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Friday 9 November 2012

Dan The Stateside Discovery Man

I often disagree with Dan Hodges, nominally a Labour Party member but inexplicable believer in London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (despite the vanity bikes, buses, cable car and requests for a new airport for Himself Personally Now), but on the run-up to, and result of, the US Presidential Election he had it spot on, and unwaveringly so.

This was despite the usual torrent of wingnut blowback that is de rigueur at Telegraph Blogs: to suggest that Barack Obama might win and that Mitt Romney and his backers might as well face reality was undoubtedly rooted in a real world analysis, but this counts for nothing with many of those who drift around the comments sewer, particularly when the subject is an African-American.

And one particular observation I enjoyed was that “Fox News is killing the Republican Party”, made in the immediate aftermath of Obama being declared the winner on Tuesday night. As Hodges rightly points out, Fox “provides a false comfort zone for Conservative politicians and their supporters”. That false comfort led to the Romney campaign really believing that they were going to win.

Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) gave Republicans huge amounts of free airtime. Its hosts relentlessly pushed the message that the polls were “oversampling Democrats”, or were otherwise skewed, but this was just kneejerk spin: the most accurate pollsters, like PPP, were right all along. And Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight wasn’t a leftist agitator – he was, indeed, just “doing the math”.

And, yes, as Hodges points out, even when Fox gets hold of a genuinely original story angle or a real exclusive, so “out there” is the channel’s reputation that other media outlets – barring the likes of Matt Drudge and the Daily Caller – are increasingly loath to run the story. Roger Ailes and his gang persuaded the GOP that they were right. And then the real world begged to differ.

But I did wonder if Dan had seen the analysis from the folks at Media Matters, from last January, because the headline, “How Fox News is destroying the Republican Party”, was similar, although Eric Boehlert’s post concentrated on the role of the channel in shaping the series of party primaries, and that Roger Ailes had effectively become head of the RNC (you’ve heard of Reince Priebus? You’re lucky).

Boehlert’s contention is that the old guard of the Republican Party effectively ceded power to the likes of Fox after Obama was inaugurated in January 2009. This was assumed to be A Very Good Thing after the GOP took control of the House in the 2010 mid-terms. But this year has brought a reality check, and Boehlert shows that it has been coming for several months. Hodges has merely confirmed it.

It’s only a pity that so many of the latter’s readers can’t, or won’t, listen to him.

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