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February 27, 2013 2:50 PM Just the Facts

By Ed Kilgore

It would be easy to mock Erick Erickson’s post today at RedState calling for—and even expressing a willingness to pay for—more fact-based reporting in conservative media. Famously a bully-boy of the Limbaugh school of political argumentation, Erickson cannot bring himself to name any of the conservative media types (hint: one of them starts with a “B”) who are sending “conservative activists down rabbit holes” with their interminable scandal-mongering and ax-grinding. Indeed, he stops every paragraph or so to express solidarity with them, and can barely make it through a sentence without repeating the mantra that “liberal media bias” is the fundamental problem, not a troubling (and oddly post-modern) conservative habit of refusing to let empirically verifiable facts get in the way of a good tirade.

Still, he’s trying to articulate uncomfortable truths, however timorously:

Conservatives are trying so hard to highlight controversies, no matter how trivial, we have forgotten the basics of reporting: W5 + H as I learned in grade school, also known as who, what, where, when, why, and how. I think conservatives need to reset some of their reportorial resources to tell the stories that need to be told by focusing on the facts at hand in a world view of the right. We need to establish a baseline for integrity in reporting that then allows us to highlight the truly outrageous. That baseline must be the basics of who, what, where, when, why, and how and it must be set before taking the next step into analysis of motivation and its implications.

He cites the bizarre “Obamaphone” fracas of 2012—a specialty of the Washington Free Beacon and Newsmax (which is still flogging it)—as an example of a controversy where the failure of conservatives to get the facts straight led to general embarrassment.

To make it clear he’s not just chiding the ultra-right for aversion to facts, Erickson spends some time bashing (again, unnamed) conservative scribblers and gabbers for toadying to the Republican Establishment at the expense of the “conservative agenda.”

But in the end, his argument that actual facts would buttress the Right’s credibility is pretty straightforward:

I would like to see a reporter or two focusing on the W5+H of Capitol Hill and the White House with another who can go beyond the basics and provide the analysis of how those facts will impact conservatives, where conservatives stand, and how the ultimate policies and politics in play will affect the country. I just do not see the need to get outraged over things without first having all the facts at hand. Further, I do not see the need to get outraged over everything, when better targeting of stories that truly resonate would serve conservatives well. We do our cause more harm than good if we get outrageously outraged over every slight and grievance. Yes there is an institutional media bias against the right, but we must also honestly acknowledge that conservatives have also screamed “Wolf” a these past few years more often than there was one.

While everyone should welcome Erickson’s move in this direction, it should be remembered that we’ve heard it all before, most notably from Tucker Carlson, who made even more of the same noises about fact-based reporting when he launched the Daily Caller, which on occasion out-Breitbarts Breitbart in its fanning of conspiracy theories and pseudo-news. We’ll see how it all works out, and how other conservatives respond.

A interesting footnote is Erickson’s requirements for anyone wanting RedState money to join in this task:

If you are interested in being a part of this, send your resume to reporting@redstate.com. You’ll need to live in Washington. You’ll need to be self-directed. You’ll need to be pro-life.

Hmmm. Nothing about Austrian economics, constitutional originalism, or even “free markets” or “limited government.” The only disqualifying heresy, it seems, is being pro-choice. So that’s the top priority of one important conservative ideological commissar.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Josef K on February 27, 2013 3:08 PM:

    It would be easy to mock Erick Ericksonís post today at RedState calling foróand even expressing a willingness to pay forómore fact-based reporting in conservative media.

    Let's mock him anyway. He's earned it.

  • martin on February 27, 2013 3:11 PM:

    with another who can go beyond the basics and provide the analysis of how those facts will impact conservatives, where conservatives stand, and how the ultimate policies and politics in play will affect the country.

    So one reporter to feed info to another reporter who will regurgitate the Republican talking points the first may have missed?

  • some guy in Cali on February 27, 2013 3:15 PM:

    I think the outrage werlizer will never be put down until they can't make money off of these 'controversies' anymore.

    This is the conservative huckster marketplace coming back to bite them in the butt. Along with gold coins, guns and survival seed kits the LATEST OBAMA OUTRAGE emails keep seperating the suckers from their meager earnings.

  • somethingblue on February 27, 2013 3:20 PM:

    There was never a time when I cared what Erick Erickson had to say about anything, and there never will be. He's happy? He's unhappy? He's written something? He's articulating truths? He's timorous? He's hiring? He has cancer? Big ol' yawn.

  • BillFromPA on February 27, 2013 3:23 PM:

    First, the 'controversies' being highlighted are less than trivial, they're non-existant in most cases, but that's a quibble. The big picture here is that this guy is recognizing the fact that wingnut reporting is damaging the wingnut brand in the eyes of moderates and indies, a valid point, but flogging faux scandals is just a small part of why the GOP is losing the hearts and minds they need in their camp. These clowns are shooting themselves in the foot at every turn, and publicly at that. Aiken, Moredock, O'Donnell Angle et al aren't doing the GOP any favors, self-deportation, trans-vaginal rape sticks, there's a new horror every week. The Teabaggers are Liberals best friends these days

  • MikeH on February 27, 2013 3:31 PM:

    Crap like birtherism and Benghazi may not make the Republicans look good at the national level, but the vast majority of the politicians who are pushing these issues don't care about winning the presidency or elevating the reputation of the Party...the just want to get elected and reelected.

    James Inhofe didn't make a career out of global warming denial because he wanted a Republican president, he did it because in his district there are enough yahoos who eat that crap up to get him reelected every 4 years. Limbaugh and Beck aren't the only grifters on the right, a lot of Republican pols have found their own scam.

  • Peter C on February 27, 2013 3:47 PM:

    Sorry, Erickson, there's not enough perfume in the whole world to conceal the stench of the Conservative Media machine. I'm not sure that even '5 Pulizers in a row' would be enough to convince me to trust anything they write.

    They were created to deceive and they've been zealous in that pursuit. No one should afford them any credibility. That train left the station YONKS ago.

  • Bort on February 27, 2013 3:55 PM:

    It won't work. The whole point of the RW Noise machine is ideology, not reporting. They don't exist for fact based reporting. I'm fairly liberal, but I don't seek out liberal news sources. I seek out informative news sources.

    If they exist to "get liberals" and the people that read them for circle jerking, DeadBreitbart will always be the gold standard.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 27, 2013 3:58 PM:

    Well, I'm pretty sure that Mr. Erickson will be disappointed to know that all the answers to the who, what, when, where, and how for all things deemed newsworthy in the conservative universe are quite ridiculous now matter how it's reported.

    The GOP is basically a traveling clown show of knuckle-draggers and she-cretins. How can you seriously report that Ted Cruz thinks there's a communist plot afoot in the year 2013???? It's only natural that you get a clown show if all the actors are, well, clowns...

    Maybe the solution would be for conservative news types to call teahad extremism for what it really it is, and then we can talk about credibility on the right.

  • Josef K on February 27, 2013 4:11 PM:

    This is a fool's errand from the start. Erikson wants "factual" reporting, but (direct quote)"in a world view of the right"? Did he not happen to notice that the "world view of the right" involves seeing fleets of black helicopter carrying UN blue berrets who will herd all True American Patriots into FEMA camps and pollute their precious bodily fluids with filth marriage equality and New Age music?

    The "world view of the right" is the dreams of the John Birch Society, writ nationally. It is demented and paranoid and absolutely cannot survive contact with actual, verifiable facts!

    The only thing Erikson's littel project is likely to result in is defectors from the Conservative side of the aisle, when its not producing tabloid-level 'jourmalism' that is.

  • sharculese on February 27, 2013 4:18 PM:

    I'm willing to believe that Tucker Carlson was completely serious when he claimed the Daily Caller would produce hard-hitting, fact-based conservative journalism.

    The problem is, the audience for that product doesn't exist.

  • bluestatedon on February 27, 2013 4:31 PM:

    Every time Erickson opens up his double-chinned pie hole to complain about the crazies harming the conservative brand, it must be noted that he called former Supreme Court justice David Souter a "goat-fucking child molester."

    In other words, lying ideologues like Erickson were instrumental in creating the completely demented Frankenstein's monster of unhinged teabagging wingnut conservatism, and now that it's broken loose from its GOP chains and is wreaking havoc across the countryside, he's wringing his pudgy hands in consternation.

  • c u n d gulag on February 27, 2013 4:42 PM:

    LOL!!!

    Too bad, this son of many sons of sons of other sons of many sons of prior sons of Erick's, is such a hapless propagandist.

    CNN took a Conservative boob, and tried to make him into a spokesman for the insane Teabaggers.

    This punk's a 3rd rate propandist, a 1st rate moron, and a 5th rate polemicist.

    Yes, let him speak for Modern Conservatism.
    The more this feckin' idjit opines, the sooner this bowel-movement will die from a mixture or unbridled anger/fear/rage/ignorance ,and insipidness, which will finally morph down to impotent ennuie.

    "Please proceed, son of many sons of many previous Erick's..."

  • biggerbox on February 27, 2013 5:52 PM:

    Erick son of Erick forgets that there is a reason so many right-wing media types avoid the facts.

    Reality has a well-known liberal bias.

    It's hard to maintain a good head of conservative outrage if you limit yourself to being upset about things based on actual facts. Imagine how anti-conservative it is to acknowledge that actually Obama has cut government spending, and that the budget isn't out of control, and that he's NOT a power-mad gun-confiscator, etc, etc. Heck, you might as well be a liberal!

  • jkl; on February 27, 2013 8:58 PM:

    He seemed as if he distanced himself from the grumpier, negativistic types after the republican presidential loss, and he might as well turn democrat--those comments on his blogs reflect such racism that i feel bad for him having that site...almost

  • jkl; on February 27, 2013 8:59 PM:

    He seemed as if he distanced himself from the grumpier, negativistic types after the republican presidential loss, and he might as well turn democrat--those comments on his blogs reflect such outright racism that i feel bad for him having that site...almost