Messengers of the Right

Messengers of the Right

Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics

Book - 2016
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University of Pennsylvania Press

Messengers of the Right tells the story of the media activists who built the American conservative movement and transformed it into one of the most significant and successful movements of the twentieth century—and in the process remade the Republican Party and the American media landscape.

From Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to Glenn Beck and Matt Drudge, Americans are accustomed to thinking of right-wing media as integral to contemporary conservatism. But today's well-known personalities make up the second generation of broadcasting and publishing activists. Messengers of the Right tells the story of the little-known first generation.

Beginning in the late 1940s, activists working in media emerged as leaders of the American conservative movement. They not only started an array of enterprises—publishing houses, radio programs, magazines, book clubs, television shows—they also built the movement. They coordinated rallies, founded organizations, ran political campaigns, and mobilized voters. While these media activists disagreed profoundly on tactics and strategy, they shared a belief that political change stemmed not just from ideas but from spreading those ideas through openly ideological communications channels.

In Messengers of the Right, Nicole Hemmer explains how conservative media became the institutional and organizational nexus of the conservative movement, transforming audiences into activists and activists into a reliable voting base. Hemmer also explores how the idea of liberal media bias emerged, why conservatives have been more successful at media activism than liberals, and how the right remade both the Republican Party and American news media. Messengers of the Right follows broadcaster Clarence Manion, book publisher Henry Regnery, and magazine publisher William Rusher as they evolved from frustrated outsiders in search of a platform into leaders of one of the most significant and successful political movements of the twentieth century.

Publisher: Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, [2016]
ISBN: 9780812248395
Branch Call Number: 302.2309 HEMMER
Characteristics: xvi, 320 pages : ilustrations ; 24 cm


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Jan 30, 2017

Books like this today are relatively useless, given that there IS NO LEFT in America - - that should be obvious to even the most brain-fried types out there: with the election of Trump and the first salient efforts on behalf of both the American worker, and national security, in over thirty years - - when did the so-called Democratic Party disappear? Quite some time ago!
In Washington state, we have a so-called dem governor who supports the offshoring of American jobs and the GDP, and is pro-charter schools [according to his record he most certainly is] and two faux crat senators, Murray and Cantwell, who once again demonstrated their true colors by voting AGAINST the lowering of costs on medicines.

Jan 29, 2017

Quick Hit –
Nicole Hemmer’s debut book is a very well-written & valuable addition to the history of conservative media. The topic is scrupulously researched with nearly 600 footnotes and hundreds of sources, both primary and secondary. While one might expect such rigor to make for a slogging read, I was pleasantly surprised to discover just the opposite. I also found her treatment of the topic very balanced; quite the feat given today’s polarization, her politics, her profession & the subject matter.

What this book is NOT about –
• development of conservative talk-radio or Fox News (these get brief & comparatively unrigorous treatment in the book’s final chapter)
• impact of conservative media on the broader arc of conservative political philosophy
• conservative media’s impact on Ronald Reagan’s political success

What this book IS about –
• 1950s – mid 1970s
• ‘first wave’ of men who drove conservative media (Buckley, Rusher, Manion, Regnery)
• fundamental notion of objectivity / fairness in our political discourse
• conservatives’ preoccupation with liberal/mainstream media bias that (surprisingly) pre-dates Fox news by decades, and also develops into a major accomplishment of the movement

A quibble –
The biggest complaint I have with the book is that it largely fails its subtitle – the ‘Transformation of American Politics.’ In fact, one of my bigger takeaways from the book is that this first wave of conservative media had astonishingly little impact on politics, at least at the Presidential level.

Its main actors are perennially disappointed with their inability to alter primary and general election dynamics. The one demonstrable ‘win’ for conservatives in the post-war era (Reagan’s election) gets very little space in Hemmer’s treatment, and any impact from Buckley et al is relegated to Reagan’s professed fandom.

A major weakness of the book in this respect is it never gives us the politicians’ side of how they were or were not impacted by the conservative media’s effort. What did Ike, Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan and their advisors do differently because of conservative media? We’re left to conclude the answer is either ‘very little’ or we need to read another book to find out.

In sum –
A worthwhile and enjoyable read if you’re cognizant of what you are (and aren’t) getting.


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