Josh Barro: The conservative media is a symptom of GOP TROUBLES: "My colleagues Oliver Darcy and Pamela Engel have written a good account of the Republican Party's captivity to its own disinformation complex... **(

...I just want to note that the Republican Party cannot be fixed through the taming of its most committed members' favorite media outlets. The popularity of figures who fill Republicans' heads with disinformation... like Sean Hannity and Alex Jones and Matt Drudge is mostly a symptom... not a cause.... The conservative information sphere has long been full of lies... [as] the most effective way to promote many of the policies favored by donor-class conservatives.... Wealthy conservatives favor lower taxes on themselves.... So conservatives built a network of think tanks and magazines and pressure groups... to come up with arguments.... In a substantial number of happy instances, there was a valid case to be made that what was good for the rich donors was also good for everyone else, and these organs made that case. When there wasn't such a case, conservatives had two options: abandon their position, or make something up and do their best to sell it.

Prior to the creation of the broad conservative information apparatus, conservatives had done a fair bit of the former: Making peace with the New Deal, for example, after repeated electoral shellackings in the 1930s and 1940s. In recent years, they have increasingly chosen the latter.... Conservative think tanks... put out elaborate models purporting to show enormously positive economic benefits from Republican plans to cut taxes on owners of capital and spending on social programs.... Climate change is another area where conservative disinformation has been dressed up with numbers and eyeglasses.... This math-based approach to disinformation has led to a weird set of conventions about which lies are okay to tell and which are not.... You can promise your tax cuts will generate 4% economic growth; 5% is considered silly.... You must place your objection to climate-change mitigation downstream... rather than outright denying that global temperatures are rising.

Trump's contribution to conservative messaging has not been the introduction of widespread lying... [but] his realization that you don't have to just lie about what the donors want lied about.... You don't need an elaborate approach to "dynamic scoring." You can just say, "I'll make us so rich," and mutter some nonsense about the trade deficit, and you can convince approximately the same set of voters. You don't need a clever replotting of climate data when you can just say the whole thing is a conspiracy invented by the Chinese....

The trouble with establishment conservatives' complaints about new conservative media is that they're not really committed to an honest politics, just to a differently dishonest politics.... Conservative elites might hope to put the lies back in their box, where the subject matter of the lies is developed by wealthy donors (establishment ones, not the Mercers) who care mostly about taxes and not the restoration of overt racism--and where the quality of the lies becomes less embarrassingly low, so it's not so hard to go defend them on cable news without feeling like an idiot.

That's not going to work for a couple of reasons, the main one of which is that Trump's lies are more fun for Republican voters than the usual set of lies. Another reason is that the old rules boxing in the lies never made much sense--if you can say a $4 trillion tax cut will pay for itself, why not a $10 trillion one?... A fact-full environment wouldn't just stop candidates from running on a platform of bombing ISIS to take the oil and getting Mexico to pay for the wall so we can beat China and be so rich. A fact-full environment will also be very inhospitable for ordinary Republican policy platforms of the sort advanced by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. Bush's promise of 4% growth wasn't more honest than Donald Trump's promises, it was just more artful...