Playboy Magazine writer Bridget Phetasy leans to the right farther than you might expect for the Playboy Advisor and the author of the magazine’s Sex & Dating column. Today she published a piece about her experiment involving Tucker Carlson t-shirts and the insular left wing bubble we know as Los Angeles, California.
The results shouldn’t surprise any conservatives who have been paying attention to cultural and media trends over the last few decades but they do affirm my assertions that consumers of right leaning blogs, television, or talk radio also live in a bubble nearly as insular as the one Phetasy trolled in her experiment.
After two Twitter followers bought me Tucker Carlson T-shirts, I decided to test the bubble out and wore my T-shirt everywhere I went in L.A. for a week—and I made sure to make my week as #whitefeminist as I possibly could, so I went to spin class, farmer’s markets, yoga, Starbucks, and organic juice bars all over town.
The results were fascinating. My anecdotal evidence is far from scientific, but my findings were revealing. Perhaps it’s because he lost his signature bowtie, but what struck me was that out of dozens of people that I polled, only one personrecognized the image on my shirt as Tucker Carlson. I’d have to wear a Maddow shirt in Trumpland to really test the bubble theory out, but I’d hedge a guess that more people would recognize Maddow in red states than people recognize Tucker in blue states.
I think she’s right that left wing pundits would be better recognized in Trump country though I think that’s because of the nature of the media consumed on the right. On average I think right wing pundits spend a lot more time rebutting left wing pundits than vice versa. The topic of leftward media bias has been a front burner issue since Rush Limbaugh first took over the AM dial. The right looks at the left wing media while the left focuses more on the right’s politicians and activists.
Phetasy relates the story about the lone Angeleno who identified Tucker’s face during her week long trolling effort.
“Who knows who this is on my shirt?” I ask approximately 30 people in the audience at a comedy show I am hosting.
“Nobody?” I say.
Out of the darkness someone yells, “Tucker Carlson.”
“Yes!” I exclaim. “Congratulations, you sir are the first person who’s correctly identified this man, and I’ve been wearing this shirt for a week.”
“Who’s Tucker Carlson?” an audience member asks.
“He has a show on Fox News.”
The audience boos.
Like I said, not surprising. In fact, if this played out any other way, I probably wouldn’t believe it. The left’s “we don’t watch/read/listen to [insert right wing pundit] but we know he/she’s an evil, racist, homophobic bigot who hates poor people and wants to destroy the environment” sentiment has become a cliche.
Here’s what that says about our own bubble on the right though: Virtually all right wing punditry is just self indulgent entertainment these days. It’s preaching to the converted. No, it’s not preaching—preaching implies some attempt at persuasion. There’s no mind-changing taking place apart from the pundits and politicians who had an overnight conversion from thinking Trump was a total buffoon to thinking he is the nth-dimensional chess grand master of the universe.
In short, virtually none of the hot air spent on “debating” issues online or on cable news is moving the needle at all. If people on the other side don’t even know who the ostensible thought leaders are among their opponents how much of that thought is getting through to them? Zero.
It’s why the shrieking from those bloggers and radio or television hosts who are obsessed with denigrating anyone on the right who hasn’t donned the red cap is either the most cynical kind of click/ratings pandering or the most self deluded kind of stupidity. I still stand by this statement. And I think that Phetasy’s demonstration of how little anyone outside the Fox News bubble is paying attention supports it.
To people who think this way, I say: Calm down, Sparky, you write for a website most of America doesn’t read, or you talk on a radio show most of America doesn’t listen to. And that applies to even the top people in the political commentary business. We work in a bubble for people who are entertained by political discussion. It’s not a large bubble. Get over yourselves.
The notion that we must all think with the same badly coiffed hive mind in order to Fight the Left™ is simply not true. Some of us being critical of Trump from the right cedes no ground to the left because praising his every move and rationalizing his ever flaw gains none.
The division among right wing pundits is as significant as a few goldfish being divided over the best location for their bowl. If blogging, getting retweets, or doing Fox News hits had any tangible effect on what happens in Washington, we’d have a balanced budget and a free market healthcare system people could afford.