The Republican Parallel Universe

It’s really hard to fathom how anyone could believe Obama is Kenyan Manchurian Candidate, the Iraq War was a success, Palin would make a good president, and white men and Christians are oppressed in America. While these views are in the minority, it’s still a frightening large minority.

So how do these folks (Republicans) end up believing such ridiculous nonsense? Daniel Larison has the answer. Republicans and conservatives have created a very insular subculture where dissent is punished and fiction is treated as fact:

[…] Where movement conservatives enable their political leaders to do more or less as they please, progressives seem far more willing to challenge and question “their side.” The siege and persecution mentalities that movement conservatives have long cultivated as coping mechanisms for their long history of domestic policy defeats and losses in the culture wars tend to make them far less willing to break with “their side,” which is why there is such importance placed on conformity and “team” loyalty. That means that movement conservatives typically have had to stifle, mute or otherwise water down any objections they do have to Republican policies under Bush. Then, once Bush is gone, for the sake of “the team” they feel they have to exaggerate their objections to Democratic policies and politicians to the point of absurdity to create sharper contrasts with the dismal record of Republican governance they just spent the last decade making possible.

That brings us to the problem of mainstream conservative media. Having gone from an alternative source of information to becoming a parallel universe, mainstream conservative outlets have stopped (or never started) speaking “bilingually,” as Ross mentions. These outlets have taken another step by encouraging their audience to view anyone who tries to speak “bilingually” as unreliable and suspect.

[…] These media are popular because they tell the audience what they want to hear, they reaffirm the audience’s prejudices and assumptions, and they serve as a crutch for a movement that seems mostly incapable of producing superior arguments. Their relative popularity on cable television and radio could just as easily indicate conservative weakness inasmuch as these outlets have become hideaways where a conservative audience can avoid unsettling realities that contradict their ideological commitments. Part of the problem is that these media allow movement conservatives to become “untethered” from reality by actively protecting their audience from unpalatable and unwelcome truths, so it is much harder to learn from past errors when those errors cannot even be acknowledged as having been made.

More dangerously, being “untethered” means that producing actual evidence for an increasingly bizarre view of the world matters less and less. Assertion becomes more important than proof. We see this in the frequent, virtually unanimous insistence that Obama went on an “apology tour,” or the near-universal conservative assessment that he “betrayed” Poland and the Czech Republic over missile defense, or the common view on the right that Obama undermines allies and treats rivals gently. None of these things is true, but they have become true for a great many movement conservatives through constant repetition. The hysterical over-reaction to the Nuclear Posture Review that basically changed nothing is one of the most recent episodes when the desperate need to reclaim the national security mantle has forced movement conservatives to make the most laughable, unserious arguments. At best, relevant policy experts on the right will pay little attention to these arguments from activists and pundits, but they will hardly ever directly criticize or attack the latter. This permits the activists and pundits to continue on as if their arguments remained valid and had not already been dismissed as nonsense.

(Sorry about the long quote!)


  1. As I have said on my blog….there are some great conservs out there…it is just a shame that they are not listened to by the party….

    There is a great read out there and if you have not read it….

  2. Chris

    Excellent read. Thanks for the link!

  3. Ian

    The misinformation that is being put into the media by Republicans today is in some ways similar to the way the Democrats played the media under Bush. Both sides just want you to be scared of what the party in power is doing. Both sides try and manipulate the populace with reductive summaries of their opposition. Its easy to call Obama socialist or Bush fascist. Its “hard” to explain to people all the details of why you should be outraged. Its no surprise that news outlets like Fox News lie or mislead the public. Its not surprise that Obama would run a campaign using vague ideas like hope and change. People wanted change from the Bush era so badly, they didn’t necessarily stop to think what the change they wanted was. It was the perfect campaign slogan. Now the public won’t even get his back when he tries to bring about change.