The catastrophic effect of the right-wing media machine on the nation is old news, but I’d argue that it’s catastrophic for the Republican Party as well.
Of course it has supercharged the conservative base, but like a dose of meth, it’s killing them at the same time, because it’s allowing them to operate—for a while—without grounding in reality.
Let me explain.
Orwell’s dystopia 1984 featured a world in which war lost its one redeeming quality: proving physical facts could not be ignored. And the description he offers might with very few changes be talking about Republicans in the age of Fox:
All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers, but they could not afford to encourage any illusion that tended to impair military efficiency… Physical facts could not be ignored. In philosophy, or religion, or ethics, or politics, two and two might make five, but when one was designing a gun or an aeroplane they had to make four… Moreover, to be efficient it was necessary to be able to learn from the past, which meant having a fairly accurate idea of what had happened in the past. Newspapers and history books were, of course, always coloured and biased, but falsification of the kind that is practised today would have been impossible.
I don’t agree about the role of war, but I would argue that this is precisely the role of a robust free press, which does serve as one of the best reality-checks in any society. Charlatans and fools are shockingly popular throughout history, but they only truly thrive when not subject to tenacious, rigorous, and skeptical reporters with a wide audience. A critical free press is one of the great filters of our society.
So what happens when a political party begins to operate in a closed and blindly supportive media sphere? What happens when Republicans only get news about Republicans from outlets that never criticize Republicans?
The filter is lost; fools rise and charlatans prosper.
The conservative mediascape has long lost touch with reality as concerns coverage of Republican policies. It has never truly mattered to conservative media whether tax cuts supercharge the economy or whether they pay for themselves (they don’t and they don’t). But now, the entire Republican party has also lost its ability to identify idiots. There is literally no act of lunacy or indecency that would drive Fox News to condemn Trump. It will never happen. And the same is true about whoever comes next. Whoever it is, whatever they’ve done, however they speak, whoever they persecute, Fox News will be behind them.
There is no remaining reality-self-check for the right.
The only question is whether this destroys the Republican Party before it destroys the United States. My guess: it’s a coin toss. At best.