There’s an old conservative playbook behind Donald Trump’s threat to regulate Google

Publication Type: 
Other Writing
Publication Date: 
September 4, 2018

Nicole Hemmer is an assistant professor in presidential studies at the University of Virginia. Her book, Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics, examines the history of conservative anger at mainstream media. I asked her about the history of President Trump’s recent feud with Google.

HF — President Trump and other Republicans like Kevin McCarthy are complaining that Google is demonstrating liberal bias and preventing conservative voices from finding an audience. Of course, this isn’t the first time that this has happened. What happened when radio broadcasters decided not to carry Clarence Manion’s conservative radio show in the 1950s?

NH — Any time broadcasters chose not to carry his show, Manion saw an opportunity to reinforce two core conservative ideas: liberal media bias and conservative persecution. Manion learned this lesson early on. His radio show began in late 1954, and by 1957 he was embroiled in a controversy over a labor strike in Wisconsin. The network that carried his program, Mutual Broadcast System, was the most conservative of the four national radio networks in the 1950s, but even they were wary of carrying Manion’s interview with Herbert Kohler, who owned the plant involved in the strike. They worried the network would be sued for defamation or otherwise drawn into what had been a pretty litigious conflict. As a result, they refused to broadcast that episode.

So what happened? Manion cried censorship, and not only got significant press coverage — the Kohler interview ended up getting far more national notice than it would have if the episode had actually aired — but also had a case to point to in order to bolster his argument that conservatives were blacked out of the national media. And he raised a ton of money, too.

Which is not to say he was wrong. Mutual made a pretty questionable call, one that avoided broadcasters’ obligation to cover controversial issues. But Manion was able to take that censorship framework and apply it to everything.

Read the full piece at The Washington Post