The invisibility of Republican dissent

Not very novel confession from dissident conservative Republican Bruce Bartlett describes how none of his conservative friends got angry at him for his remarks to the New York Times, because they refused to even look at the New York Times. But this part was quite striking to me:

Among the interesting reactions to my book is that I was banned from Fox News. My publicist was told that orders had come down from on high that it was to receive no publicity whatsoever, not even attacks. Whoever gave that order was smart; attacks from the right would have sold books. Being ignored was poison for sales.

I later learned that the order to ignore me extended throughout Rupert Murdoch’s empire. For example, I stopped being quoted in the Wall Street Journal. Awhile back, a reporter who left the Journal confirmed to me that the paper had given her orders not to mention me. Other dissident conservatives, such as David Frum and Andrew Sullivan, have told me that they are banned from Fox as well.

Vivid illustration of how a closed society can exist within an open society, without resort to closed communes and brain-washing. Brings to mind the work of Timur Kuran on preference falsification. Individuals who might want to waver from the reigning conservative orthodoxy do not because they feel they are alone in their views; the effect is self-reinforcing.

If we are hopeful we might ask, to what extent is the Republican consensus already hollowed out, waiting for a crack in the exterior that will show everyone it’s safe to dissent?

Since I don’t follow conservative media I can’t speak to the details of this question. Are conservatives really as closed-minded as Bartlett’s colorful stories suggest? Do seemingly reasonable writers like Ross Douthat enjoy any traction in conservative media? Etc. But what Bartlett says crystallizes for me both the horror and the seeming fragility of the current equilibrium.

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