REPORT: Emerging Culture of Paranoia
Obama Derangement Syndrome epidemic on conservative airwaves
Research ››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN, MARCIA KUNTZ & TOM ALLISON
Conservative media have directed their violent, doomsday, and anti-intellectual rhetoric at progressives in power, and specifically at President Obama, whom fake populists in conservative media depict as a threat to their audience's very way of life.
In recent months, the violent, doomsday, and anti-intellectual rhetoric that has long been a staple of conservative media has taken a notable turn in at least three significant ways: previously confined to the right-wing media fringe, the rhetoric is now a constant across the full spectrum of conservative media; it is louder and meaner, with conservative media figures appealing overtly to feelings of anger and paranoia in their audience; and it is focused, tied to the specific political aim of undermining the Obama administration and the Congress.
None other than David Horowitz notes "an interesting phenomenon on the Right, which is beginning to cause me concern": "the over-top-hysteria in response to the first months in office of our new president." Horowitz calls this "hysteria" "Obama Derangement Syndrome."
Indeed, the rise of anti-government speech -- and the explosion of anti-Obama rhetoric -- on right-wing radio, Fox News, and among conservatives in other media outlets tracks directly with the arrival of the new administration and its broad efforts to address the myriad and interlocking problems confronting the country. Rather than engaging in substantive policy analysis and critique, the Glenn Becks, Sean Hannitys, and Rush Limbaughs of radio and television insult their audience with simplistic attacks on Obama and his administration's initiatives.
Far from informing the public, Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, and numerous others on Fox News and elsewhere launch attacks at Obama, progressives, and their policy proposals with accusations of any one or more "isms" that bear no relationship to reality or even to each other. They warn darkly of purported efforts by the Obama administration to cede U.S. sovereignty to a world order rather than engaging in meaningful discussions about the United States' role and image in the world. They scapegoat vulnerable groups, encouraging the perception that undocumented immigrants, the poor, and racial and ethnic minorities are to blame for economic problems in this country. During a time of numerous high-profile acts of gun violence, they claim with alarm that Obama intends to seize their guns. Fox News has adopted the Tax Day "tea parties" as its own, urging its audience to organize and attend what it characterizes as protests of Obama administration tax and economic policies; the network's promotions of these tea-party protests have been largely devoid of meaningful and truthful discussion of the actual merits and flaws in the administration's proposals for reform -- and of little substantive attention to the question of whether Fox News' audience would be better or worse off under those proposals the network is encouraging its audience to protest.
On his show, Beck has gone so far as to purport to imitate Obama pouring gasoline on the American public to light it on fire.
The demagoguery in the conservative media could have real consequences for the country and for efforts by law and policymakers to address serious problems. It is a disservice to the conservative media's audience and to the country, involving distortions of issues with falsehoods and with rhetoric and imagery that incite anger rather than encouraging citizens to engage meaningfully in political and legislative debate and process.
Media Matters for America is tracking this explosion of anti-government rhetoric in the conservative media and has published the following:
Violent, Revolutionary Rhetoric
Since Obama's inauguration, Media Matters has documented numerous instances where conservative media figures have called for a "revolution" or have invoked violent rhetoric while discussing the Obama administration or government in general. In addition to encouraging violence, such violent rhetoric has also included suggesting Obama's policies were doing violence to the American people and depicting Obama as a rapist, spousal abuser, or mobster.
Warnings of incipient "isms"
Media Matters has documented numerous examples of conservatives in the media warning of socialism, fascism, communism, Nazism, McCarthyism, and Marxism, or using such language to describe Obama or other Democrats.
New World Order
Since Obama's inauguration, Media Matters has documented many examples where conservative media figures have asserted or suggested that U.S. sovereignty may give way to a one-world government.
Obama will "take away your gun"
Since President Obama's election, several conservative media figures have warned their audiences that Obama is planning to, according to Beck, "slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun" or have suggested that a government effort to ban guns is likely.
After criticizing people alleging that Poplawski "killed three cops because he thought Obama was coming to take his guns," Mike Gallagher proposes "a national movement to register as many people as we can ... to become gun owners"
Despite its repeated insistence that its coverage is "fair and balanced" and its invitation to viewers to "say 'no' to biased media," Fox News has frequently aired segments encouraging viewers to get involved with "tea party" protests across the country, which the channel has often described as primarily a response to Obama's fiscal policies. Media Matters has compiled an analysis of Fox News' promotion of these events.
Scapegoating of vulnerable groups
In discussions of major news stories, conservatives in the media have repeatedly turned to two favorite bogeymen -- undocumented immigrants and ACORN -- in place of substantive analysis, even when those groups have little or nothing to do with the issue.
Doom and Gloom
Since Obama's inauguration, Limbaugh has made numerous baseless and ominous claims warning of what will happen if the United States adopts either Obama's policies or those pushed by other progressives, often while invoking fears of rising socialism, communism, and tyranny.
Limbaugh: "Thank you President Obama. Thank you CNN. You are doing the job that everybody expects of you, taking every tradition and institution that defined this country's greatness and trying to rip it to shreds"
Limbaugh: "Based on what we've seen with General Motors and the banks, if he fails, America is saved. Barack Obama's policies and their failure is the only hope we've got to maintain the America of our founding."
Numerous conservative media figures have followed Limbaugh's lead in making increasingly dire predictions about the consequences that policies sought by Obama and other progressives might have for the country.