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Context of 'July 2008: Authors: Conservative News, Talk Radio Broadcasters Have Powerful Positive and Negative Impacts on Audiences; Liberals Moving to Emulate'

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The Annenberg Public Policy Center conducts an eleven-month survey of political talk radio, focusing primarily on broadcasts by conservative Rush Limbaugh. It obtains, or creates, daily transcripts of Limbaugh’s shows. Subjected to content analysis, the researchers find that Limbaugh focuses most strongly on the following topics:
bullet President Bill Clinton (100 percent, or discussed every day).
bullet The mainstream media (100 percent), focusing on the New York Times (83 percent), the Washington Post (66 percent), CNN (57 percent), and the three major broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC, at least 39 percent. Many, but not all, of these mentions are negative. Limbaugh also positively cites the Wall Street Journal (48 percent) and the Washington Times (32 percent), and often directs listeners to these news producers’ content.
bullet Democrats (96 percent).
bullet Republicans (94 percent).
bullet Senator Bob Dole (R-KS), the Republican presidential contender (91 percent).
bullet Hillary Clinton, the First Lady (88 percent).
As noted, most of Limbaugh’s remarks about mainstream media outlets are negative, except when they provide something with which he can agree—most often news items or tidbits that he can use to denigrate the Clintons, the Clinton administration, or Congressional Democrats.
Findings - The Annenberg study finds that Limbaugh’s listeners distrust the mainstream media more than any other group measured (two of the study’s authors, Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph N. Cappella, later note that Fox News has not yet emerged as a powerful conservative alternative). In the 1996 study, that mistrust does not translate into a general shunning of mainstream news for conservative alternatives, but in a 2004 study also conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, that dynamic will have changed, with many Limbaugh listeners getting the bulk of their news from Fox News and from conservative Internet news providers. In 1996, Limbaugh’s listeners are heavy consumers of mainstream media reporting, albeit with a strong skeptical bent. [Jamieson and Cappella, 2008, pp. 168-171]

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh announces the results of a poll finding: “We have a great Gallup poll, folks. Sixty percent of conservatives, 40 percent of moderates, and 18 percent of liberals say the media is too liberal.” Authors Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph N. Cappella later write that Limbaugh “creates an interpretative frame for the information,” with Limbaugh saying, “We all know that moderates are liberals anyway, so that would be 58 percent of liberals and 60 percent of conservatives, that’s over 100 percent of the people who think the media is too liberal.” Neither Jamieson nor Cappella point out the creative mathematics and regrouping Limbaugh is performing. They do note, however, that on Fox News, commentator Tony Snow reports the same poll results, and accuses the “liberal media” of failing to report the poll in a widespread fashion. [Jamieson and Cappella, 2008, pp. 149]

Entity Tags: Tony Snow, Fox News, Joseph N. Cappella, Rush Limbaugh, Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph N. Cappella, authors of the media study Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment, draw some tentative conclusions about the impact that conservative talk radio, specifically the broadcasts of Rush Limbaugh, and conservative news outlets such as Fox News have on their regular listeners. They find both positive and negative effects on the audiences.
Positive Impact - The conservative broadcasters have a positive impact, Jamieson and Cappella conclude, by helping their listeners “make sense of complex social issues on which elite opinion is divided. They accomplish this when they:
bullet Consistently frame arguments from conservative assumptions
bullet Build a base of supportive evidence for conservative beliefs and in the process distinguish them from ‘liberal’ ones
bullet Semantically and affectively prime key advocacy and attack points
bullet Arm their audience to argue effectively
bullet Minimize the likelihood of defection from conservatism by creating a sense of community among listeners who share a worldview, if not every political policy preference.”
The conservative radio hosts “protect their audience from counterpersuasion by inoculating it against opposing messages; at the same time, they increase the likelihood that the audience will try to persuade others. Conservative viewers, readers, and listeners are told by these media outlets that they are part of a much larger community… The belief that they are part of an army of others of like mind should increase their disposition to talk politics with those with whom they disagree. Finally, they stabilize the conservative base. This effect is produced at a cost: Those in the fold see ‘liberals’ and politicians as further from them—hence less worthy of support—than they actually are.”
Negative Impact - Jamieson and Cappella then turn to the negative impact on the audience. “We find other moves more problematic,” they write, “including those that:
bullet Insulate the audience from alternative media sources by casting them as untrustworthy, ‘liberal,’ and rooted in a double standard hostile to conservatives and conservatism
bullet Protect their audience from the influence of those opposed to the conservative message by balkanizing and polarizing their perception of opponents and their arguments
bullet Contest only the facts hospitable to opposing views
bullet Invite moral outrage by engaging emotion. This produces one advantage and one disadvantage: emotional involvement invites action and engagement rather than distancing and lethargy. On the downside, a steady diet of moral outrage feeds the assumption that the opponent is an enemy
bullet Replace argument with ridicule and ad hominem [arguing against an assertion by attacking the person making the assertion, not the assertion itself]
bullet Often invite their audiences to see the political world as one unburdened by either ambiguity or common ground across the ideological divide.
Liberals Imitating Conservatives' Success - Jamieson and Cappella conclude: “Democrats are, of course, more likely to accept the contested facts offered by their party and so are Republicans. We find it worrisome that the audiences for both Fox and Limbaugh were more likely than comparable conservatives to accept the Republican view of the contested facts in the 2004 election and more likely in the process to distort the positions of the Democratic nominees. But those who, with us, find the pro-Republican distortion among Limbaugh and Fox audiences should, with us, find the pro-Democratic distortion equally troubling among NPR listeners and CNN viewers.… What the conservative opinion media do for the Right and CNN and NPR do for the Left is increase a tendency to embrace the arguments and evidence offered by those with whom their audiences already agree. Fox and Limbaugh have also created a commercially viable model of partisan media that has elicited the sincerest form of flattery. On the Left, ‘Air America’ on radio and Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC are both experimenting with ways to translate their blend of entertainment and political advocacy into profits. Consistent with the model developed by the conservatives, Olbermann regularly features ‘Air America’ hosts.” [Jamieson and Cappella, 2008, pp. 244-245]

Entity Tags: CNN, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Joseph N. Cappella, Keith Olbermann, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, MSNBC, National Public Radio, Air America Radio

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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