From the inbox

A reader writes, in response to this post by Barrett:

… you might want to mention my experience about how the liberal media and publishing bubble actually helps empower the Breitbarts of the world. When I went with my agent to shop around my proposal for [my book], we visited with an acquisitions editor for a major publisher. Really sophisticated guy, but I could tell he had absolutely no idea about the conservative ideas landscape. To him, conservatism was a vast indistinguished "there be dragons" wasteland. He visibly could not grasp what we were saying to him. To him, conservative publishing was all about Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, throwing red meat to the barbarians. He thought that was the only way to connect with conservative audiences. To be sure, if you were all about making money, you were far better off with that attitude than with opening yourself up to me, with my rarefied kind of right-wingery. What bothered me about that meeting was that he very clearly had no grasp of intellectual nuance and depth among conservatives. I would not be the least bit surprised if that same condescending ignorance were at work when editors at MSM broadcast and print outlets think they are doing a good job of bringing a balanced, informed perspective to their coverage by hiring these right-wing bomb throwers. If they can’t tell the difference between Andrew Breitbart and (say) Ramesh Ponnuru, or even a more intelligent and thoughtful outsider among the conservative camp, then they’re going to walk into these landmines. Can you imagine hiring Markos Moulitsas as a serious political analyst? Breitbart is a provocateur, not an analyst. Same with Erick Erickson. It’s this stupid Chinese menu approach to providing analysis (match one liberal with one conservative, and we’ve done our job) that results in this kind of idiocy. That, and not caring to understand the conservative landscape enough to realize you aren’t doing yourself any favors by hiring this sort of commentator.

All I can say is “Amen” – though I’m leaning toward an interpretation of the mainstream media as not so much ‘liberal’ but rather corporate status quo – the media is very entrenched, and some of that translates into a sort of cozy artificial liberalism.

Can you imagine having carte blanche to put together your own cable news talk show? Bring in whoever you wanted – bloggers from The American Scene, etc.. Bring in Daniel Larison to talk foreign policy. I imagine we could shake things up if we were given the chance. Which, of course, we never will be.

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24 thoughts on “From the inbox

  1. We have carte blanche to put together our own cable news talk show. It’s just not on cable news.

    But that’s okay… if the slower-than-expected but still-IMO-inevitable implosion of broadcast television continues, you’re not going to see much more cable news in the next 10 years. CSPAN, certainly. MSNBC, FOX, and CNN are going to die (FOX, probably last, CNN probably first as it seems to be actively trying to suicide against new media). They might still exist, but not in the present incarnation.

    Isn’t this site, more or less, your own cable talk show?

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  2. Is there any thoughtful, non-bomb throwing right of center person they could put on who would not be called a RINO? Manzi got creamed for disagreeing with Levin. Douthat and Salam’s book was ignored. I can think of some libertarians who would be good, but what conservative could do it?

    Steve

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  3. They don’t want to have anyone on for nuance and discussion from the other side. Doesn’t matter if the person they bring is capable of it or not.

    They want someone on who will barely get three words out before the left-wing “guests” and left-wing “host”, people like Anderson Cooper who (born with a silver spoon suppository that leeched into their hair at an early age), Bwabwa Wawters, or Joy Bitch-har start shouting over whatever the “token conservative” is trying to say.

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  4. Shorter reader: The publishers just don’t appreciate my genius.

    Yes, the market’s all well and good until it gives you an answer you don’t like, hmm?

    Here’s the thing. In a market, even a really good buisnessperson won’t necessarily have a really good feel for every possible product. Maybe this one you talked to just doesn’t get your particular sub-sub-audience: in which case it’s for the best that you didn’t end up working together, but that’s pretty thin gruel on which to launch an indictment of an entire industry.

    On the other hand, if the reason you’re so bitter is that you’ve heard the same thing over and over again, then maybe it’s time to seriously consider the possibility that the people who make their living day in and day out by actually working in this market are _right_, and you’re wrong; your stuff just won’t sell enough to make a profit for them. Does it suck to hear that? Probably. Suck it up and walk it off. Would the world be a better place if there was huge demand for your book? Who the hell knows. But if you’re looking for someone to publish your book to “raise the discourse” or something purer than “make a profit”, then you need to be meeting with philanthropists rather than publishers.

    And if you’re so confidient that they’re wrong, and just too `rarefied’ for those effete liberals, just self publish and make a bazillion dollars, including the cut that would have gone to the publisher. It’s happened before, right? That’ll show ’em!

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  5. Reader here. Actually, I sold my book to another publisher, and it did decently well, though not remotely in the Coulter-Limbaugh-Levin league. My point is not that this publisher failed to recognize my genius; his declining my book was a completely defensible business decision, one taken by several other publishers. What struck me about the meeting was his cartoonish view of conservatism as the precinct of screaming berserkers who cared about nothing but breaking things, so to speak. To this (plainly very liberal) man, a conservatism that was not about Limbaughism was incomprehensible. It’s not that he liked or understood Limbaughism; he was happy to make money on it if he could. It’s that he thought that’s all conservatism was. It would be like assuming there’s nothing more to Christianity than megachurches and TV evangelism. You could sell a lot of books only appealing to that audience, but if you wanted a thoughtful, serious, insightful commentator on religious issues for your newspaper or newscast, are you really going to want to call Joel Osteen or Creflo Dollar?

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    • @Taller Reader,

      > What struck me about the meeting was his
      > cartoonish view of conservatism as the precinct
      > of screaming berserkers who cared about
      > nothing but breaking things, so to speak.
      > To this (plainly very liberal) man, a
      > conservatism that was not about
      > Limbaughism was incomprehensible.

      You must recognize, however, that Limbaugh is held in pretty high regard by nearly a supermajority of Republicans (http://www.gallup.com/poll/114163/limbaugh-liked-not-republicans.aspx)… so while it may be odd for an educated man to hold a one-sided view of conservativism, it’s also not entirely beyond the pale that we ought to expect that the conservative who does *not* support Limbaughism should be aware that (s)he’s likely going to have to explain to the observer that they may be black, but they are still a swan.

      I mean, I’m nominally Catholic and while I don’t consider myself a practicing member any more, I do find on many occasions that I need to clarify points of dogma to non-religious people (and, for that matter, to other Catholics). I run into the problem of “all Christians are evangelical megachurchers” fairly often. I’m not particularly surprised by it.

      People are generally very, very lazy when it comes to class formation, categorization, and taxonomy.

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    • Ok, the ignorance of your would-be publisher is a drag for you.

      But where does Erik’s conclusions fit in this? We need to do what has to be done. The publisher can figure it out, or not. It took liberals fifteen years after the fact to figure out Reagan anyway.

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  6. Reader- Assume this guy, like most people, is not a political junkie like we bloggers, he is just some guy who wants to make money. If he wants to learn what conservatives believe, where does he go? I would submit that he goes to Fox or Limbaugh. They are the most popular conservative voices as far as I can tell. How could he not come away with a cartoonish image of conservatives?

    There are lots of folks in the paleo camp, in the libertarian wing who are putting out good ideas, but unless you live in the blogosphere, you wont hear them much. Even the WSj editorial page publishes too many of the, uhh, less subtle types.

    Steve

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  7. I think non-crazies could make more of a dent if they were more accessible. God knows how I found this site, since I don’t have three hours everyday to go searching through the blogosphere for better reads. Most of my friends on Facebook post Nicholas Kristof columns. There is something about money and marketing that makes people think that that is all there is, until they get curious enough to really go out on their own in search for better arguments. If the League had a banner at Times Square with a naked woman on it, I’m sure there’d be a lot more readers. People are sick of and hate the MSM but they don’t realize that they have other choices.

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  8. , that’s a good point, and I agree that if your bottom line is making money as a publisher, you’re more right than wrong to assume that the only dimension there is to conservatism. I was using that example not to make a comment about publishing, but about a mindset that I think leads decision-makers in the news media to exaggerate or at least misread the importance of figures like Breitbart. Is Breitbart more representative of The People than our friends here at the League? No doubt. But if your goal as a news provider is to bring real insight to your readers/listeners/viewers, you would be much better off inviting someone from The League onto your show or into your pages. Popularity does not equal intelligence or wisdom. Look at Maureen Dowd. She’s one of the NYT’s most popular columnists. Does anybody take her seriously as an analyst of anything?

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