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Vox: ‘Hack Gap’ Gives GOP Huge Advantage in Media Coverage

Studies show more than 90 percent of the news about President Trump is negative [1] and that his compatriots in Congress fare little better.

The legacy networks – NBC, CBS and ABC – are largely against him, as are the major newspapers and cable news networks, with the exception of Fox News.

But according to a piece [2] on Vox by Matthew Yglesias, it is Republicans who dictate what we see, hear and talk about.

Yglesias’ first example in “The hack gap: how and why conservative nonsense dominates American politics,” with a subhead that reads: “Republicans have a huge strategic advantage in shaping the news,” has to do with Hillary Clinton calling Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables” and Trump saying this week that people are crazy if they vote Democrat in 2018.

“Insulting rank-and-file Republicans (even if it was only about half of them) was treated as a huge national scandal. Republican Party politicians and conservative pundits harped on the line, providing a point of party unity at a time when many party and movement stalwarts were reluctant to actually praise Trump,” Yglesias wrote.

He reminded readers he had written of this event that Clinton “really had messed up by violating ‘the norm against attacking the other party’s constituents,’ rather than its politicians.”

On Friday, when Trump said, “Anybody who votes for a Democrat now is crazy,” Yglesias wrote that “nobody cared and almost nobody even noticed.”

Yglesias calls this the “hack gap,” and he says it is “one of the most fundamental asymmetries shaping American politics.” Yes, he concedes, most reporters have “policy views that are close to the Democratic party than the Republican Party,” but “the hack gap fundamentally does more to structure political discourse.”

It explains, Ygelsias said, why “Clinton’s email server received more television news coverage than all policy issues combined in the 2016 election” and why Republicans “can get away with dishonest spin about preexisting conditions” and why Democrats fear “Elizabeth Warren’s past statements about Native American heritage could be general election poison in 2020.”

It’s also why, he said, there’s “an internecine debate about civility … roiling progressive circles for nearly two years while the president of the United States openly praises assaulting journalists.”

Yglesias wrote that the “hack gap” has two pillars – “the constellation of conservative media outlets” such as Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, much of AM talk radio, Breitbart and the Daily Caller, that “abjure anything resembling journalism in favor of propaganda” – and the “self-consciousness journalists at legacy outlets have about accusations of liberal media bias,” which “leads them to bend over backward to allow the leading conservative gripes of the day to dominate the news agenda.”

This does more than Citizens United or even gerrymandering to place “a huge constant thumb on the scale in favor of the political right in America.”

The essence of the Clinton email scandal wasn’t that she had done something wrong – all agreed on that, Yglesias said. It was rather “the bizarre and obviously false claim that the Clinton email scandal was important.”

“You can tell that it wasn’t actually important because the people most invested in pretending it was important – Republicans – clearly do not actually think government email protocol or Freedom of Information Act compliance are important issues.” We know this because conservative media haven’t launched any investigations about email use during the Trump administration.

“Reporters … simply tend not to jump on left-wing talking points. And progressive media is more infused with the values of actual journalism, and pretending to think something unimportant is actually critical is not journalism.”

It is misleading to say Republicans would lose every election without their built-in advantage from friendly media, Yglesias wrote. “What would happen in the real world is that the GOP would adjust to a less propaganda-filled landscape by altering its positions on issues. Rather than pretending to support affordable health care for people with pre-existing medical conditions, for example, they might actually adopt the position they pretend to have.

“Ditching unpopular positions in favor of popular ones is, after all, a time-honored way to win elections. But thanks to the hack gap, Republicans can count on flimflam instead.”