Drudge Retort: The Other Side of the News
Monday, January 22, 2018

Last May, Kentucky Republican Congressman Thomas Massie, one of the House's more libertarian-leaning members, observed how supporters of Ron Paul, his son, Senator Rand Paul, and Massie himself all ended up voting for Trump in the Republican primaries. "I thought they were voting for libertarian Republicans," Massie told the Washington Examiner. "But after some soul searching I realized when they voted for Rand and Ron and me in these primaries, they weren't voting for libertarian ideas -- they were voting for the craziest son of a bitch in the race. And Donald Trump won best in class, as we had up until he came along."

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In 2013, three months into Obama's second term, Public Policy Polling found that more than a third of Republicans believed "a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government," that is, the New World Order conspiracy Paul had been harping on for decades. Just as exposure to Ron Paul has acted as a gateway drug to more extreme political subcultures, so did birtherism serve as an appetizer for the candidate who has also claimed global warming is a Chinese hoax, suggested Ted Cruz's father was involved in the Kennedy assassination, entertained the notion that vaccines cause autism, and promised voters that, if elected, "you will find out who really knocked down the World Trade Center." By the time Trump finally admitted that Obama was actually born in America, it was too late: a 2016 YouGov/Huffpost poll found that a majority of GOP voters didn't. According to the 2016 American National Election Study, the best determinant of whether someone was a Trump voter was not their party affiliation, economic status, or race but whether they believed Obama to be a Muslim. Today, in their refusal to entertain information that puts the president in a bad light, pro-Trump pundits and everyday supporters demonstrate a willingness to believe the most ridiculous conspiracies -- for instance, that Democratic Party email accounts were not hacked by Russians trying to help Trump, but were rather leaked by a DNC staffer named Seth Rich, who was in turn killed by the Clintons for his treachery. At one point during the Alabama Senate race, 71 percent of in-state Republicans did not believe the allegations of sexual assault leveled against GOP nominee Roy Moore.

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The author asks:

Why did Trump succeed where Paul repeatedly failed? Trump's unique attributes as a famous, charismatic television personality certainly account for much of his victory. So, too, does Trump's razor-like focus on immigration, an issue where Paul did not stake out a hard-right stance. But another significant factor has to do with the way in which a changing media environment made easier the dissemination of conspiracy theories. When Ron Paul started his political career in the 1970s, Americans' understanding of the world was largely shaped by three television networks, a few national broadsheets, a handful of preeminent newsweeklies, and their local newspapers. A select priesthood of journalistic gatekeepers effectively determined what qualified as news.

"Over the course of the century, electronic mass media had come to serve an important democratic function: presenting Americans with a single shared set of facts," writes Kurt Andersen in his new book about the uniquely American penchant for magical thinking, Fantasyland. By the 1990s, however, the rise of the Internet, conservative talk radio, and Fox News "were enabling a reversion to the narrower, factional, partisan discourse that had been normal in America's earlier centuries." Whereas in Paul's era, Americans suffering under the paranoid style of politics had to subscribe to a whole patchwork of snail-mail newsletters (many of which can be found within the vast archive of right-wing extremist political literature where I located Paul's oeuvre), today, one need only to log onto Alex Jones's Infowars site or read the president of the United States' Twitter account to discover the nefarious activities of those really pulling the strings of global events.

#1 | Posted by Doc_Sarvis at 2018-01-22 06:40 AM | Reply

"There's no point in pining for a lost era when a small group of journalistic elites determined the national conversation; and the democratization of media has brought many benefits, not the least of which is empowering marginalized voices that had traditionally been ignored," Kirchick points out.

The uncomfortable truth, however, is that, while the Internet has given everyone a platform to tell their own stories, many abuse that new power. One result of this media fragmentation is that Americans today live in entirely different information spaces, where the conception of what's true or false depends upon what cable network one views, radio show one listens to, or website one reads. In this sense, America is beginning to remind me of places I have traveled to in the former Soviet Union, such as Ukraine, where part of the country yearns to join the European Union and another believes Europe is a homosexual-fascist despotism.

In 1964, when the segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace mounted a longshot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, the TV networks didn't even cover his campaign announcement and The New York Times put the news on page eleven of an inside section. Half a century later, when another highly improbable figure -- who, unlike Wallace, had never even held elective office -- glided down the escalator of his Manhattan skyscraper to declare his presidential candidacy, the media covered him obsessively and has never looked away. It is not just that we live in a country where celebrities can become presidents, as the many, ostensibly serious people advocating that Oprah Winfrey challenge Trump indicate. We live in a country where the very archetype of the tinfoil-hat-wearing crackpot, whose claim to fame is standing on a street corner shouting obscenities, can have the ear of the most powerful person in the world.

#2 | Posted by Doc_Sarvis at 2018-01-22 06:42 AM | Reply

Yawn

#3 | Posted by Crassus at 2018-01-22 06:47 AM | Reply

they weren't voting for libertarian ideas -- they were voting for the craziest son of a bitch in the race.

Lmao! Well he probably isn't wrong...

#4 | Posted by GOnoles92 at 2018-01-22 10:28 AM | Reply

Based on posts on the DR?
BINGO!
God, that must hurt.

#5 | Posted by Doc_Sarvis at 2018-01-22 10:46 AM | Reply

Paultards are worthless.

#6 | Posted by Tor at 2018-01-23 03:18 PM | Reply

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