Those who wish to be deceived

Keith wants to know whether the marketplace will punish delusional media. I can’t say I’m optimistic.

Sure, some conservatives with liberal friends were humiliated by having gotten the election result wrong due to watching Fox News, but the core consumers of delusional right-wing news are probably more isolated than that.

I’m on the mailing list for National Review. (No, I can’t recall how that happened.) Some of its daily emails promote the latest pseudo-scandal about Obama, but others tell me about a mustard extract that cures cancer, offer me predictions on two “historic moves” in the foreign exchange markets, warn me of a “financial Pearl Harbor” based on “the evidence unleashed in the following investigation
that has already been presented to the Pentagon, CIA, and Congress,” announce the discovery of “4 Sneaky Hormones That Are Making You Fat and How to Stop Them Now,” … well, you see the pattern.

Increasingly, the right-wing press is a racket. (That’s always been true on the fringe, as with Ron Paul’s investment letters. But the line between fringe and mainstream conservatism has blurred, with no Bill Buckley in sight.) Its target audience is persistent suckers, people who subscribe to one phony financial advisory service and health newsletter after another. If you’re reality-based enough to notice, or mind, being duped, you’re not the victim they’re looking for.

Consider, if you will, the latest media influence-buying scandal. The government of Malaysia paid nearly $400,000 to promote attacks on Anwar Ibrahim, the dissident politician who supports democracy in Malaysia to replace the UMNO tyranny and who has come under fire from the ferociously anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic ruling party for supporting a two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine problem.

Neither the main U.S. operator of the scheme nor any of the other right-wing journalists he paid to label Ibrahim an “anti-Semite” bothered to register as agents of a foreign power, which put all of them squarely on the wrong side of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. (DoJ decided to allow Joshua Trevino to register retroactively rather than prosecute him; no word about the others, but since they didn’t download any scholarly articles I’d guess they’ll be safe.)

Legal questions aside, everyone who took the Malaysian money deceived his readers and whoever published his work by failing to declare a financial conflict of interest. That ought to be especially problematic for Seth Mandel and for Commentary, where he is listed as an Assistant Editor. Commentary specializes in sniffing out anti-Semitism, especially among Jews who dissent from its pro-Bibi orthodoxy.

If the folks who run Commentary had any self-respect, Seth Mandel would no longer be on the masthead. But then if my bubbe had baytzim

Machiavelli had it right: for everyone who wishes to deceive, there is another who wishes to be deceived. The readership of right-wing media, and the voting base of the Republican Party, are slowly being purged of all those who do not wish to be deceived. But that won’t put them out of business.