I am sincerely disappointed in the way things have gone in the month since the election. I'm not referring to anything Obama-related (you people understand that he's not the president yet, right?) I'm referring to the whimper-like sound made by what we all hoped would be an entertaining torrent of right-wing vitriol in response to their resounding electoral thrashing.
Sure, there have been a few moments of hilarity, the odd shrill meltdown or grand bit of delusion. That aside, the reaction has been dominated by infantile whining and an effort to spin a few key talking points – the "center-right nation" thing, the miraculous and meaningful victory of holding a 41st Senate seat. But mostly it has just been the same nonsense; the same repetitive talking points, the same idiotic comments from your local internet trolls, the same bullshit we've been hearing for thirty years. Thus overall the reaction has been a non-event. It has been less than background noise. The creative bankruptcy of the right-wing noise machine has consigned it, for the time being, to complete irrelevance.
I've commented before that watching Fox News is like cracking open a time capsule from January 2003. It is that moment frozen in amber, preserved for posterity. Its anachronistic feel reflects the increasingly obvious fact that the early Bush presidency, and specifically the onset of the Iraq War, was the zenith of the right-wing media. The far right and its ideas were legitimately mainstream. Time and Newsweek wrote about Ann Coulter as a "public intellectual." Every cable news network was cowed (by ratings, the administration, and rampant jingoism) into mimicking Fox in its coverage and parroting the White House line almost verbatim. Judith Miller was America's most famous journalist. The morning fare on talk radio provided the headlines for the evening news. The best-seller list was a roll-call of right-wing pundits.
Fast forward to today. On December 30, Ann Coulter's latest book Guilty: Liberal "Victims" and Their Assault on America hits the stores. Oh, it'll sell a million copies to the same million people who buy everything with that bulimic horse on the cover. But be honest – does anyone give a flying shit about what Ann Coulter has to say? Does anyone pay attention to Bill O'Reilly anymore, springing into action as he rails against the War on Christmas? Does anyone treat Rush Limbaugh like a serious political commentator, discussing his daily pronouncements in earnest on the nightly roundtable shows? Does any major media outlet not owned by Rupert Murdoch take its marching orders from Dick Cheney's press releases?
Don't misinterpret me: I know that these people and their demon spawn (every time O'Reilly ejaculates, 1500 new Pajamas Media "reporters" are born) still have audiences. But they used to have an audience like the Super Bowl – that is, even people who don't care are exposed to it – and now it's more like Major League Lacrosse. It has been ghettoized, pushed to the fringe. It has almost no influence on the mainstream, being followed only by the small group of true believers who already agree with it and thus seek it out. It is little more than an echo chamber for the 20% of the population who think George W. Bush has done a good job.
Like an investor who puts everything on a single stock, the RWM didn't just hitch its wagon to George W. Bush – it mortgaged the house, sold the heirlooms on eBay and emptied out Billy's college fund to bet it all on Our Leader. In the process they have utterly alienated almost all of their potential viewership. Murdoch et al have created something that can't even rightly be called conservative media, for it is as hostile to non-neoconservatism (i.e., McCain, Romney, and similar Republicans) as it is to liberalism. They bet everything on the Bush-Cheney-PNAC worldview. Like so many historically bad examples of strategic myopia, this worked really well. Until it didn't.
These people or their eventual replacements haven't been permanently banished from the mainstream. I'm sure we'll hear from them again at some point in the future. But their behavior suggests that it's going to be a while. Nothing will change until they come up with something, anything, that resembles a new idea. They seem content to double down on the same horseshit – blah blah terrorism blah blah supply-side tax cuts blah blah Democrats are socialists blah blah teh gays. I am content to let them, as it ensures that they will make punchlines rather than headlines for the forseeable future.