Media on the Right

Dylan Byers, writing in the latest the daily CNN Reliable Sources email (3.27.17 @ 10:32 PM) while Brian Stelter is away, describes the Three Faces of Right-Wing Media:

We throw around terms like “right-wing media” and “conservative media” all the time (see above), but as in the Republican party, there are multiple factions. Broadly speaking, these can be broken down into three groups…

1. THE POPULIST WING: Sites like Breitbart and Lifezette that were enthusiastic passengers on the Trump train but now appear willing, at least at times, to prioritize their principles over strict allegiance to the president.

2. THE MODERATE WING: Moderate Republicans and Never-Trumpers like The Wall Street Journal editorial board and The Weekly Standard who adhere to traditional Republican values and realpolitik, and who opposed Trump vigorously long before he took office.

3. THE TRUMP DEVOTEE WING: Unabashedly pro-Trump conservatives like Sean Hannity and other Fox News pundits who seem set to defend and promote the president no matter what. Outlets like these have provided Americans — including the president himself — with news sources that ignore developments that may be inconvenient for the president while highlighting stories that support his anti-terror and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

HERE’S THE RUB: While Fox News may provide safe harbor for the president for now, the growing restlessness of right-wing populists and enduring criticism of moderate Republicans are both likely to encroach on his safe space.

This is what Laura Ingraham, the founder of Lifezette, told me via email: “LifeZette is a populist media platform that has its own independent voice, even as it wants the president to be successful. Steve Bannon at CPAC told conservatives to keep the administration true to its promises. That’s what I had always planned to do.”

And this is what Stephen F. Hayes, the editor-in-chief of The Weekly Standard, told the magazine’s owner when he got promoted to the top of the masthead (via NYT): “Let’s add more resources and make sure that we’re basing our arguments on facts, logic and reason.”

I’d say these broad categories are generally accurate, with two exceptions. First, Breitbart and Lifezette are both populist, but not in the same way. Breitbart is a race-bating site just shy of Vdare. Lifezette’s not that far gone.

Second, including the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page in the moderate wing is a mistake. That editorial page hasn’t been truly moderate on Trump in months. (The Journal‘s recent editorial, So Much for Donald Mussolini, both distorts Dartmouth professor Brendan Nyhan’s work and whitewashes Trump’s authoritarian tendencies. It’s possible the board simply doesn’t understand Nyhan’s work, but it’s more likely they’re battening on the unfamiliarity of readers with Nyhan’s real, carefully expressed views.)

That’s not a moderate position – that’s evidence of shilling for Trump.

Wings 1 and 3 aren’t worth a damn, by the way: it’s low-quality work whether shilling for Trump or advocating worse policies. The gap between all these publications and The New Criterion or Commentary of a generation ago (or even now) is astounding: there’s a lack of rigor today that’s evident. (There’s no reason to think that Hannity, for example, would be able to get through a single article of Commentary or The New Criterion on his own. He’d need a CliffsNotes® version.)

Still, Byers offers a useful grouping as a starting point.