Fox News, Health Care, and the Right-Wing Nervous Breakdown

05/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's never pleasant when activists are confronted with their own political impotence. (Not to mention their abysmal vote-counting skills.) But that's exactly what happened over the weekend as Democratic members of Congress passed health care reform -- reform that the radical right had already pronounced dead. In fact, the GOP Noise Machine had spent weeks dancing on reform's grave and mocking Democrats' inability to act. So how did it all go so terribly wrong for health care haters?

My hunch is that over the past few months, the right-wing media, along with self-adoring Tea Party members, made the mistake of believing their own hype. They convinced themselves that not only did 2 million people take to the streets of the nation's capital last September to protest Obama (a number that was off by 1.9 million), but that "millions" more had marched coast-to-coast over the past 12 months (a number that was completely fabricated). They fastidiously constructed their own parallel universe and convinced themselves that last summer's mini-mobs at local town hall forums had defeated health care reform. They thought their rowdy show of force, complete with Nazi and Hitler posters, and even some protesters parading around with loaded guns, had changed the debate.

Listening to Limbaugh, they thought they were dictating the agenda. Watching Fox News, they though they reflected the mainstream. And reading right-wing blogs, they thought they had killed health care reform.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong. It was the sudden and rude realization that, instead, they'd spent the past few months trapped inside an echo chamber, I think, that created the volcanic and unhinged response we've seen play out in recent days. It's the kind of childish and hysterical reaction I didn't think we'd ever witness from a major political movement.

Trust me. This televised, incoherent meltdown has gone way beyond sore loserdom. Or even sore loserdom on steroids. This hasn't just been more of the usual Democrats-are-crooks type of whining that Fox News has turned into an art form since Obama's inauguration. And it's gone far beyond the usual scare tactics that the cable channel has trademarked. (Recent on-screen graphics: "Will the health bill ruin the economy?" and "Does Obamacare mean millions more jobs destroyed?")

Instead, this bout of spastic lashing out has been unique even by the previous standard adopted by Beck, who, on the eve of the health care vote, likened Democrats to Al Qaeda terrorists who were trying to bring America to its knees from the inside.

Read the full Media Matters column here.

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