Your Republican Identity and Your Media Diet

Once in a while, someone I meet at a MassGOP event talks about the state Republican brand. These conversations don’t go far, as they turn to what the “party” should do.  (I think the statement of principles on the MassGOP site here is really quite nice, and is probably all they can do in terms of a declaration.) I then remind them that “the party” is a few people on Merrimac street and several dozen local people across the state; “the party” is really “us.”

So then I ask them what their personal Republican “brand” is. I get different answers, as people don’t know how to answer the question.

But where does political identity or brand come from? I believe that it comes mostly from what media you consume, and to a much lesser degree, who your political friends are. I would sum it up this way: you are what you eat…

So what is the typical individual Massachusetts Republican media diet, and how does it affect identity? I think for many Republicans in Massachusetts, their diet includes a lot of right-wing media (Fox, radio, blogs) and some newspapers, and maybe the occasional article in the WSJ and the Economist. My guess is that in terms of hours per week, Fox, talk radio, and blogs are definitely the majority of consumption – even if that person reads a really awesome biography once in a while, or watches the history channel once a week.

Apart from the raw information consumed, your media diet affects what words you use, your emotional state, the way you make arguments, what events you pay attention to, and how you think of Democrats. Here are some examples from Republicans I listen to at local events:

–When someone is always talking about the latest political development, no matter how insignificant, I will know that he watches a lot of commercial television media, which is always talking about what just happened.

–When someone always uses words like “liberals,” “amnesty,” “climategate,” or “ObamaCare” – I know he is a big consumer of low-quality political information from Fox, which uses its own political vocabulary. (radio is worse with things like “global warmist” or “socialist”)

–When someone is loud or impatient or is always questioning the motives of Democrats, rather than discussing their policies, I know he listens to a lot of talk radio, which is all about motives.

That’s right – even if you are someone who prides themselves in being properly educated and informed, consuming a lot of right-wing media will change your identity in ways that have nothing to do with the information consumed. So even if you say, “I don’t get my information from Fox” (I hear that a lot) you will still suffer some effects of it. Your priority list will be warped, as you are hearing about only what is commercially exploitable, which is not necessarily what matters. Your tone, words, and emotional state will make you vastly less effective in discussing politics with independents and Democrats, which is critical skill in a state with 11% Republican registration. It’s hard to adopt a brand like, “intelligent” or “reformer” when you are not going to come across as smart or sincere or patient or credible, all required traits if you want to get the middle on your side, which is essential to enact reforms.

So for all the people who wonder what the MassGOP brand (or your personal brand) should be, why not first decide it should not be driven by right-wing media? A great place to begin would be to change what you consume. It might make a heck of a New Year’s Resolution. 🙂

(what is my Republican identity? I am an educated, technologically-adept reformer)

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