“Anything you feed will grow” is an aphorism I heard a long time ago that stuck with me. It’s coming back to me again. See Paul Waldman, Republican elites fear the monster they created.
On screen, Fox News personalities paint a world of clear heroes and villains, where conservatives are always strong and right and liberals are weak and wrong. But the extraordinary private communications revealed in the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox show who they really are. Panicked over Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, those same hosts, and the executives who run the network, cowered in abject terror.
They feared the same monster that keeps House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) up at night, the monster that conservative media and Republican politicians created: base voters who are deluded, angry and vengeful.
At this point, if they stop feeding the monster the monster might eat them. It’s also the case that if they stop feeding the monster, plenty of other news outlets and politicians will step forward with truckloads of juicy, red meat to keep feeding it. And of course the deluded, angry and vengeful base can always get on social media and feed each other.
Is this a beast that can’t be starved? We may never know. Recently Kevin McCarthy handed over House security footage of January 6 to Tucker Carlson so that the beast could be fed.
Carlson’s producers will comb through endless pixels to find images with which to mislead viewers: to convince them that the riot wasn’t so bad or that Trump’s supporters weren’t to blame or that the whole thing was a setup.
That will only further convince Carlson’s audience to deny the truth about Jan. 6, and punish any Republican officeholder who disagrees.
The beast was created and carefully nurtured over many years as a cheap source of “conservative” votes for the Republican Party. Lee Atwater fed it. Karl Rove fed it. But back in the day, they could still control it. At this point, the beast is in control, even though in many parts of the country the extremists are driving middle-of-the-road voters away from the Republican Party.
Election deniers lost big in the midterms, so now they’re taking over state GOP offices. PBS:
Embracing election conspiracy theories was a political albatross for Republicans in states that weren’t completely red last year, with deniers losing every statewide bid in the swing states of Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But the movement has focused on GOP state party chairs — positions that usually are selected by only dedicated activists and have the power to influence the party’s presidential nominating contest and some aspects of election operations, such as recruiting poll watchers.
“The rise of this dangerous ideology nationwide and the rise within party machinery are ominous,” said Norm Eisen, a prominent Washington lawyer and former ambassador who is executive chair of States United Democracy Center, which tracks election deniers. “It’s an outrageous phenomenon.”
But, so far, it’s working pretty well for the beast. The PBS article goes on to list a number of hard-right ideologues and election deniers, some of whom lost midterm elections, who managed to get themselves elected to positions in their state’s Republican Party. Yes, let the party be run by the wackjobs who lost the last election. Such a plan.
If somehow the right-wing news outlets and right-wing politicians shut up for a few weeks, maybe some of the craziness would subside. Just stop feeding the beast. If the flow of disinformation and phony controversies (Pete Buttigieg didn’t go to East Palestine!) could be cut off — which is not going to happen — the beast at least would shrink. I’d like to believe that at some point the hard right fanatics will become such a liability to the Republican Party that they’ll be run out of the party instead of being given plum House committee assignments.
But Josh Marshall reports that right-wing web-based influencers are telling their loyal viewers the Ukraine War is fake. So the beast will be fed by somebody. It’s not going to be starved. Not anytime soon.