Newsmax Gaining on Fox

The information bubble is getting smaller.

CNN Business (“Newsmax TV scores a ratings win over Fox News for the first time ever“):

Newsmax TV has notched a ratings win over Fox News Channel for the very first time.

The win, fueled by conservative viewers who are disappointed by the election results, happened Monday evening. In the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic prized by advertisers, “Greg Kelly Reports” on Newsmax out-rated “The Story with Martha MacCallum” on Fox. The margin was narrow — Kelly averaged 229,000 viewers in the demo and MacCallum averaged 203,000 — but it is still a milestone in the cable news industry.

Before the election, Newsmax was not regarded as a formidable competitor to Fox; it was mostly dismissed as one of a handful of wannabe challengers.

But President Trump’s loss on November 3 changed the cable TV calculus. Viewers who were frustrated when Fox admitted the truth of Trump’s loss sought other options. Trump encouraged them to try Newsmax.

Newsmax — and Kelly in particular — offered a safe space in which Biden was not called president-elect and Trump was not yet defeated.
Through the post-election weeks in November, as Trump’s legal team suffered dozens of losses in court in its attempt to overturn the results, Kelly insisted that he believed Trump would still prevail.

His 7 p.m. program consists of long, pro-Trump, anti-media commentaries of the type typically found later in the evening on Fox. And a certain subset of viewers are rewarding him for it. Kelly’s show is usually Newsmax’s highest-rated show of the day.

“We’re here to stay,” Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy said Tuesday evening. “The ratings are showing that.”

Fox News is still four times higher-rated than Newsmax at any given time of day, according to Nielsen. Among viewers of all ages, Fox averaged 1.36 million viewers around the clock on Monday, while Newsmax averaged 316,000 viewers. But Fox is down from its pre-election highs while Newsmax is way up.

To offer some perspective, these are tiny, tiny numbers. 229,000 viewers in a nation of 330 million is a rounding error. The top-rated show on television last season, Sunday Night Football, had 7.8 million viewers. The lowest-rated show listed, something called “Bluff City Law,” had 1.1 million viewers.

Still, it’s rather distressing that a significant number of people are abandoning an intentionally-partisan news outlet that nonetheless reports the actual news for one that is willing to just tell them what they want to hear.

FILED UNDER: Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    As I said repeatedly in 2015 and 2016, Trump IS the Republican Party. He is the manifestation of their desires.

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  2. Kathy says:

    America is not used to having state media.

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  3. Sleeping Dog says:

    Be concerned when you begin going into office waiting rooms and the local bar in the afternoon and Newsmax has replaced Fox on the TV. 230,000 viewers, should have advertisers wondering if it is worth an ad placement.

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  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    The bulk of these people already live in a world of alternative reality called religion. They go to church on Sunday and pay for the privilege of listening to nonsense. If you are capable of believing there are angels keeping track of every time you have an impure thought, you are certainly capable of believing whatever nonsense Trump is spewing.

    I’ll say it again: religion (and other forms of superstition) is an easily exploitable weakness in one’s mental architecture. Now, the people here who are some religion other than white evangelical get upset when I don’t specify that I mean white evangelical Christian, so let me say that in this case, with these people, the problem presents mostly among white evangelicals. In this case.

    But in general, the exploitable weakness is any belief which cannot be backed up with evidence. If you can believe that a wafer is the actual flesh of a Galilean carpenter dead these 2000 years, what standard of proof do you imagine you have? If you can believe that the Creator of the 46 billion lightyear wide Universe gives a damn about what hat you wear, what standard of proof do you have? If you are prepared to swallow gigantic loads of obvious nonsense, of course you’re able to believe that Trump won an overwhelming victory.

    White evangelicals are conditioned from childhood to accept uncritically whatever ludicrous nonsense is shouted at them by a (usually) white male with bad hair and odd locution. If you can sit in a hard pew and hear that God loves you and also if you don’t return that love he’ll roast you for eternity, and actually believe that makes any kind of sense, of course you can’t see that Trump is a fraud. Your bullshit detector has been systematically crippled so that you can be a good little boy or girl and drop a dollar in the collection plate and enrich your exploiters.

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  5. Joe says:

    it is still a milLstone in the cable news industry

    FTFY

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  6. mattbernius says:

    Still, it’s rather distressing that a significant number of people are abandoning an intentionally-partisan news outlet that nonetheless reports the actual news for one that is willing to just tell them what they want to hear.

    And there we have the issue with placing too much faith in the “marketplace of ideas” as a solution to fake news or propaganda. Muck like drugs and processed food, there is a well-established demand (cultivated in this case by decades of Right-Wing radio and the rest of the conservative media complex) for exactly this type of content.

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  7. mattbernius says:

    Also, Newsmax is a more traditional form of American journalism than the ~70 yearish run of “objective” and professionalized journalism. For most of the 18th, 19th, and the early part of the 20th century, the press was more often than not exceedingly partisan (often directly associated with local political parties) and more concerned with that aspect than “objectively” reporting facts.

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  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Still, it’s rather distressing that a significant number of people are abandoning an intentionally-partisan news outlet that nonetheless reports the actual news for one that is willing to just tell them what they want to hear.

    But not at all surprising.

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  9. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: For The Great Derangement (not really a book I’d recommend) Matt Taibbi joined a Texas megachurch. IIRC he described the congregants as the most gullible people imaginable. I think that’s the real root, gullibility. Gullibility is a prerequisite for both religion and conservatism, which is essentially a religion, depending on faith, not reason.

    As always, one should distinguish between the pros and the amateurs. Here I’m speaking of the voters. Some Republican pols and operatives are gullible. Many are gullible and evil. And some are simply evil, my Senator Rick Scott comes to mind. While my other Senator, Little Marco Rubio, comes across as both gullible and evil. As does Trump himself.

    I don’t disagree with you that religion breeds gullibility, but while the fundies are a large part of the GOP electorate, they’re far from all of it, and we need to account for the rest. Many country club GOPs, for instance, aren’t particularly religious, but in my experience they’re gullible. Believing that cutting taxes reduces the deficit is akin to believing the eucharist is the true body and blood. If you’re a Republican professional, you’re stuck with plutocratic funders and a plutocratic platform and you need to get people to vote for you. Who are you going to target? The most gullible people you can find.

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  10. CSK says:

    @mattbernius:
    I’m glad you pointed this out. Most people today don’t know this, or have forgotten it if they did.

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: The real surprise to me is that once Rupert Murdoch discovered he could get rich telling people what they want to hear that FOX does make some small, peripheral, effort t0 report the news.

    I note that of late comments at FOX.com seem less lunatic. I suspect it’s the result of drive by commenters like myself who are only there to see what the gobshites are saying.

    Trump seemed to be handing out press passes to any and all RW nut job media. I would hope the Biden press staff would take a more establishment oriented approach.

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  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @mattbernius: Indeed. The partisanship is where newspaper names like “Democrat” and “Republican” came from.

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  13. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    My father was a Methodist pastor, so I heard him preach every Sunday from childhood until I went away to college. I’ve been pretty thoroughly basted in religion. Yet, Evangelicalism is unrecognizable to me.

    I would say this is because the set of traits you describe here isn’t about religion, but another blindness. The “easily exploitable weakness in one’s mental architecture“ is not so much a belief in God as it is a belief in Authority. Sometimes that Authority is God, but the underlying mechanism is a hunger to be told What Is. As Einstein once said, “Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

    It’s a bit of a chicken and egg thing. There are people who are profoundly afraid of the intangible, uncomfortable with randomness, and desperate for certainty. I don’t think religion creates these people, but rather these people are drawn to the strains of organized religion (like Evangelicalism and Catholicism) that proffer the certainty they crave and the set of rules that, if followed regardless of evidence and their lived experience, will ensure they get their just reward.

    Trump attracts this set of people for the same reasons – not because he is a Godly figure, but because he is an Authority figure. The blindness, or in the case of Newsmax the need for insulation from irreconcilable facts, derive from a very primal place. The primal source of the beliefs is what makes reasoning with these believers so impossible.

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  14. DrDaveT says:

    @mattbernius:

    Much like drugs and processed food, there is a well-established demand (cultivated in this case by decades of Right-Wing radio and the rest of the conservative media complex) for exactly this type of content.

    +1

    Ironically, this is the same problem that led to Obama’s worst PR disaster, the “if you like your doctor, you can keep him” gotcha. It never occurred to Obama’s people that many folks would desperately want to keep a grifting quack.

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    @DrDaveT: My local semi-pro newspaper had a letter this morning complaining that “Democrats told a few lies also.” Apparently some earlier letter writer said Trump lied 17,000 times and the current letter writer asked, “Does he personally count lies?”, apparently unaware that WAPO does count Trump’s lies. And aren’t they up to about 25,000? (There have to be about ten interns looking forward to being laid off after the inauguration so they don’t have to do that anymore.) As proof that Dems lie too, all the current letter writer offered was that same, “you can keep your doctor.” They’ve got that burned into their little brains. It seems to be the only D lie they can dredge up, but it’s sufficient for them to believe bothsides. FYI, I kept my doctor, until I moved.

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  16. KM says:

    FOX did this to itself. You cannot cater to Crazy and Business and Average Party Member (APM) at the same time. Had FOX spun off it’s nuts into its own little subnetwork, they could have kept the “respectable” face for Business and APM and get the Crazies their own safe place to whine it up. Instead, they tried to cram everyone into the same space and ignored the cross-contamination ruining their gig.

    Crazy is a race to the bottom; they’re always racing each other to be the first to tell you of a new conspiracy or outrageous thing for ratings and attention. If you have Business and APM hearing nothing but insanity when they just want a conservative take on the news of the day, Crazy *becomes* the conservative take of the day. Shepard Smith and facts gets pushed aside, Hannity rises as the authoritative face of the brand. As Crazy is more addictive than meth or crack, you need more and more to get the same outrage high and eventually you start bumping up against hard lines Business and APM don’t want to cross. The junkies go off in search of emotional fentanyl since this place can’t satisfy them anymore; those left behind are stuck with an unwanted craving towards terrible things but also a high tolerance meaning they’re gonna to get their fix in as well.

    You cannot be all things to all people, even your own subset of people. When you prioritize handing out addictive grievance, you cannot be mad you lose customers to it. A dealer who only sells low-level stuff will see his customers drift off towards those pushing the hard stuff. FOX got them hooked and now finds they can’t supply the goods they promised.

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  17. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Sure, religion is one such method of magical thinking. But so is believing in supplements or special diets or the power of positive thinking or crystals or homeopathy or chiropractics or yoga or racial purity or any one of thousands of things that people believe will give them The Answer, absent any proof whatsoever. I think you are giving religion way too much gravitas. It’s not uniquely bad in this respect. It’s generically bad.

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  18. grumpy realist says:

    @KM: The same thing for the WSJ, which has pandered to both sides of the equation: straight, fact-based news for the business articles, and frothing-at-the-mouth editorials (and sadly now, articles in the main section) for the frootloops.

    I remember the first time I ran across two articles in the WSJ–one in the main section, one in the business section–which stated the exact opposite.

    Businesses that don’t keep in touch with reality end up as ex-businesses…..

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  19. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan:

    As I said repeatedly in 2015 and 2016, Trump IS the Republican Party.

    I meant to note in the OP, before I got sucked down the rabbit hole of trying to find consistent TV ratings numbers, that Trump got 74 million votes last month. 229,000 viewers is a teeny fraction of that.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The bulk of these people already live in a world of alternative reality called religion. They go to church on Sunday and pay for the privilege of listening to nonsense.

    This has been the case since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. It’s not useful in explaining a recent development.

    @mattbernius:

    For most of the 18th, 19th, and the early part of the 20th century, the press was more often than not exceedingly partisan

    Yes, that’s fair. But our national politics were far less important in those days, having far less power over our lives, and far more of an elite project, with party bosses picking the nominees rather than the masses.

    @KM:

    When you prioritize handing out addictive grievance, you cannot be mad you lose customers to it.

    For sure.

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  20. Andy says:

    Still, it’s rather distressing that a significant number of people are abandoning an intentionally-partisan news outlet that nonetheless reports the actual news for one that is willing to just tell them what they want to hear.

    Aren’t all the top-rated shows on Fox and MSNBC the “opinion” shows like Hannity and Maddow and not actual news? The difference between those and what’s reportedly on Newsmax seems like a distinction without a difference.

    No one watches any of these shows to have their ideas challenged or to get informed – the entire point is to be spoon-fed content they want to hear.

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  21. KM says:

    @Scott F.:

    The “easily exploitable weakness in one’s mental architecture“ is not so much a belief in God as it is a belief in Authority.

    I will contend that it’s actually belief, period. Gullibility is the inherent nature of falling for bad beliefs but the mental structural flaw @Michael Reynolds keeps referring to is the capacity for belief itself.

    The concept of belief, defined as “trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something irrespective of a factual basis”, is what all of this comes down to; people prefer to feel rather than think. Not everyone can reason but everyone can experience a belief, even an infant; thoughts need to be understood while beliefs are experienced. It’s a passive way to experience and process a complicated world. It offers comfort in the face of cold reality and helps us build up a society where we can be more than nature intended us to be. Belief isn’t *bad* per se but like any tool you abuse, it can be dangerous and destructive. Screwdrivers are used to build houses and repair broken things – you can also use them to scratch your name in somebody’s car or shank them. The tool’s not the problem – it’s the user.

    As Pratchett noted, we have to start believing in little lies in order to accept the big lies that make up the core of our world. However, the very fact that existence depends on beliefs instead of facts means we’re primed to accept bad ones as well as good. Discernment between the two gets harder the more your willingness to drift away from concrete reality gets. People get very sensitive when matters of faith come up but objectively there’s little difference between believing in unseen fairies and believing in an unseen God. One’s more socially acceptable than the other, that’s all.

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  22. Gustopher says:

    @gVOR08:

    For The Great Derangement (not really a book I’d recommend) Matt Taibbi joined a Texas megachurch.

    Interesting that Taibbi himself has become quite deranged lately, shifting into an anti-anti-Trumper like Glenn Greenwald. He used to be a good, but biased, journalist covering things like the effectively different court systems we have for corporations and poor people, but then decided that corporatist Democrats are clearly the worst evil ever placed upon God’s green earth.

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  23. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    And there we have the issue with placing too much faith in the “marketplace of ideas” as a solution to fake news or propaganda.

    Humans are naturally predisposed to this – it’s not something unique to America much less right-wing American politics.

    Same with Michael’s musing on religion actually. The cognitive aspects of our brains that lead to religion developing independently in every society that’s existed in history are not magically absent from self-proclaimed secularists.

    And the “marketplace of ideas” is like what Churchill said about democracy – it’s the worst option except for all the others.

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  24. SKI says:

    @KM:

    The concept of belief, defined as “trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something irrespective of a factual basis”, is what all of this comes down to; people prefer to feel rather than think.

    What definition are you using that includes the italicized words?

    Believing in something does not require that such belief be irrespective of a factual basis. That seems like a contrived strawman. Examples of definitions of belief: Mirriam-Webster, Dictionary.com, Cambridge Dictionary, andMacMillan
    None require that the feeling or thought be devoid of logic or facts.

    And for the record, religion, contra MR, does not require belief. That is a Christian concept.

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  25. inhumans99 says:

    @Andy:

    I usually groan at folks who provide a both sides do it argument but I will give you a pass on this one as yeah…Maddow has been called out once or twice for supposed scoops that are nothingburgers when all is said and done, the same type of stuff hyped to the rafters by folks like Hannity that just fizzle out when you quickly realize it is not the dynamite that is going to boom and destroy your political opponent.

    What I saw in the Apple TV show Mythic Quest Raven’s Banquet was not an original idea but it was still funny when they discover that Nazis love playing their game and are turning off other players from wanting to enjoy the game and spend money on the game so the developers figure out a way to corral the Nazis into a server that they partition from the rest of the game so the Nazis just end up slaughtering each other in the game without realizing they are not smiting their enemies but other fellow nazis…it was pretty amusing.

    Honestly, Fox News should have bought something like Newsmax out sometime in the middle of Trump’s one term in the White House so they had a site that the crazies could flock to while retaining their hard news guys like Shep Smith. It they tried to buy out Newsmax now everyone would know what they are trying to pull off and it would not work. They missed the window of opportunity to buy Newsmax but there is no point anymore in crying over spilt milk.

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  26. DrDaveT says:

    @KM:

    I will contend that it’s actually belief, period. Gullibility is the inherent nature of falling for bad beliefs but the mental structural flaw @Michael Reynolds keeps referring to is the capacity for belief itself.

    I don’t think “belief” means what you think it does. Specifically:

    The concept of belief, defined as “trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something irrespective of a factual basis”

    That’s not what “belief” means, except in the term-of-art religious usage. In particular, the “irrespective of a factual basis” clause is not part of the standard definition. Belief just means thinking something is true, and we’re all stuck with needing to do that constantly in order to function.

    Pushing on that harder, it’s tempting to say that we should only believe things that we have good evidence for. That’s much harder than it sounds, though, because none of have time to do independent research to verify every belief we rely on in daily life. At a certain point, even the Nobel laureates among us have to rely on appeal to authority for the 99% of their beliefs they have not personally investigated. Everything I know about the geography of Taiwan, or the habits of echidnas, or the quantum Hall effect, is essentially hearsay — I was told it by others, and have no tools to directly verify what I was told.

    So choosing what to believe, what to disbelieve, and what to remain agnostic about is really very complicated. It relies on a web of partial appeals to authority, a sense of what kinds of error (or disinformation) are likely, subtle notions of independent corroboration, etc. It’s hard.

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  27. Mike in Arlington says:

    Someone on this board (and I apologize that I cannot remember their name) once said that the people taken by Jim and Tammy Bakker wanted to be lied to. They wanted to be given something to believe that pleased or soothed them. This person (rightly) said that the same thing is happening with the republican/trump voters.

    They don’t care whether it’s a lie or not, they’re being told that they’re really the smart ones. That they are the majority (because the democrats can’t win without cheating). This soothes them and also gives them permission to fight dirty because they’re being told the other side is doing it. The attorneys say one thing in public and a very different thing in court because they know their audience won’t track down the pleadings or transcripts to double check, and more importantly, they won’t care.

    That, I believe, is what we’re dealing with. To stop this, they have to conclude that believing in an upsetting reality is better than a soothing lie.

    And I have no idea how to do that. I thought that covid would do that, but man, was I proven wrong.

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  28. grumpy realist says:

    @DrDaveT: There’s a vox ex cathedra capability that patent examiners can use when quoting stuff that “a person of ordinary skill in the Art” is supposed to know. There’s even one that can be used when referring to stuff known within one’s own experience….but policy is to use it extremely rarely and only when absolutely necessary.

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  29. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    @Mike in Arlington:

    That, I believe, is what we’re dealing with. To stop this, they have to conclude that believing in an upsetting reality is better than a soothing lie.

    Or we could stop it by having the liars suffer consequences. Which is nearly impossible in the US and I have no idea how to do that either. Even when limited to particular professions, such as lawyers filing bogus lawsuits and wasting the court’s time, it seems to be nearly impossible for sanctions to actually get applied.

    Freedom of speech is absolutely critical to a democracy/republic. Propaganda is absolutely lethal to a democracy/republic. The line is between them is so unclear that it’s all but unenforceable, and today we live in an age of propaganda. As others have noted it’s not the first time that’s happened. But I’m not sure we’ve seen the combination of propaganda, communication technology widely available so anyone (including foreign governments) can spread the propaganda, a powerful federal government, and the lack of a buffer between the mob and the executive/legislative branches before (indirect election of Senators, for example). It’s a mess.

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  30. ImProPer says:

    @mattbernius:

    “Also, Newsmax is a more traditional form of American journalism than the ~70 yearish run of “objective” and professionalized journalism.”

    Good point, there was a brief point in our history, as you point out, where there was an honest attempt by the news media to keep the public objectively informed. It was actually witnessed by some of us older folks, and there is enough physical evidence for younger history buffs, to see footage of newsmen like Robert Murrow, etc.

    “And there we have the issue with placing too much faith in the “marketplace of ideas” as a solution to fake news or propaganda.”

    Unfortunately the marketplace of ideas, has been replaced with the marketplace of outrage, and business is very good. I am probably not alone is seeing this as a process addiction, and from what I understand about them is that they are inherently more difficult to treat, than actual substance abuse. For quite a few folks out there, fake news, and moral outrage is a hell of a drug.
    Propaganda has for a very long time played an important role in disseminating information, and impossible to do away with. It is how do we get people to be responsible enough to filter the information with basic logic and reason. This in imo, is a major challenge for public educators in K-12. (From what I have seen, these skills need to be developed much earlier than adult hood). At the same time it is a major challenge to the power of the status quo.

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  31. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    that Trump got 74 million votes last month. 229,000 viewers is a teeny fraction of that

    It doesn’t matter how big the party is, it matters who’s driving them. Are you trying to say the loons are not in the drivers seat at the moment? Look at what I referenced on another thread – a Republican politician admitting that she was afraid for her life if she dared to go against the Trumpers. The loons are driving the party. Of course there are many times that number who are just going with the flow. Pointing to them and saying, “But not all Republicans” is meaningless.

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  32. Gustopher says:

    @KM:

    People get very sensitive when matters of faith come up but objectively there’s little difference between believing in unseen fairies and believing in an unseen God.

    Or, for the vast majority of people, believing in quantum mechanics, any form of macro-economic theory, the moon landing or even New Zealand. If you don’t have direct, observational evidence, it’s all a matter of faith and trust in the authority figures that have told you about it.

    Religion creates a sense of community around a set of shared beliefs, which can make the shared beliefs feel stronger, but you can see that same type of community forming around all sorts of different fan clubs, whether they are for Jesus, Objectivist Jesus, political parties or Star Wars (the shared belief being that the movies are good, not true).

    For all his bemoaning religion, our friend @Michael Reynolds undoubtably has his own firmly held beliefs that he cannot prove and that he takes as an article of faith. Possibly including the existence of New Zealand, but definitely including his “religion is a unique form of bullshit, and I am immune”,

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  33. Mike in Arlington says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican: That’s the thing, there always comes a point when belief in the soothing lies bites them in the ass. Usually what happens is that those politicians would be punished by an electorate who wants solutions to their problems, not happy talk.

    But given our gerrymandered country and a system that favors rural states (and a borderline incompetent democratic party), that disincentive is considerably diminished, at least in the short term.

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  34. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @inhumans99:
    I’ll take Maddow’s occasional fizzles to Hannity’s incessant daily barrage of fizzles.

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  35. Teve says:

    @KM:

    The concept of belief, defined as “trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something irrespective of a factual basis”

    where did you get that definition? Because the normal definition of belief is “trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something irrespective of a factual basis

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  36. charon says:

    @James Joyner:

    This has been the case since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. It’s not useful in explaining a recent development.

    The correlation of Evangelical Christianity and traditionalist/conservative Catholicism with GOP membership is a product of Nixon’s Southern Strategy, to the point the GOP is afraid to dispute these people. If you know someone is an Evangelical or a traditionalist Catholic, you can safely guess the person is Republican.

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  37. ImProPer says:

    @Andy:

    “Humans are naturally predisposed to this – it’s not something unique to America much less right-wing American politics.”

    Well put. We tend to forget, people like Lippmann and Bernays didn’t invent propaganda, they studied this predisposition, and turned it into an art form. Also, it was not done for nefarious purposes, but to quickly enlighten us citizens to State affairs, and marketplace breakthroughs, that we were to busy to research or discover ourselves. It was a major tool in the division of labor between the experts and the working classes. I actually think that the modern manipulation of the right wing media, and their equally devious, but somewhat more sophisticated left-wing counterparts, should be described by some other term, as the only “pro” is for their own selfish desires.

    “Same with Michael’s musing on religion actually. The cognitive aspects of our brains that lead to religion developing independently in every society that’s existed in history are not magically absent from self-proclaimed secularists.”

    Yes, I find it odd that most people who claim to be atheist, tend to have more in common with fundamentalists, than agnostics. More often than not, simply replacing the spiritual realm, with a secular one.

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  38. Barry says:

    @charon: ” If you know someone is an Evangelical”

    White Evangelical. Which the white right-wing evangelicals are keen to shove under the carpet.

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  39. charon says:

    @charon: It used to be there were religious people in both parties. Now that one party has gone reactionary (MAGA) it is a natural home for traditionalist or fundamentalist religiosity (including ultra-orthodox like the Hasidim).

    And, now that such religion is specific to one party, we get religion politically weaponized – e.g., the War on Christmas etc.

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  40. Gustopher says:

    @Mike in Arlington:

    That’s the thing, there always comes a point when belief in the soothing lies bites them in the ass. Usually what happens is that those politicians would be punished by an electorate who wants solutions to their problems, not happy talk.

    But, what if the soothing lies are simply “the problems in your life are being caused by those people over there, not our own failings”?

    It gives the rubes something to do — hate — and never requires things actually get better. The successes are fending of California values in Kansas — no one is being forced to marry their dog, so it’s working. And everything else that goes wrong… well, you just have to hate harder and donate money because we are fighting a powerful enemy.

    It’s a good lie. It’s a lie that doesn’t disprove itself over time.

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  41. charon says:

    @Barry:

    Not necessarily, Latino and Asian also. (Not Blacks, obviously). I have Asian inlaws who are Evangelical and also RWNJ.

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  42. Slugger says:

    Fox’ profits in second quarter were $122 million. That’s lower than a year ago due to Covid disruption of professional sports, but it is still a lot of money. It will attract competition. You can compete fairly cheaply; Lady Clairol will allow you to fill the airwaves with blondes for very little money. To get going, it really helps to have a celebrity endorser, and who is a greater celebrity than the President of the U.S.A? Mr. Trump knows that stuff the President does generates viewers. A relationship with a media company and the POTUS can be very symbiotic and mutually profitable. The election results denial process has generated $207 million for Trump’s PAC, i.e. Trump’s pocket. You only need to get two million people out of 330 million to be the king of cable. For Trump and his favorite channel it’s win/win.
    The only thing that will stop it is that Trump will want a bigger slice of the pie, and some Newsmax competitor will provide this sooner or later.

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  43. Kylopod says:

    @Teve:

    where did you get that definition? Because the normal definition of belief is “trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something irrespective of a factual basis

    I dunno–for one thing people don’t normally apply the term “belief” to things everyone agrees are simple facts. You probably wouldn’t say “I believe Lincoln was the 16th president,” and if you did say that, what you’d be saying in effect is “I’m citing this factoid from memory, and I feel reasonably confident in its accuracy but I can’t be 100% sure without looking it up.” The “I believe” tag is generally taken to be an admission that you’re convinced of something without having absolute proof.

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  44. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher: I was impressed with some of Taibbi’s financial/economic reporting and read The Great Derangement as a result. Haven’t read him since, but I’ve been marginally aware he’d acquired a reputation for going off a bit into the ozone.

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  45. Modulo Myself says:

    Also, it was not done for nefarious purposes, but to quickly enlighten us citizens to State affairs, and marketplace breakthroughs, that we were to busy to research or discover ourselves.

    Bernays hired himself to corporations so they could sell stuff that people didn’t need, which is a good example of a nefarious purpose. He used Uncle Sigmund’s ideas to link cigarettes and car fins to phalluses. Consumerism is a great example, though, of a belief system which attracts people who know it’s wrong. How many women self-loathingly endure endless fashion-industry PR attacking their bloat or the shape of the elbows or the 15 ways they can have better eyebrows in order to live in society as an ‘attractive’ person?

    To me, conservativism represents the opposite. Only a small subset of self-loathing gay people end up following Catholic theology to get by. I think that’s one of its key aspects: you have to suck to be a member and to consider it pragmatically of use. Otherwise, it’s a zero.

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  46. Modulo Myself says:

    Regarding the Puritans, they were nuts because of a century or so of religious war and violence. You know, actual persecution, which they were happy to deal out when Cromwell came to power. Modern conservative Christians are upset because a Biden nominee was mean to some deadbeat nuns because they’re against birth control. Birth control. It’s a pill that women take, which violates the halfwit views authorized by a bunch of pedophiles.

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  47. Kathy says:

    Literally tons of work at the moment. That’s too bad, as I’ve got something to say about belief and authority, mostly based on experience.

    Maybe things will calm down a bit tomorrow. it will be a long comment.

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  48. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve always regarded “belief” as a funny word, in that it covers a huge range of behaviors. My belief that if I step through my back door I’ll find myself on the lanai seems to me a completely different phenomenon than someone believing angels look over their shoulder.

    Similarly, I would differentiate between my belief that New-Keynsian theory is a fair approximation of reality which is based on having some vague grasp of the theory and having watched it work. While this is a deal less concrete than my theory about my lanai, it’s a different thing than belief in trickle down econ, which doesn’t work either in theory or in history. I would, however, concede that both beliefs rely to a great extent on the word of authority figures.

    @Gustopher: notes that Reynolds has no direct experience with the existence of New Zealand. Reminds me of a physicist who was asked why he believed all these particles are real when he’s never seen one. He asked if the questioner believed the Pope exists. ‘Of course, I’ve seen him.’ ‘You’ve seen the Pope face to face?’ ‘No, I’ve seen him on TV.’ ‘So you saw patterns on a CRT that convinced you the Pope exists. That’s how I’ve been convinced that these particles exist.’ Direct touch or sight are not necessary for compelling evidence. I’ve “seen” New Zealand.

    I think our problem here with “belief” is like the problem with “racism”. The words covers such a wide range of behavior that we’re distracted into semantic arguments about what the word means instead of discussing the effects of the behaviors.

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  49. Sleeping Dog says:

    @inhumans99:

    What I saw in the Apple TV show Mythic Quest Raven’s Banquet was not an original idea but it was still funny when they discover that Nazis love playing their game and are turning off other players from wanting to enjoy the game and spend money on the game so the developers figure out a way to corral the Nazis into a server that they partition from the rest of the game so the Nazis just end up slaughtering each other in the game without realizing they are not smiting their enemies but other fellow nazis…it was pretty amusing.

    I thought you were going finish by saying that they developed a virtual gas chamber to eliminate the nazis. Herd them into a virtual room and…

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  50. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: I’ve been to New Zealand and visited my cousin there. You have my word that it exists; I’ve seen it, stood on the ground there, got lost looking for the recently moved train station there, and even had a credit card lost/stolen there. (At least the northern island exists. 😉 )

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  51. SKI says:

    @Kylopod: I believe that the Ravens will beat the Browns next Monday.

    I am not stating a fact but I am basing my belief on facts about the teams. That is the essential problem with KM’s faked quote/definition of the word belief.

    Now, my buddy may disagree and think that the Browns will win and will have his own set of facts that are convincing to him.

    We have different beliefs but neither are irrational and both are based on facts.

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  52. JohnSF says:

    Evangelicals seem to tend to elevate the irrational to a marked degree, even in theological terms.
    (Said it before, say it again; Anglican on Evangelical Southern Baptists: “…heretics and lunatics
    But e.g. Pentecostals and Mormons are arguably as non-rational, but not as warped in political ethics.

    The key weakness for the “Baptist-type” evangelicals boarding the crazy train to crazy town is a (base level) theology of “cheap grace” plus ludicrous literalism plus absolute elect vs damned tradition extended to political opponents.
    Arguably, the lack of the rationalistic constraints of more traditional theology and magisteria leaves them open to such extremism.
    Though some Catholics can give them a runs for their money in anti-abortionism; their rhetorical flight ignoring that western law has historically not equated abortion with homicide.

    The evangelicals have increasingly hugged to themselves a culture of grievance in relation to wider society, that has become increasingly politically activated, and prone to conspiratorialist exaggeration.
    There has long been an overlap of this sector with racist/”anti-communist” politics: see e.g. Red Scare, Birchers.
    But the sub-cultural damage was limited by the political disengagement of the “evangelical establishment”.
    Post-1970’s the temptation of political evangelicalism and partnership with (takeover of?) GOP has become a source of moral rot at the core of the movement: anything is excusable in the cause of “righteousness”. Just as it is to the related “true nation” strain of the more secular right.
    It’s a perilous road to walk.

    “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

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  53. ImProPer says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    “Bernays hired himself to corporations so they could sell stuff that people didn’t need, which is a good example of a nefarious purpose.”

    I don’t know that I would call advertising products “nefarious”, so long as no lies or misleading information is being used to sell them. As far as what consumers “need” that should be up to them to determine, rather than an advertiser. I would draw a distinction between advertising products that people may or may not need, and assaulting the senses with outright lies and hyperbole, the so called infotainment, and quasi-news agencies are doing. This is why I would advocate for teaching better reasoning and logic skills, than demonizing amoral techniques for disseminating information.

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  54. JohnSF says:

    @gVOR08:
    What we need is a more philosophically precise language.
    Or then again maybe not.

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  55. dazedandconfused says:

    @charon:

    An old Barry Goldwater quote:

    Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.

    This split within the Republican party has been glossed over with considerable political skill. I think Trump, probably only to fill his own pockets, will find the limit of those mad skillz.

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  56. JohnSF says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    Akshually, the Pilgrims being Presbyterians would have been rather at odds with Cromwell, who favoured the Independents.
    (Though both hated the episcopals, obviously, and don’t even get started on the Catholics…)

    The Presbyterian vs Independent disputation was by no means entirely academic theology either.
    The Second and Third Civil Wars (1648 and 1650) had a English Presb./Scots/Royalist alliance to vs English Independents led alliance.
    Lots of dead people resulted.

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  57. EddieInCA says:

    @SKI: @Kylopod:

    SKI says:
    Wednesday, December 9, 2020 at 17:12

    @Kylopod: I believe that the Ravens will beat the Browns next Monday.

    I “believe” a more analogous definition to the current situation would be if you, SKI, watched the game and the Browns won the actual game 24-10 after the Ravens were ahead 10-7 after three quarters, yet you still believed that the Ravens had won the game. And you kept pressuring the NFL, ESPN, NFL Network, to brand the Ravens the winner, despite the actual final score of the game.

    In that case your belief is delusional.

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  58. charon says:

    “these preachers … But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, “

    The preachers and many others only believe this based on lack of self-awareness. But it’s only true if the god is Mammon.

    Which is still better than Trump’s god, Moloch.

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  59. Northerner says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Sure, religion is one such method of magical thinking. But so is believing in supplements or special diets or the power of positive thinking or crystals or homeopathy or chiropractics or yoga or racial purity or any one of thousands of things that people believe will give them The Answer, absent any proof whatsoever.

    You could add String Theory to that list of unproven things that some people are sure is true. Sometimes I think its not so much that people want The Answer (or even any answer), but more that something about the aesthetics of that answer makes them think it has to be true.

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  60. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    This has been the case since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. It’s not useful in explaining a recent development.

    Baloney.

    And rather a bad example given that the Pilgrims enjoyed hanging ‘witches’ and exiling ‘heretics.” The problem is precisely that a big slice of our population is as superstitious and as ignorant as the Pilgrims in the 17th century. And yet, oh look, it’s the 21st century!

    You cannot believe in bullshit and differentiate where the bullshit ends and the reality begins unless you try to hold two contradictory world views simultaneously. If you value both cosmologies equally you will gravitate toward the easier answer. Guess what that is: denial.

    You and Stephen can go on pretending this is politics. It’s not. This is a religious cult. A cult literally committing suicide before our eyes while doing its best to make it a murder-suicide. That is not ‘partisanship’ that is madness of the religious variety.

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  61. wr says:

    @Andy: “Aren’t all the top-rated shows on Fox and MSNBC the “opinion” shows like Hannity and Maddow”

    You’ve never actually watched Rachel Maddow, have you?

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  62. Gustopher says:

    @wr: Maddow is an odd mix of reporting and opinion. If you go in looking for straight reporting, you’re only going to see the opinion. I wouldn’t be surprised if Andy had seen her show a number of times.

    And sometimes, she fizzles. The Trump state taxes were a great example… hyped up before they finished chasing down the reporting, and then they didn’t show anything interesting.

    But, I’ve never seen her pushing complete lies, and she corrects herself when she finds errors, she doesn’t talk over her guests (usually asks if she has summarized correctly or left anything out) and she’s careful to attribute the reporting where it belongs.

    She’s good, and she’s fair, but she’s never going to be mistaken for unopinionated.

    Probably the second best reporting on tv these days, after Last Week Tonight when they spend 20 minutes on medical examiner certifications.

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  63. Teve says:

    @Gustopher: i quit watching the Sunday shows 20 years ago because listening to Republicans tell stupid, stupid lies makes me grind my teeth. But I watched Maddow up until maybe 3 or 4 years ago. I quit because there just isn’t an hour of interesting news per day. So 25-50% of her show is padding. I decided life’s too short.

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  64. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: her podcast Bagman, about Spiro Agnew was amazing if that’s your thing.

    Also, there’s a lot more news per day these days. Too much. There was a period a few months ago where whatever the plan for the show was, it would get thrown out because of news. Whether it is interesting news… I don’t know.

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  65. Barry says:

    @JohnSF: ““For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?””

    For these people, the answer is obvious – ‘the whole world’.

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  66. JohnSF says:

    @Barry:
    Which is understandable for a plutocrat; but it might be expected that a self-proclaimed evangelist would think twice about being blithely hypocritical.

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  67. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @charon: Correct. I am an Episcopalian and in my home congregation are a number of persons who (like me) should be natural Republicans (mostly affluent, Southern) but have been driven into the arms of the Democrats because of the rank stupidity which too many Evangelicals are willing to tolerate.

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  68. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:

    And the “marketplace of ideas” is like what Churchill said about democracy – it’s the worst option except for all the others.

    I generally agree with this statement. The devil, of course, is in the details. The issue isn’t so much with the notion of a marketplace as it is with an “unregulated” marketplace.

    The far better and more important debate is what types of regulation make sense.

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  69. Andy says:

    @wr:

    You’ve never actually watched Rachel Maddow, have you?

    Not regularly, but occasionally I’ll watch bits of video that progressive-leaning family members send me. But as a general rule, I stopped watching cable news channels years ago, and whenever I dip back in to see what’s happening in that space, it only confirms my conclusion that it is not a good place to discover the ground truth – doubly so for opinion shows like Maddow.

    Back when Trump first took office, over at Dave Schuler’s place Michael Reynolds posted an episode she did about Rex Tillerson’s dealings in Africa and how that made Tillerson a bad person. I dissected that piece at the time which was full of wrong information and omitted information that directly contradicted her narrative and conclusions.

    I’ve found this same problem every time I’ve done any kind of fact-checking. Sometimes she’s not terrible on the actual facts and only skews the analysis – other times relevant facts that would contradict her conclusions are mysteriously left out or she just asserts an opinion as if it were fact.

    All of which is why her show is not (or should not be) considered a “news” program but an “opinion” program. Like other opinion programs, including those by right-wing people, it purposely attempts to blur the line between “news” and opinion and not just because these shows appear on self-described “news” networks and follow a “newsy” format.

    Then there is also the too-obvious problem of the editorial decisions that these shows make regarding what they choose to “cover.” If you watch left-wing programs like Maddow and then watch right-wing programs you will frequently find they are completely different in terms of what content they actually do talk about. They cherry-picked the topics that best fit the narrative and therefore. So things that would normally be objectively newsworthy are ignored if they cannot be spun to fit the preferred agenda.

    Too many people fall for it and lap it up. The point being, no one should fool themselves into believing that Maddow or anyone who is clearly engaged in opinionating is delivering the truth. She has an agenda and her show is the vehicle for that agenda. And if my friends, family, and associates are indicative of the norm, the people that watch those shows are watching them because of that agenda and earnestly believe what they are peddling is the real truth.

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  70. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    My general bias is that “regulation” of speech should take place in the interpersonal and social sphere and not the government sphere.

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