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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 1 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.


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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 1 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.

30 review for Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics

  1. 4 out of 5

    Keyton

    Lots of inside baseball. From before baseball was baseball. And while I'm interested in the broad strokes of conservative media history, I didn't need a play-by-play. Probably the only thing that will really stick with me is how familiar the history from the 50s and 60s all felt. Conservatives (NOT necessarily 'Republicans', for the record) felt outnumbered (because they were) and underrepresented in media (they weren't) so they withdrew to their own media channels where they could nurse grievan Lots of inside baseball. From before baseball was baseball. And while I'm interested in the broad strokes of conservative media history, I didn't need a play-by-play. Probably the only thing that will really stick with me is how familiar the history from the 50s and 60s all felt. Conservatives (NOT necessarily 'Republicans', for the record) felt outnumbered (because they were) and underrepresented in media (they weren't) so they withdrew to their own media channels where they could nurse grievances and isolate themselves in their own ideological cocoons without the inconveniences of, well ... truth, and people unpersuaded by their banter. In many ways, the biggest difference between then and now is that they've gotten better at it. For those wondering, the tone throughout is clinical and historical, not partisan or punditic. If it gets your hackles up somehow, remind yourself that no one should have to feel responsible for all 70 years of a political movement. ;) p. 71 "Existing separately from established media enterprises meant conservatives in media turned to one another to expand audiences, spread publicity, and bolster content. These were mutually reinforcing relationships. To provide evidence for claims, conservatives would cite one another. To establish legitimacy, media activists would trade on the reputations of other recognized conservatives. ... The danger of this self-referential system was that it could become unmoored from reality, creating an echo chamber that rendered it unintelligible to outsiders. But in the 1950s, conservative media outlets were neither numerous nor powerful enough to create a robust alternate media ecosystem." p. 274 "Frum diagnosed the GOP's problem as one not of leadership but of 'followership'. And the followership problem - the reliance on the most ideological members of the base to shape the party's agenda - was at heart a media problem. 'The media culture of the U.S. has been reshaped to become a bespoke purveyor of desired facts,' Frum argued. While he insisted this was happening for liberals as well as conservatives, he begrudgingly conceded 'the Republican and conservative knowledge system does seem more coordinated than the liberal system - and even further removed from reality.' Conservatives, in other words, had built an iron-clad media system, and in doing so had trapped themselves in a system of misinformation. Good, at times, for movement cohesion and organized outrage, but not so good when reckoning with the real world." p. 276 "No doubt the second generation of conservative media activism has been a boon for the movement, helping draw the Republican Party to the right, to normalize claims of liberal media bias, and to reconfirm the media's leadership position among conservatives. But media activism has also developed into an industry worth billions of dollars. As a result, the incentives of the media are no longer always in line with the movement or the party. The first generation of activists never had to worry about confusing profit and principles: they had a dearth of the first and a surfeit of the second. The second generation has had a more difficult course to chart. Yet despite the fundamental differences between these generations of activists, they shared a faith that working through media was the surest path to political power. Liberals agreed, and repeatedly tried to replicate conservatives' media successes. But their efforts failed. ... The problem with these liberal efforts was that they were copying the products of conservative media, but their target audience lacked both the ideological justification and the identity-based media habits that sustained conservative media for so long."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Messengers of the Right is a history of the conservative media movement and how it has shaped politics. It's also one of my most disappointing reads yet this year. I love microhistories, where a book tackles a narrow topic and delves deeply in, but Messengers of the Right is too narrow. It's absolutely a history of the conservative media movement, and it's an incredibly detailed one. The people and publications and relationships are all impeccably present. The thing that's not, and the thing that Messengers of the Right is a history of the conservative media movement and how it has shaped politics. It's also one of my most disappointing reads yet this year. I love microhistories, where a book tackles a narrow topic and delves deeply in, but Messengers of the Right is too narrow. It's absolutely a history of the conservative media movement, and it's an incredibly detailed one. The people and publications and relationships are all impeccably present. The thing that's not, and the thing that bothers me most is that the politics are not. Messengers of the Right probably works much better for someone who knows what the political positions of the 50s and 60s were, and what the conflicts were. I'm not that person; I know vague broad strokes about the 50s and 60s, but certainly not enough to be able to understand Messengers of the Right. I also think that choosing to present the creation of a political movement with only the barest hint of the basis of the political beliefs of that movement is a Choice. Going off of this book, there's barely any sign that the Civil Rights Movement was happening, let alone in a big way. It's just bewildering to me that a book explicitly about the creation of propaganda machines like Rush Limbaugh wouldn't talk about racism as a motivating factor. Unions and Communism featured more heavily, but only just. Conservative Southern Democrats were mentioned as allies of the early far-right Republicans, but race/racism as the basis for that allyship is only vaguely alluded to when Hemmer talks about conservative radio shows with wide reach using accepted euphemisms like "states rights." If it weren't so impeccable in what it does cover, I would absolutely give a lower rating, but Messengers of the Right is a comprehensive, detailed list of actions that right wing publishers took while building their movements. If you already have a detailed understanding of the politics of the 50s and 60s, and how those actions might have effected them, you might get more from it than I did. (Caveat: I DNF'd in chapter nine because my loan was up. It's possible, though I think unlikely, that the book turns around in the last three and a half chapters, but the first nine were such a slog to get through that I doubt it.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Craig

    We all know about Fox News, but what lead up to it? This is a really interesting book that sheds light on the conservative media pioneers of the 1950s and 1960s. Well written and very informative.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Before Fox, et al: How it all began My opinion of conservative media is not very high, to be honest. Still, I do try to maintain a somewhat balanced media diet. This means occasionally reading something from The National Review or Wall Street Journal, to name a couple. In short, I know the political positions. What I didn't know, and was the gap filled by this book, is how we got to where we are today. Hence, Fox and Rush Limbaugh are the conclusion, and generally aren't dealt with too deeply. Wh Before Fox, et al: How it all began My opinion of conservative media is not very high, to be honest. Still, I do try to maintain a somewhat balanced media diet. This means occasionally reading something from The National Review or Wall Street Journal, to name a couple. In short, I know the political positions. What I didn't know, and was the gap filled by this book, is how we got to where we are today. Hence, Fox and Rush Limbaugh are the conclusion, and generally aren't dealt with too deeply. Which is fine. Instead, I got to find out about a burgeoning, often struggling, media ecosystem that began to emerge after WWII. It was quite fascinating, to say the least, with plenty of infighting over principles versus pragmatism, kind of like now. I see this book as having a narrow readership, but if conservative media history interests you, by all means check this out.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    I read this concurrently with Perlstein's "Before The Storm," and this text seems useful as an extension/expansion of the historiography of conservative media established there. Hemmer's work here is most valuable tracing the origin story of these media movements to a particular political moment and then explaining how the movement in turn gave rise to our modern politics. The text becomes more shallow as the chronology moves forward- doing its best and deepest work in the 1950s-1960s. The discu I read this concurrently with Perlstein's "Before The Storm," and this text seems useful as an extension/expansion of the historiography of conservative media established there. Hemmer's work here is most valuable tracing the origin story of these media movements to a particular political moment and then explaining how the movement in turn gave rise to our modern politics. The text becomes more shallow as the chronology moves forward- doing its best and deepest work in the 1950s-1960s. The discussion of modern conservative media is surprisingly light and the text could be substantially improved by making the end of the book more robust and addressing the rise of Trumpism in the second edition- to which I look forward.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mrs. Angie Vogt

    Read this based on a recommendation. It was described to me as being a history and explanation of "the myth of liberal media bias," but it is definitely not that. Hemmer gives a historical account of how the conservative media emerged pre WWII out of a desire to push back against the Woodrow Wilson era progressive movements. From that point on, conservative media has evolved, transformed, and given birth to a formidable voice from scholars, statesmen, and communicators motivated by the founding Read this based on a recommendation. It was described to me as being a history and explanation of "the myth of liberal media bias," but it is definitely not that. Hemmer gives a historical account of how the conservative media emerged pre WWII out of a desire to push back against the Woodrow Wilson era progressive movements. From that point on, conservative media has evolved, transformed, and given birth to a formidable voice from scholars, statesmen, and communicators motivated by the founding principles of our country; based the rights of the individual and the ever-present need for vigilance against the ambitions of bureaucrats and government force which never stop trying to dominate the individual.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steve Erickson

    MESSENGERS OF THE RIGHT concentrates on the rise of right-wing media in the 1950s rather than the stories of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News that its readers might have lived through. (They get their own final chapter.) The contradictions and complexities are interesting: points of contact between leftist and conservative critiques of the media manufacturing consent, suggesting that Reagan's rise happened at conservative media's low point, debunking the idea that the death of the Fairness Doctrine wa MESSENGERS OF THE RIGHT concentrates on the rise of right-wing media in the 1950s rather than the stories of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News that its readers might have lived through. (They get their own final chapter.) The contradictions and complexities are interesting: points of contact between leftist and conservative critiques of the media manufacturing consent, suggesting that Reagan's rise happened at conservative media's low point, debunking the idea that the death of the Fairness Doctrine was the only reason Limbaugh's come-up was newly possible in the late '80s.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jason S

    An interesting and detailed read about the emergence of right wing media going back to the 1950s through Limbaugh. Interesting thesis about why the conservative media empire waned with the success of Reagan and how it was so different because of its lack of populism when compared with the rise of the "new right" media with Fox News, etc in the 1990s. An interesting and detailed read about the emergence of right wing media going back to the 1950s through Limbaugh. Interesting thesis about why the conservative media empire waned with the success of Reagan and how it was so different because of its lack of populism when compared with the rise of the "new right" media with Fox News, etc in the 1990s.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sandi

    This is a short history of the Conservative Media

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael Fredslund

  11. 5 out of 5

    molly

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christine Flammia

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nate Kay

  14. 4 out of 5

    Elvin Blakaj

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rixana

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Lenz

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alison

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Rauch

    In the 1940s, conservative activists built a network of alternative publishing and broadcasting institutions, including Human Events and National Review, that transformed generations of right-wing audiences into a reliable voting base. Hemmer credits this network with popularizing the myth of liberal media and laying the groundwork for the Limbaughs, Drudges, Hannities, Bannons and Infowars of today.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Aileen Day

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kris

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matt Grossmann

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

  24. 4 out of 5

    David M. Roberts

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  26. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Gude

  27. 4 out of 5

    prbeckman

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Wilson

  29. 4 out of 5

    Geoffrey Kabaservice

  30. 4 out of 5

    Trevor Hunnicutt

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