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How the Right-Wing Media's Fantasy World Caused a Republican Meltdown on Election Night

Despite all evidence to the contrary, right-wing pundits were telling whoever would listen that Romney would win by a landslide.
 
 
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The greatest thing on television Tuesday evening wasn’t Obama’s victory speech. It wasn’t Romney’s concession speech. It wasn’t even John King’s gentle caress of the CNN Magic Wall.

It was the Fox News team’s collective meltdown when the network’s own analysts called the election for Obama.

In fact, Fox might have given us the most entertaining five minutes of cable news in television history. Karl Rove in particular couldn’t wrap his head around the idea that Romney had lost. He sent Megyn Kelly downstairs to the Fox election desk to find out what had happened. Despite one of the election desk staffers saying he was 99.5 percent sure about the outcome, Rove insisted that there must have been a mistake. If you look at the footage closely enough, you can actually see smoke come out of Rove’s ears as his brain malfunctions. At one point even Megyn Kelly couldn’t take Rove’s BS any longer and asked him if the number-crunching he was doing was “math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better.”

But it wasn’t only the on-air personalities at Fox who were shocked and appalled by the election outcome. White conservatives across the nation were caught off guard, and oh how they mourned. As the AlterNet team wrote in a post-election roundup, it’s pretty easy to see why: despite all evidence to the contrary, right-wing pundits were telling whoever would listen that Romney would win by a landslide. They attacked Nate Silver, the New York Times blogger and statistics savant, who, it turns out, nailed it. They claimed Black voters wouldn’t turn out for Obama, and plenty of other obvious nonsense. Basically, they were living in a fantasy land that did not reflect the reality of the election or the citizens of this country.

At the Christian Science Monitor, Gloria Goodale has an interesting piece on the right-wing media’s alternate version of reality. She writes:

[R]ather than the purportedly surprising election results reflecting some national subversion of the voting process, many political scientists and other analysts say this right-wing upset is dramatic evidence of a growing partisan divide in our media.

Increasingly, the public consumes media that reinforce personal views rather than give actual information about the world, says University of San Francisco political scientist Corey Cook.

“The biggest story of this election is the stories that were being told about the election,” says Professor Cook....“It was really as if places like MSNBC and Fox were talking about completely different races,” he adds.

Goodale’s sources also note that major networks like NBC share some of the blame in misleading viewers. But in their case, the deception seems to have been largely relegated to claims that the race was neck-and-neck, when in fact Obama was the clear leader in the polls; close elections are of course better for ratings.

Outlets manufacturing a false sense of drama to make more money is loathsome, but the fallout from the right-wing media’s trip to la-la land seems to be much more profound for conservatives who were given a false sense of hope. Whether many conservatives will disavow Fox and its ilk over its election lies remains to be seen. But it’s entirely possible that this time the right-wing media has gone too far. As Amanda Marcotte wrote in a blog post earlier today, “Without lies, what does the right wing media have? Not much.”

Lauren Kelley is the activism and gender editor at AlterNet and a freelance journalist based in New York City. Her work has appeared in Salon, Time Out New York, the L Magazine, and other publications. Follow her on Twitter.
 
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