Pushback From Right on Lies as News

In Misleading Information On

It’s the end result — if not necessarily the intended result — of a dream that American conservatives began pursuing more than 60 years ago: to break the informational hegemony of the mainstream news media.

For the purposes of this column, I’m starting the count in 1955 when William F. Buckley Jr., founded National Review, declaring it an outsider’s antidote to the controlling influence of “the United Nations and the League of Women Voters and The New York Times.”

Mr. Buckley designed National Review to win the larger argument through “logic and superior command of the subject,” as his biographer Sam Tanenhaus (a former writer for The New York Times) told me last week — through facts. And it inspired successive generations of conservative journalists to get in the game, too.

Mr. Hayes shares the viewpoint of another prominent Wisconsin conservative, Charlie Sykes, the #NeverTrump talk radio host who declared last year that he and his fellow conservative media stalwarts had been too successful in delegitimizing the mainstream news media.

“We destroyed our own immunity to fake news while empowering the worst and most reckless voices on the right,” Mr. Sykes wrote in The Times last year.

Mr. Hayes said he put more of the onus for that on the mainstream news media than Mr. Sykes does (though Mr. Sykes certainly puts some there). It has undercut itself with conservative-leaning readers, he said, through “the questions that aren’t asked and aren’t covered” in a way that seems to favor liberal viewpoints.

Yet the effect remained: There are right-leaning voters who “don’t believe what they’re getting from the networks and the left-leaning cable outlets” and therefore may be open to false or unsubstantiated content that provides affirmation at the expense of true information, he said.

In some parts of the conservative news media sphere, winning the intellectual argument has been replaced with winning the war, by any means necessary.

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