Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “Matthew Sheffield is the founder of Praxis.ink, and the author of the essay we’ve been discussing, part of a book How the Right Got It Wrong.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Matthew, welcome to the Crusade Channel and the Mike Church Show, part of the Veritas Radio Network, radio the way it should be. How are you, my friend?
Matthew Sheffield: I am well, thank you.
Mike: How long have you been exploring the subject matter of the conservative echo chamber and the right-wing as intellectually deaf, which it is?
Sheffield: Well, to be honest, I created NewsBusters in 2005. In the course of doing it, I basically discovered that no one was paying attention to what conservative media were doing. I tried to sound the alarm about this in 2011. Nobody really paid attention. I decided that I would have to begin writing a book that would put this information together, along with a bunch of other things about how conservatives simply do not understand how to do politics.
Mike: Is it that they don’t understand how to do politics and playing in the pond that the Democrats are playing in, or is it that they are being led by – another piece you wrote was all about the unearned status of Republican consultants. They’re just being misled by these charlatans who really have little expertise and are just blessed and fortunate to have all this make-work dumped into their laps?
Sheffield: The consultants are not very smart. A lot of them are really, really old. So many of them are so old, they’re doing campaign techniques that were cutting edge in the ‘80s. They need to just go away. The problem is, these consultants, they bought up these Republican donors like the Koch brothers and Peter Singer and lots of these other guys who – they made their money in business. They don’t really know anything about politics. Basically somebody came to them and said: I’m an expert at politics. I know everything about what made Reagan great. It’s ridiculous.
Mike: You start “The Conservative Media Echo Chamber Is Making the Right Intellectually Deaf” with:
One of the more interesting developments since the emergence of the Web as a mass medium is the establishment of a conservative media presence. Prior to the Internet, there was basically no large-audience right-wing media operations aside from a few talk-radio programs.
Mike: If you ask your average “conservative” out there this question about how large is, how big is the conservative tent when it comes to media, they actually think it’s quite big. They think that Fox News is actually dominant, and that radio dials all across the amber waves of subsidized fuel are just filled and always populated with Hannitys and Limbaughs and Levins and all the rest of them. As you demographically show here in this painstaking research you’ve done, that’s not the case, is it?
Sheffield: No, not at all. Back when I was doing NewsBusters, a lot of people would tell me, when I would go to speak at places and whatnot, they would say: You’re really wasting your time. You don’t realize that Fox News is the number one news channel on cable. Look at Rush Limbaugh. Gosh, I don’t even read the New York Times. No one cares what the New York Times thinks. The reality is, over 50 percent of Americans have never even heard of Sean Hannity. They don’t even know who the guy is, and he’s been on cable TV and a nationally-syndicated radio show for decades.
Mike: If you were to make the counterargument, ask someone who Scott Pelley is or who Peter Jennings was back in the day, or who it is that’s hosting the NBC News, they probably know. If they don’t know, they certainly know what NBC News is, what ABC News is. I think in addition to all the demographics that you pointed out – the numbers are shocking. If you break the numbers down – if you read Matthew’s piece here about what the actual numbers say, the “conservative” media is not an empire at all. It’s a very small, very eclectic minority.
One of the points you made, I just want to get you to elaborate on this a little bit. I talked about this the day I talked about your piece and the other one about the consultants, about how there is a mainstream. You can’t deny it. To operate in this fantasy, this Peter Pan world or Alice in Wonderland world that there’s not a mainstream, that there’s not a mainstream media, and to think that you can just provide something that’s not mainstream, that you can compete with them, isn’t that the real conceit?
Sheffield: It is. It’s incredibly stupid because a lot of them – to some degree they were slightly aware of this problem, but not to the degree that I documented. In conversations I’ve had with people, they would sometimes tell me: Well, we don’t have a large audience, but we have an elite audience. Then, of course, the best example of how that’s a ridiculous argument also is, there was this guy from National Review who was, for a very brief moment in time – his name is David French – he was put forward as a potential independent presidential candidate. The overwhelming reaction from the elite media and political science professors was: Who the hell is that? They had never heard of him because conservative media are neither popular nor elite.
Mike: You said that you created NewsBusters. I used to have a frequent guest once a week – I haven’t talked to him in years – Noel Sheppard.
Sheffield: Unfortunately Noel passed away from cancer.
Mike: I haven’t talked to him and maybe that’s why. He was really good at – he did a lot of video reporting. Now you started this other site called Praxis. I went through the trouble of browsing around. It’s Praxis.ink. I didn’t even know there was .ink. When did the .ink come around, do you know?
Sheffield: I’m not sure, but I wanted that single-word domain. The idea is it’s a magazine. It’s not print, but I thought that was a little amusing.
Mike: Just browsing around on Praxis.ink, you guys pretty much cover it all from a very – it’s a journalistic point of view, but it’s a cynical point of view. These guys are making this claim; let’s analyze this. It’s what some of the other mainstream entities call – they have fact checkers and stuff. Your fact checking is written in a more entertaining fashion than the other fact checking. One of the fact checks, or one of the pieces I saw that you had written, it was a photograph of Ted Cruz. It was about the delusion of what’s happened, something about the irreligious conservative audience or conservative movement. What can you tell me about that?
Sheffield: It’s kind of in line with the media echo chamber piece. All of the pieces that I’m writing are part of an upcoming book I’m going to be releasing called How the Right Got it Wrong. The listeners, there’s actually a link to it right there in the navigation bar when you come onto the site. The religion piece looks at – the point of a lot of my essays, which is book chapters and essays, is to examine the assumptions of the conservative establishment and the Republican establishment. Those are two different things. There is a conservative establishment. They’re in Washington DC. They never resign. They have no term limits. In many cases, they are stealing money from average conservatives and fleecing them blind, and then have nothing to show for it, ever.
One of the problems of the conservative establishment is that they greatly misunderstand how many people are conservative Christians in America. As it turns out, there are not that many. No conservative Christian presidential candidate has ever gotten anywhere close to getting the Republican nomination. What that means is that not only do Republicans not represent the mainstream of America, conservative Christians do not either, because only because only 70 percent of America says that they’re Christian, but of that 70 percent, at least 50 percent are liberal. The whole idea behind the Ted Cruz candidacy was that there’s this magical number of conservative Christians who are out there just waiting for somebody to come out and mobilize them to vote. Of course, they never bothered to show up for anyone else who was saying that same message, or Ted Cruz himself. It’s just looking at that trend. Even Republican voters are becoming more secular. The reality is that people on the right, we have to face the reality that if you want to achieve your goals, you have to have a correct understanding of the world or else you’ll never be able to do anything.
Mike: Matthew Sheffield, the author of “The Conservative Echo Chamber Is Making the Right Intellectually Deaf.” Matthew, just from talking to you, I assume you’re also the founder of Praxis.ink?
Sheffield: I am, yes.
Mike: Fantastic. Good job. Congratulations on the new media venture. I’d like to port this just to – this is not a right turn or a divergence. It’s just a continuation of the same conversation. I don’t know if you know Mike Lofgren.
Sheffield: I do not.
Mike: You might be familiar with a book he wrote about how the terrorism-industrial complex has been fleecing the entire country since 9/11. In the decade after 9/11 –
In no place in America are the abrupt changes in the nation’s security posture so keenly reflected in real estate and lifestyle than the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. In the decade since 9/11, I t has grown into a sprawling, pretentious presentation of the federal government’s growth, vices and prosperity, encompassing the wealthiest counties, the best schools, and some of the highest rates of income inequality in the country.
Mike: Lofgren wrote a book about this. I haven’t had a chance to read it. The book is about the newly enlarged national security state. These are the people you are speaking of, right? When you talk about these “conservatives” that have taken up residence, are fleecing average conservatives and never leave.
Sheffield: They’re part of it. It’s not just them. It’s also the people like Tony Perkins at the Family Research Council. It’s definitely people in the terrorism promotion field. Also, there’s a lot of people in other policy areas, too.
Mike: When I talked to Kelly about this when I was digging into the stats, the amount of dollars and cents that have been spent in the national security state, what do we have to show for it? The suicides of those who return continue to go up. Some Americans seem to think that this PTSD tragedy that so many young men, and unfortunately young women have, that this is some kind of, [mocking] “That’s the liberals putting it into their heads.” No, it’s you idiots that sent them into unwinnable wars in places they shouldn’t have been in in the first place. You’re the ones that put someone in the wrong place. This continues apace.
I wanted to ask you about Trump. There’s a lot of writing at Praxis about Trump, some of it actually considering: He does say some things that are important to say. Much of it, like much else of what we read about it, it’s impractical, not going to happen, can’t happen. Isn’t there something to be said that every term when someone says Trump can’t do this or this is not going to happen, that somehow he manages to pull it off?
Sheffield: He was certainly continuously underestimated during the primary campaigns. The thing he’s learning now, though, is the general electorate is a very different electorate than the Republican primary electorate. Now he’s trying to – he probably, for his sake, should have come to that realization a little bit sooner. It’s undeniable that the media, and the other Republicans for that matter, didn’t understand that there was a real need out there to address issues that the political establishment wasn’t interested in, such as immigration. Trump is now starting to say: I’m not going to go and deport every single illegal immigrant in America. That’s not going to happen. That’s an important thing for him to say.
A lot of the problem for Republican voters is that their politicians have made promises to them that were not possible to fulfill. Like repeatedly saying: We’re going to get rid of Obamacare while Obama is the president. That’s obviously not possible. There are two ways that that’s going to happen, that Obama himself is going to repeal Obamacare, or the Republicans are going to have a veto-proof majority in the Senate and the House. Unless one of those two things happens, it’s never going to happen. They should never have said anything like that. They were cynically manipulating people by doing that. That’s one of the things that we’re trying to explore at Praxis. What is possible within the present political dynamic? If there are things that are not currently possible, what needs to be done to make them possible?
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Mike: Thank you.
Sheffield: Or, B, should those things be desired? Sometimes they shouldn’t be.
Mike: Matthew Sheffield is the founder of Praxis.ink, and the author of the essay we’ve been discussing, part of a book How the Right Got It Wrong. It’s on my start page now. You picked up at least one avid reader. I’ve begun linking to some of you guys’ work. I know you’re busy. I appreciate you taking the time out. Keep pushing that button there, brother.
Sheffield: We certainly intend to.
End Mike Church Show Transcript