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News, news, news

So. There are two connected stories about the Other Party and the News, which I find really interesting, and a tad disturbing. The first is the Public Policy Polling 3rd Annual TV News Trust Poll, which shows that on the whole, people who describe themselves as liberal, do not trust Fox News (surprise!) but do trust the news arms of ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC and PBS. Also, people who describe themselves as conservative do trust Fox News but do not trust the news arms of ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC or PBS.

I’d like to spend a little more time on that to make it clear: Most Conservatives (not all, it’s important to remember, but most, and more than three-quarters of those who describe themselves as Very Conservative) state that Fox News is the only trustworthy television news source, and that they do not trust any of the other major television news sources. Most Liberals (again, far from all, and with somewhat less obvious of a split along the very/somewhat Liberal like) state that most television news sources are just fine, and that the only really untrustworthy source is Fox. In other words, distrust of Fox is a liberal Shibboleth, but distrust of everything else is a conservative Shibboleth.

This means that Conservatives can lump together everybody non-Fox into a big liberal-media group of Bad Guys. We who call ourselves liberals have individual likes and dislikes amongst the corporate and public media (while rejecting all the Fox reporters, analysts and commentators together), which means that we do get a slightly wider spectrum of newslike information. Of course, the study was restricted to television news; it’s possible that Conservatives state that they trust any of half-a-dozen newspapers or radio networks or that Liberals distrust some substantial number similarly. I suspect that many if not most Conservatives trust only those outlets that describe themselves as Conservative, though, and that many if not most Liberals distrust only those outlets that are described as Conservative by other Conservatives. No data on that, at the moment, but it’s a guess.

The other news that I put with this is that, as the Guarniad puts it, Newt Gingrich launches tirade over marriage at South Carolina debate. The tirade was at ABC for airing his ex-wife’s story, and at CNN for starting the debate with that story, and then said “ I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.”. Tremendous cheers. The studio audience loved it, and I expect the real audience of people who might vote in that Party’s primary in South Carolina loved it, and I expect the real real audience of people who might contribute to his campaign, purchase his books, book him on radio shows, and (most important of all) rent his mailing lists loved it too. And they loved it, because of that stuff I said up there: they don’t trust anybody except Fox, the Conservative radio hosts, and the Conservative web sites. And they view everyone outside that circle as being motivated by the desire to destroy Conservatives. And it really is a Shibboleth, a test of the tribe.

Now, from my point of view, the difference is huge, and to the detriment of the Other Party—it’s a strength to have a variety of viewpoints available, and more so to have within our circle a variety of people who get there news from a variety of sources. In fact, my instinct is to look at the survey results and the incident at the debate and see a reinforcement of that idea. If you mistrust all those people, and you think they are all out to get you, then you are probably, well, crazy. But look at it from the other side: people who trust all those sources agree to call Fox News untrustworthy. Isn’t that suspect? It isn’t just the people who trust MSNBC, or the PBS watchers, but all of them. Isn’t the fact that the liberals have six channels that they find acceptable evidence that all those channels are acting in concert? And then when ABC attacks Newt Gingrich, CNN piles on; isn’t that evidence as well? Isn’t the fact that almost seventy million voted for Barack Obama in 2008&3#8212;almost all people who watched any of those six channels—evidence that those six channels are incredibly dangerous?

I’m joking, of course, but I’m only sort-of joking. But the point in the Other Party, you have a very wide array of targets from which to choose. The correct response to any media figure that isn’t on Fox is contemptuous attack, which of course is Newt Gingrich’s strength. And from my point of view, it’s a strength of our party in the general election. Which will be any minute now, right?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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