it means short term gains. The deficit, the environment, true energy reform, pension reform, fixing the welfare state, running for re-election, running for election…name it. If they can “get by” they’ll do it…let someone else worry about the long term consequences.

    And of course the voters are idiots too…because we put people like that in power. We deserve the broken system we have.

  4. I am a little surprised you would suggest that Fox News is not the most influential, with the loudest microphone and by far the largest promulgator of conservative outrage.

    Even their website is ranked 47th in the United States by Alexa traffic monitoring — whereas a site like Free Republic is ranked 2,550th.

    I will give you this though. Fox News and the conservative websites, talk radio and the conservative bloggers all feed off of each other. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. The left does the same thing for a much smaller audience.

  5. In looking back I see you are referring to long term outrage whereas I am referring to the last 10-15 years.

  6. savefarris Says:

    The entire paper hinges on whether or not FNC mis-informs it’s audience. Problem is, the surveys they use to base that conclusion on are sketchy at best. Even FNC’s best friend PolitFact has issues:


  7. 10-15 years ago FNC’s website sucked and Free Republic was THE place to go if you were into conservative outrage. That was before they started purging people right and left who weren’t Bush-bots and didn’t march in lockstep with the site’s hierarchy…especially Libertarians.

    But before all that you’d people like Brit Hume there. Don’t think Hume and others didn’t notice what was brewing there. Just like FNC noticed the Tea Party before just about anyone else. The network knows where it’s bread is buttered…at the grass roots level.

  8. I will give you this though. Fox News and the conservative websites, talk radio and the conservative bloggers all feed off of each other. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.

    I would argue it is, particularly when those “separate entities” cross pollinate each other, as happens on both the left and right ends of the political spectrum. It creates an echo chamber and echo chambers are inherently dangerous to the national discourse because they inoculate those inside against the very notion that they just might not have a firm grasp of all the nuances and complexities of a given situation.

  9. Oh, I totally agree with your point.

    However, the reason I said “not *necessarily* a bad thing” is because there are plenty of instances where Fox News (to take one example) is able to use conservative websites and print journos as sources given how little the cable networks seem to use investigative reporters in 2015.

  10. Yup. Those of us conservatives that watch Fox are all idiots. Got it.

  11. Not sure how anyone can come to the conclusion that FNC is the “outrage machine” compared to MSNBC and CNN. MSNBC is always angry about something. And, CNN has become the go-to place for “hate whitey racist cops”.

  12. Outsider Says:

    Of course Fox is a hindrance. When you have John Stossel claiming there’s no clear data linking second-hand smoke and cancer, Obama personally funding a Muslim museum as an actual headline, Paris ‘no-go zones’ (which the French ridiculed again a week or two ago), dismissing environmental issues without a thought, and the list could go on.

  13. You know for a channel that only about 3% of the country watches they sure do have a lot of power. LOL!

  14. imnotblue Says:

    Gatxer… shhh.

    FNC is small potatoes and not that important. Unless it’s very important and gets criticized from the White House and internationally, then it’s super important and ruining anything. Until next week, when it’s insignificant again.

    Or so we’re told.

  15. savefarris Says:

    Well at least the next WH occupant won’t treat certain members of the media with such a cavalier attitude:


    Remember folks: if you’re a Democrat, it’ okay to dismiss the media and scold them as if you would a 4 year old. But if you’re a Republican and you politely ask the question to be reframed as you’re answering it, you’re a sexist bigot (Rand Paul).

  16. Not sure how anyone can come to the conclusion that FNC is the “outrage machine” compared to MSNBC and CNN. MSNBC is always angry about something. And, CNN has become the go-to place for “hate whitey racist cops”.

    Oh come on Lonestar…of course FNC does outrage programming. They have been doing it practically since they launched. Now I am not saying that MSNBC isn’t doing it because it damn well is. And your point that CNN has gone off the deep end in racial issues is fair.

    None of that invalidates the fact that FNC has an outrage machine and taps into it on a regular basis.

    You know for a channel that only about 3% of the country watches they sure do have a lot of power. LOL!

    You know for a group that comprises a low minority of the GOP in the House, the Tea Partiers sure do have a lot of power.

    Politicians are idiots. They see a small but vocal minority and run scared. On the Liberal side there are labor unions. Don’t wield much power and are not that big a percentage but they’ve got lib politicians running scared.

    Those of us conservatives that watch Fox are all idiots

    I didn’t say that WiPam and I challenge you to show me where I did.

    I said politicians are idiots and the people who keep them in power are idiots too. We scream about the system. We want change. And yet we elect people who are more worried about their re-election chances than affecting change. I have a hell of a lot more respect for the politician who is willing to blow his re-electability on a principle…to take a stand (even one I would disagree with) that he knows is best for the country even though it could cost him votes…than I do for these nabobs who say they’re for this and for that but when they need to step up they make political survivability calculations.

  17. Hey Spud: tell me you didn’t vote for Obama 2X. He was a conniving bast**d from his first run at office and has been ever since. He has lied, manipulated and just plain covered up and had the media as his marionettes for far too long and I include you in that group of people. He has hurt our country way more than Nixon ever did.

    At least one blog that I read the owner admitted she voted for Obama and has said it was a big mistake. Any mea culpa from you for your big mistake?

  18. savefarris Says:

    I didn’t say that WiPam and I challenge you to show me where I did.

    I’ll back spud up as being pretty even-handed as far as things go and he would never say anything like that.

    However, the author of the study is clearly inferring it. Hence the study.

    What also would have been helpful is including how Fallows was alerted to the study: via Josh Marshall and TPM. Straight shooters, those guys!

  19. Pam if you want to go on a fishing expedition, bring better bait…

    I don’t know what bur got under your saddle today but whatever it was, I suggest you remove it. Before I have to remove it for you.

  20. I watch Fox News and I can say CNN and Fox News report similar stories if you watch them like I do which most do not. They don’t watch early mornings at the crack of dawn and read blogs on the side. But I watch more than the average bear since I am alone.

    I can tell you that CNN is liberal on some broadcasts and more down the center in others, but the direction has been to pimp certain memes and stories and breaking news at times.

    Fox News tailors the channel to the right and CNN tailors the channel to the center-left. MSNBC is just in another orbit. Only thing worth watching is First Look. Everything else is just listening to either Think Progress, Right Wing Watch or The Daily Kos being read back or in the case of Morning Joe, Politico, The Hill or Roll Call. I can only stand Alex Wagner clips to see what the left or the channel is saying. In fact I get a better perspective of the far-left from reading Raw Story or The Daily Beast and it doesn’t bother me I can handle it,

    I’m center-right and independent. I can say the conservative media has grown by leaps and bounds. So now it is so big some areas do not know what the other shoe is doing. Therefore media personalities and sites sometimes argue with each other on the right. It’s Like herding cats. Fox News came at a time when the media was much smaller on the web, television and on radio. It tapped into a niche.

    There are now upstart tv channels trying to take on Fox News and having a tough time getting on all providers and they have different views on how to do things. Newsmax TV, likes to do news based talk shows. The Blaze TV simulcasts radio shows and has some studio programming. And finally One America News has the goal to out do Fox News’ news coverage by doing straight newscasts filled with news. They also carry three conservative talk shows similar to The Kelly File and Hannity.

    Should be noted the Conservative media is not the Alternative media or the Libertarian media. Some people on the left get confused with all three because of similarities.

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