I watched TV last night with a buddy of mine whose wife is out of town. That means we got to drink beers and curse at the people on TV without restraint. Which is a good thing, because we watched FOX News for almost two hours. As you can imagine, there was a whole lot of cursing going on, when we weren't laughing. My buddy cracked up when I told him about my imaginary "right wing talking point bingo card" that I automatically pulled out whenever I watched FOX News.
“Uh oh, there they go—“muslim”—we’ve already had “radical”, “communist”, and “Obamacare.”
I had to remind my buddy that these phrases are stacked on the shelf of conservative think tanks like cordwood, ready to be thrown on the embers of outraged public discourse whenever the fire threatens to go out. "Think about it—you've heard the words 'activist liberal judge' and 'legislating from the bench' so many times whenever a Democratic president nominates a Supreme, you'd think the GOP owned the copyright on them. But the reality is that the most activist judges on the court are the ones who can proclaim that they are "strict constructionists" before a single fact or unusual circumstance is considered."
If you were to take your thumbs and hold them over the balloons in the diagram in the diagram above that say "Progressive Blogger" and "Republican Blogger", then you would be looking at the old way that information used to travel in this country before the internet came along. Back then, the whole think tank ecosystem worked pretty well without much interference. The blogosphere has contributed mightily towards leveling the playing field, but much work remains ahead. Although the news media has broadened its reach considerably in an effort to include blogs and bloggers as legimate sources of information, think tanks remain the dominant source for background information, research, and polling data, areas which typically require more time or resources than many bloggers can muster.
The 25 most-cited think tanks in major U.S. media received 13,149 citations in 2008, a 6 percent decline from 2007 levels. The decline primarily hit conservative or right-leaning think tanks, whose share of citations in corporate media fell from 36 percent to 31 percent in 2008 , while progressive or left-leaning think tanks--the only group to actually see an increase in their total citations--went from 17 percent to 21 percent. Centrist think tanks saw little change, still beating both ends of the spectrum with 48 percent of total citations, versus 47 percent in 2007. The overall decline in think tank citations, now in its fourth year, is quite likely simply a reflection of the changing media landscape. As noted last year, the decrease in citations primarily comes from newspapers, not television; as newspapers fold and those that survive shrink their newshole, the overall news output by the outlets surveyed is decreasing.
“You know,” my buddy said, “everything at FOX is geared around tearing down Obama. So what do they do when he’s gone?”
FOX doesn't seem to have any problem being recognized as news media ground zero when it comes to showcasing the depth of middle America's racial animosity. And so long as it continues to add to Rupert Murdoch's coffers, he has no reason to change a formula that works. With conservative think tanks willing to supply a steady stream guests and and a laundry list of minor controversies with hazy facts just waiting for their fifteen minutes in the spotlight, this network is likely to provide me and my buddy with laughs for years to come.