What happened to Lou Dobbs?
Lloyd Grove asks on the Daily Beast: What happened to Lou Dobbs?
Just how did a respected financial-news guru turn into an immigrant-hating, birther-supporting zealot?... What a difference three decades make. In 1980, Dobbs launched his brilliant career as a whip-smart Harvard grad who practically invented television business news at the fledgling cable network CNN, founding CNNfn while winning friends and influencing people among the corporate elite...
"Lou’s a longtime friend and I admire him as a great pioneer for business and economic news, making it vital and meaningful for a new audience of television viewers,” said Paul Steiger, chief of the investigative journalism organization ProPublica and former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. “But as he’s gone beyond business news, he’s become enamored of causes, particularly fear of foreigners and immigrants, that I don’t find to be in keeping with the high intelligence that I know he possesses.”
The answer is simple, and it's all about the economics that Dobbs is supposed to know something about. Economics is about how incentives change behavior. The incentives for Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter etc. are to say outrageous things that attract a fringe, disaffected and not especially well-educated audience. The audience is a minority in the American polity, but it's large enough to support a very nice living for the screamers. Ratings, power and money are more than enough incentive to push stuffed shirts to pander to the fringe by saying things even they themselves probably have trouble believing are true or justified.
Of course in the meantime they surrender their dignity and any reason to command respect. But obviously for some folks that's just not as important.
There are plenty of intelligent, thoughtful conservative commentators who make good points in good faith. David Brooks. Greg Mankiw. Geroge Will. Bruce Bartlett, etc. Lou Dobbs is no longer in their company.