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The Need for Good Right-Wing Media

The shape of American media and politics is a lukewarm pool of the Democratic mainstream next to a “Republican” spike pit covered by a confederate flag wearing a MAGA hat.

One thing that keeps coming to mind in thinking about the political problem is the separation of the right-wing media, how to deal with it. Occasionally we see stories about how conservatives can’t be persuaded, but the fact is they are very much persuadable by their own media. The fact that mainstream media can’t persuade them has more to do with the source than their minds.

The need for a Brand New Party and less toxic right-wing media go hand in hand. Digging out these lost souls requires persuading them, and that requires alternative media programming. We do see the same pattern between conservative media and conservative politics: trying to outflank competitors to the right (the more I think, read, learn about politics, the sillier I feel using terms like right-wing, conservative, and even Republican to describe what they stand for).

The whole point of my writings about a BNP is that you have to anchor it elsewhere. It’s always possible to get a frat boy to host a rant-show where they virtue-signal about racist replacement theories. There’s always a more vile and maniacal candidate to the right. The reason that GOP politics gets so toxic is the business community doesn’t want regulation or taxes, will fund crazies who can draw votes, don’t really care about the consequences. Some real crazies get in office that way and the whole country suffers from their instabilities.

The anchor point is center-right. Center enough that you can draw some folks who won’t listen to crazy People’s Republic of Donald John Trump bullshit, but far enough right that it’s still tolerable by traditional Republican electors. Is there such a place to set an anchor? Not under the current policy preferences of Republicans. But more on that below.

What does the anchor give you besides avoiding chasing competitors to the right? It sets expectations for audience share. You’re not trying to win over every conservative viewer or reader. You’re limiting yourself such that the dregs can and will fall away from you. That helps with advertising and content volatility issues. It saves your soul, as well, if you care about that sort of thing. If big business wants you deliver outrage-on-tap, that’s not your game, and they can piss up a flagpole.

One challenge of anchoring is that competitors may be juicing a bad story for cynical reasons. Opposition coverage tends to focus on a framing: “Can you believe how bad our competitors are?!” But Brand New Media could focus on why and what without necessarily acting judgmental about it. In doing so, they would check two boxes:

  1. Still being acceptable to the right-wing and centrists at the same time.
  2. Having some coverage of a story they would prefer to avoid entirely.

The idea of conservative-lite media requires new policies. Providing real market-driven solutions is key, but it also require acknowledging that many of the problems Democrats highlight are real problems. It’s been a long time since most Republicans have had to think about some of those problems: denying them was cheaper. But it’s better business to address them. There’s a lot more money to be made through competition than oligopoly or monopoly.

Simplifying regulations is a big winner. Keyword there is misregulation. Traditional Republicans talk about overregulation or simply use the word regulation to mean that any regulation is bad. But if you focus on the real problems and on alternative solutions, you can actually get more changes through that wouldn’t be possible through slashing all regs.

The current crop of Republicans in Congress believe obstruction is key, but if ten Republicans negotiated on the reconciliation bill, they could cut it by a trillion bucks and make it worth twice as much to the country. Instead, we end up with either a more expensive bill that does less, or a bunch of wasted time and no benefit—that still costs us trillions in both opportunity costs and damages from a less functional economy. Businesses are pissing a lot of money away by backing obstruction rather than smarter legislation. Dumbasses.

The Democrats tend to propose to make things less expensive by having the government pay for them instead of individuals paying for them. They don’t actually work to make the things cheaper, just to remap the path the money takes. But many things should get cheaper over time. That does require tradeoffs of labor for automation or structural changes to markets. But the result is better products and lower prices both, rather than inferior products at premium prices.

Another feature of a Brand New Media is a focus on experimentation, on trial and error. There is an easy-to-build hope and pride in a society that solves problems by giving different policies a chance and evaluating them. If a new center-right media presents such efforts in that light, it would help them build good will that the doomsayers they compete with couldn’t match.

Reconsidering Media Diets under Biden.

Under Donald John Trump, keeping up with news felt necessary in a way it seldom has. What should it be under a better presidency?

It’s important to establish some kind of personal boundaries with news. Choose what you engage with, how you do so, how much. The question as we’ve now entered the Biden presidency is how should people shift their media consumption habits?

The sad fact of media is there is too much of too many kinds that even if you wanted to, you cannot read or be aware of everything. Podcasts and newsletters and doomscrolling will not even scratch the surface of the total information both available and important. Indeed, any service or system or group that promises to tell you everything you should probably be aware of is lying. There’s just too much to ever keep up with.

On the other hand, giving up and heading to the seamster to get measured for a bespoke veil of ignorance won’t do. We have to try to grok some amount of the world’s events in something like realtime.

Under Donald John Trump, there was this sense that at various points things could really deteriorate, and there was no steady hand available if it happened. Over the coming decades we will continue to find out just how true that was, just how bad it got at times.

But under Biden we can break habits, find better ways to keep up. The good news is that Biden will help. There will once again be regular and ruly press briefings. There will be policy roll-outs. There will be policy itself.

The bad news is that there will always be too much information available, lots of it wrapped in boilerplate and lead-ins, other bits swimming in seas of empty copy put out as a placeholder, maintenance for beats that don’t generate too regularly, or as something approaching native advertising or pitched content.

In any case, now that we have a new administration, try to figure out how to adjust your media consumption. Try to find some ways to keep yourself aware while not stressing too much about all the things we cannot read and do not know.

The other side of news, journalism, has its own challenges ahead. Already there are attempts to say the inauguration coverage was too soft on Biden, and there will be attempts by conservative media critics to cause reversion to the mean in media. They seek the return of “but the deficit!” and other tried knee-jerk tactics that were popular back under Obama and Clinton. The media should resist that easy path in favor of breaking its own habits and finding its own better ways to be critical of government.

The last four years showed how too short life really is. Any media that forgets or pretends to forget these four years have happened are not worth our time. It matters what was done, it was wrong that it was done, and it must inform our media and our policies moving forward.

At the same time, it’s a new administration that must be treated the way any future administration should be: tough but fair. Build back better, media. Establish new routines and practices that will define modern journalism moving forward with an eye on preventing anything like the administration of Donald John Trump from dirtying America’s doorstep ever again.

Superstition and Politics

Thoughts about the role superstition plays in politics.

One of the biggest problems with politics is superstition. Every time a candidate wins, their campaign strategists are treated as having conjured up a magical creature known as victory out of thin air. They are treated thusly by the party they won for, but also largely by the media. They pushed the right button combination, they cut the right wire, they made the thing happen. Never mind all the factors outside of their control, the flukes, the weather. They get credit without any definitive evidence that they even knew what they were doing.

But that’s not the whole of superstition in politics. It extends to all sorts of frets and worries that interrupt policy and legislation. The NRA has a monkey’s paw that will unleash torment upon Republicans if they don’t fall in line. Rich criminals like Weinstein and Epstein were insulated from accountability (again, in both the media and in political circles) by superstition, primarily. The worry about what it would mean to the unknown backwaters and backrooms of power to cross people who are the equivalent of made-men in those circles.

Superstition dictates that Republicans can’t compete in blue states, nor Democrats in red ones. They certainly shouldn’t treat those foreign lands as opportunities to throw some spaghetti at the wall on the cheap. I mean, it would be bad luck to run a Republican candidate in LA on the platform of (insert some idea that Republicans generally don’t run on but won’t be offensive).

The media similarly has its superstitions around politics, including what kind of coverage is expected, what polls really mean, which voters count more (evangelicals, soccer moms, NASCAR dads, etc.), who gets access, what the differences are between Republicans and Democrats, and so on. It has its superstitions about who is important and what ideas are important. Campaigns should be about identifying problems, but they’re mostly about offering canned solutions to undefined problems, and then the solutions become the focus and they aren’t perfect so candidates get tarred for that.

The problem of superstitions is quite extensive in our lives. They represent blockages that prevent honest progress, out of fear of the unknown. The media’s focus on the ten-year-cost of Medicare-for-All, despite the actual ongoing economic cost already being greater, is one example of this. The Republicans’ reluctance to give up on repealing the ACA, in favor of some real policy is another.

These superstitions exist because of mere coincidence. The apparent interest in Republicans around the time they championed repealing the ACA caused them to believe that people wanted repeal, rather than the people wanting further development of healthcare policy toward some unknown better system. The media believes then ten-year costs of Medicare-for-All are important because they believe big numbers are important.

I don’t think Medicare-for-All is the be-all-end-all of healthcare. It is one way to do the thing. But I do think that continuing to refine healthcare funding is entirely necessary, and systems that tend to diminish the involvement of employers in healthcare are generally superior to those that do not. Over a ten year period where healthcare isn’t provided by employers, ceteris paribus, we should expect a healthier economy and a healthier population.