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Boehlert writes: "This grand experiment of marrying a political movement around a cable TV channel was a grand failure in 2012."

File photo, Fox News logo. (photo: Fox News)
File photo, Fox News logo. (photo: Fox News)

The GOP's Lost Year In the Fox News Bubble

By Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America

31 December 12


uffering an election hangover after having been told by Fox News that Mitt Romney's victory was a sure thing (a "landslide" predicted by Dick Morris), some Republicans have promised to break their addiction to the right-wing news channel in the coming year. Vowing to venture beyond the comforts of the Fox News bubble, strategists insist it's crucial that the party address its "choir-preaching problem."

Good luck.

This grand experiment of marrying a political movement around a cable TV channel was a grand failure in 2012. But there's little indication that enough Republicans will have the courage, or even the desire, to break free from Fox's firm grip on branding the party.

For Fox News chief Roger Ailes, the network's slash-and-burn formula worked wonders in terms of catering a hardcore, hard-right audience of several million viewers. (Fox News is poised to post $1 billion in profits this year.) But in terms of supporting a national campaign and hosting a nationwide conversation about the country's future, Fox's work this year was a marked failure.

And that failure helped sink any hopes the GOP had of winning the White House.

From the farcical, underwhelming GOP primary that Fox News sponsored, through the general election campaign, it seemed that at every juncture where Romney suffered a major misstep, Fox misinformation hovered nearby. Again and again, Romney damaged his presidential hopes when he embraced the Fox News rhetoric; when he ran as the Fox News Candidate.

Whether it was botching the facts surrounding the terrorist raid on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, parroting the Fox talking point about lazy, shiftless voters who make up "47 percent" of the electorate, or Romney's baffling embrace of reality TV show host-turned Fox News pontificator Donald Trump, the Republican candidate did damage to his chances whenever he let Fox News act as his chief campaign adviser.

Fox viewers didn't fare much better. Fed a year's worth of misinformation about the candidates, and completely misled about the state of the race (all the polls are skewed!), Fox faithful were left crushed on Election Night when Romney's fictitious landslide failed to materialize.

"On the biggest political story of the year," wrote Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic, "the conservative media just got its ass handed to it by the mainstream media."

Indeed, Fox's coverage of the campaign has been widely panned as an editorial and political fiasco. The coverage failed to move the needle in the direction of its favored Republican candidate, and the coverage remained detached from campaign reality for months at a time. (Megyn Kelly in July: The Obama campaign is "starting to panic." That was false.)

Following another lopsided loss to Obama, Republican strategist Mike Murphy urged Republicans to embrace a view of America that's not lifted from "Rush Limbaugh's dream journal." (The Fox News dream journal looks nearly identical to Limbaugh's.)

And San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll wondered if Romney's defeat marked the end of a Fox News era:

You had to wonder about Fox. This is the third presidential election in which Fox has been a major player, and the Democrats have won two of them. A combination of big money and big propaganda was supposed to carry the day for Romney and the Republicans, but it didn't. Could it be that the Fox model has played out?

Is the Fox model of a cable paranoia played out in terms of ratings? It is not. Is the Fox model of cable paranoia played out as an electoral blueprint? It sure looks that way.

Of course, conservatives should have thought that through before handing over the control of a political movement to Ailes and his misinformation minions. They should have thought twice about the long-term implication of having irresponsible media outlets like Fox supersede leadership within the Republican Party, and should have figured out first if Fox News had an off switch to use in case of emergencies.

It doesn't.

Yet as Fox News segued into the de facto leader of the Republican Party, becoming the driving electoral force, and with Ailes entrenched in his kingmaker role, candidates had to bow down to Fox in search of votes and the channel's coveted free airtime.

And Andrew Sullivan noted in January:

The Republican Establishment is Rush Limbaugh, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, and their mainfold products, from Hannity to Levin. They rule on the talk radio airwaves and on the GOP's own "news" channel, Fox.

There's a reason New York magazine labeled Ailes "the head of the Republican Party." And that's why a GOP source told the magazine, "You can't run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger Every single candidate has consulted with Roger."

That meant campaigns were forced to become part of the channel's culture of personal destruction, as well as to blanket itself in Fox's signature self-pity. (Here was Mitt Romney adopting the right-wing whine that the conspiratorial press was out to sink his campaign.)

Still, the right-wing bubble was a comfortable place to inhabit if you thought of Obama as an historic monster, or if you required to be reminded of that fact many time a day, every day of the year. The bubble is the place where followers for four years were fed the feel-good GOP narrative about how Obama's presidency was a fiasco, that the Americans suffered a severe case of 2008 buyer's remorse, and that the president's re-election defeat was all but pre-ordained.

The one-part-panic, one-part-denial message may have cheered obsessive Obama-haters, but it didn't prepare conservatives for the reality of the campaign season.

And it cost the GOP a lost year in the Fox News bubble. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+23 # Buddha 2012-12-31 10:31
Us on the Left shouldn't declare victory for the War after winning one battle. There still are millions of uninformed FAUXNews bobble-head morons out there (my parents are two of them, sad to say). And they will continue to gum up our politics for decades, especially after the Dems Failed in 2010, allowing the GOP to gain power at the exact wrong time, when they could gerrymander their House districts after the census.
+7 # cafetomo 2012-12-31 11:03
Dog wagging only works when you grab the tail at the base, so no surprise at such smelly hands. All the howling, whining and getting bit garners zero sympathy, too.
+13 # kelly 2012-12-31 11:41
Unfortunately, at a Republican dinner, howling and whining garners 47% of the vote...and the other 53% voted for the president!
+15 # tswhiskers 2012-12-31 13:52
I've decided that the main reason why Rep. voters are so rabid about Obama & the Dems is because they routinely watch Fox News and they fall for every word anyone says. I wish a reputable news organization would have the guts to take them on in primetime. So far Stewart/Colbert are the only (fake) news anchors willing to do it. They have done so much harm to the far right conservatives. I suspect their fiasco in predicting Romney's election has been modestly explained away and that Rove's reputation will not long remain tarnished. It is a sad commentary on American intelligence that a small percentage of our population, about 25%, prefers to live in fear and authoritarian make-believe rather than question Fox "facts" and discover the realities of American politics from other news sources. I also suspect that it is no accident that all cable packages available from DirecTV and Dish Network contain Fox News but the much more progressive and factual MSNBC is more difficult to obtain. To call Fox News entertainment is far too kind and dismisses the fact that Americans are allowing themselves to be brainwashed by Roger Ailes, the Kochs and all the big money interests in the U.S. looking to keep most Americans ignorant, fearful and powerless.
+11 # Vardoz 2012-12-31 15:46
The GOP is out and out trying to destroy our government. But as they talk about small government they are making sure there is big govt for the 1%, corporations, banks and the military. If we have small govt where do our tax dollars go? To the top of course while all protections, regulations and rights are taken away. They are waging war on all of us, impoverishing us and all the horrible things that Romney was about is what Ryan, Boehner and the Tea Party are about. They are literally committing treason by undoing our constitution and all the the rights and freedoms that go with it. Fox is just part of the misinformation matrix to dumb people down. But when people wake up they will be sure to have big prisons and a strong police state to crush us. The Tea Party is not interested in prosperity for all and they are anti Democratic. So what do we do? GET THESE GUYS OUT.

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