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. đŸ™‚

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

About edfactor

  • MerrimackMan

    “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.”

    This view of yours is all wrong. Yes, Right-Wing Media can affect the sources of news that you recieve, giving you distorted views of current events. This is a temporary problem. As long as one reaches out and puts CNN on for a little bit, or reads the Globe or the WST Journal, one can do a little “fact-checking”. In this sense, its about the facts we recieve, and we do have to be careful.

    However, to state that your emotional and intellectual capabilities are being diminished by Right-Wing media is a farse. Its the news, its not your life, and that’s how most people approach their time watching the news. I watch ed Hannity as he bashed Mike Castle and talked up Christine O’Donnell, and it still didn’t change my view that Castle was the better candidate to win the seat and represent our party in a state like Delaware.

    The reason is, we spend many years studying in libraries and taking College classes, growing up within a family, and then many more years preparing and caring for one. We spend years going to work and running buisnesses. That is who we are, and to think we push the erase button and take in Fox News over everything else in a matter of a couple hours of TV viewing is ridiculous. Fox News affects us in the proportion of our lives in which we are occupied by it. For most of us, we put it on in the background while we are talking to our families, cooking dinner, or falling asleep on the couch. It’s not who we are. It’s not the basis of our intelligence, and as our significant others know, its not the basis of our emotional reach.

  • geo999

    You’ve made a gratuitous assertion here – that even a moderate “diet” of conservative media somehow skews ones thinking (and personality!) to the point of being incapable of critical thought or intelligent discourse.

    You presume to divine and judge people’s news gathering habits by topics that interest them or the words they use (some of which have entered the mainstream lexicon, I might point out).

    It appears to me that you have fallen victim to the one of the left’s favorite meme’s; that conservatives are by nature tribal, anti-intellectual, and reactionary.

    I find your argument, however well intended, unconvincing.

  • I have issue with the whole tone of all of this.  I am a 24 year old conservative republican and when I first switched from indoctrinated liberal to confused independent to passionate conservative I believed too that proving republicans intelligence was most important.  I believed that you could win over the intellectuals at the New York Times and Ivy League Universities.  I have always prided myself on my intellect (not that I was smarter than everyone but that I was not stupid) and the intellectual arguments where what won me over, not because they were so novel and unique but because they logically and systematically showed what should have been commonsense.  

    But what I discovered was that you cannot win intellectual elites over with logic, if your conclusions do not match theirs you must be anti-intellectual hick.  Too much of what is perceived as “intellectual” and “smart” in Massachusetts is how counter-intuitive it is or your intelligence is measured by how ass backwards or how against the mainstream your ideas are (because only someone with superior intelligence could see how the way to get out of debt is borrow more money).

    Intellectual arrogance is a bad thing that insulates you from reexamining and reevaluating your own ideas and quick frankly it turns many people off.  You will not win over any liberals trying to show how much of an intellectual you are and you will alienate many real independents (even in Massachusetts) but coming off as intellectually arrogant.  So if your goal is to get the Boston Globe to respect you, you have already lost.  To them conservative and intelligent are opposites.  So when people talk about the need to be more “intellectual” or “to stop listening to misinforming conservative media” (as if all the other are media is completely truthful and has not agenda or bias) it is usually followed by how Republicans need to act more like Democrats and stop being so “extreme”.  A position I wholeheartedly reject.  

    And quite frankly I have had my share of school, media, and pundits feeding me misinformation, half truths, and outright lies about how the world works.  Nevermind that studies and surveys have also shown conservatives to be more well read than liberals.

  • edfactor

    Whenever I talk about how we Republicans can become stronger by better media consumption and education, better arguments, better use of words, or changes in behavior, someone always says, “But the Democrats are unreasonable. They believe things that aren’t true also. They don’t play fair. Fox balances out NPR/NYT/PBS.”

    Let me tell you how much time I spend thinking and talking about Democrats: almost none. This seems strange to almost every Republican I meet, who is always ready to talk about what the left is doing. (That’s another by-product of the partisan media.)

    The road to Republican strength does not begin with what the Democrats are doing. Self-mastery is the first goal. I look to the ancient military theorist Sun Tzu, who said that you cannot create weaknesses in your opponents. You can only make yourself invulnerable.

    Yes, the Democrats can get away with a whole lot more than we can, because this is Massachusetts. We have to be twice as good as them to be taken seriously.  

  • Vincent Errichetti

    Experience? Campaigns? Training? Background?

    Lots of this stuff is great to spill out paragraphs about on a blog….

    But if it was easy everyone would be doing ti already.