Daily Bread for 5.11.22: The Neediness of Conservative Populists

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 84.  Sunrise is 5:35 AM and sunset 8:07 PM for 14h 32m 00s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 74% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1997 Deep Blue, a chess-playing supercomputer, defeats Garry Kasparov in the last game of the rematch, becoming the first computer to beat a world-champion chess player in a classic match format.

Anthony Nadler and Doron Taussig report Conservatives’ mistrust of media is rooted in the feeling journalists want to ostracize them:

Tune in to a conservative podcast or scroll through conservative Facebook feeds and there’s a decent chance you’ll encounter the terms “mainstream media,” “liberal media,” or just “the media,” used in a tone suggesting that the audience all should know exactly who that refers to and exactly what they did wrong.

Polling shows that trust in the media among conservatives is low and dropping. Much of the American right is hostile toward the press, but there’s not much research seeking to understand why, or what it means.

Sometimes, journalists and academics view research into conservative communities as disrespectful and tinged with condescension. Other times, this research is viewed as too respectful, focusing on a group whose influence on American politics is greater than its proportional share of the population.

We understand these objections. But in studying political media, we have come to believe that the alienation of conservatives from journalism presents a problem in a society where people are supposed to govern themselves using shared information. And we view that problem as worth exploring to understand it.

So, for a research paper published by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, we and our collaborators Andrea Wenzel and Natacha Yazbeck held focus groups and conducted individual interviews (between September 2020 and May 2021) with 25 people in the greater Philadelphia region who self-identified as conservatives. Our questions focused on their perceptions of, and feelings about, coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Our interviewees expressed animosity toward the press. But they weren’t primarily upset that the media get facts wrong, or even that journalists push a liberal policy agenda. Their anger was about their deeper belief that the American press blames, shames, and ostracizes conservatives.

Well. While I’m sympathetic to the concern of Nadler and Taussig that “the alienation of conservatives from journalism presents a problem in a society where people are supposed to govern themselves using shared information,” I’ve neither sympathy nor empathy for those who complain that the private press is ostracizing them. One can be sure that many conservative populists do feel alienated, as they complain often and loudly (what, what? what! with heads shaking and hands in the air) that they’re not respected.

(Here the discussion is about private publications, not public institutions. Government has a duty to equal treatment with regard to basic rights, e.g., regardless of race, religion, gender, or orientation. For private publications, there is no similar duty, nor should there be in a free society. If the New York Times wants to ignore conservatives, so be it; if the Wall Street Journal wants to ignore the center-left, so be it.)

The proper solution for the perpetually slighted: those who feel that existing, private publications ostracize them should create their own publications.

This is how the conservative populists are different from long-standing libertarians, this libertarian blogger among them. (I’m from a libertarian family, so I would be called an ‘old’ or ‘movement’ libertarian). The populists are often, if not invariably, needy. The libertarian by contrast makes his or her own way, and states his or her own case, to the best of his or her own ability. It’s sensible and right to consider principled critiques, but that consideration is intellectual, not emotional.

(A good motto: I believe that I am right, but am open to being proved wrong.)

The contention, the claim, the declaration — they are delivered without needing approval or support from others. Individual rights don’t come from plebiscite, they inhere in the individual even when the majority disapproves.

The worry of populists of being ostracized, disrespected, or ‘canceled’ is overwrought. If they don’t like how other private institutions view them, they can create their own institutions or quit the field.

Each day requires a new effort. One begins the day humbly and diligently as a dark-horse underdog, knowing that there is more to do and learn. None of that effort should involve worry or emotional insecurity.

Looking Inside the Fed’s Monetary Policy Toolbox:

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