Nicole Hemmer is a political historian and the author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics. We discuss the birth of conservative media activism, the different way conservatives understand truth, and their impact on American society.
Conservative media activism
Beginning with the America First Movement, conservative political activists also became conservative media figures. In addition to writing conservative books and hosting radio or television programs, these activists also created civic organizations and worked on political campaigns from Eisenhower to Goldwater and Reagan. Media is an important part of their political activism, and not a separate, objective endeavor.
Politics of Ideas
Conservatives believe political change starts with ideas. They build political power through spreading and popularizing their ideas through their own media outlets where ideology trumps facts on the ground. Conservative audiences — primed only to right-wing views — believe that only their sources are right, both factually and ideologically. Hence, conservative voices became the only ones telling the truth.
We are experiencing an epistemological divide where liberals and conservatives have fundamentally different understandings of the truth. This divide is partly born out of the rise of conservative media, which is based on faith claims, or claims of personal authority and knowledge, rather than observable facts. Because many conservatives believe what conservative media and political personalities tell them, they are often impervious to fact-checking and the promotion of truth.
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Nicole Hemmer is a professor and political historian specializing in media, conservatism, and the far-right. She is the author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics.
In addition to being an associate research scholar with the Obama Presidency Oral History Project, she is also co-founder and co-editor of Made by History, the historical analysis section of the Washington Post, and co-host of the Past Present podcast.
Hemmer’s historical analysis has appeared in a number of national and international news outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Atlantic, Politico, U.S. News & World Report, New Republic, PBS NewsHour, CNN, NPR, and NBC News.
You can follow her on Twitter @pastpunditry.