Here's what I see has happened to both the media and American conservatism over the past several years. I admit, I still haven't reached my final conclusion on the chicken vs the egg yet.
There was a time when conservative had this quaint, old fashioned sense about it. A granny, shaking her head at "these kids today with their rocking and their rolling" and the quiet hope that none of those darkies will move in next door. Or the WASP heading off to work in his IBM suit, coming home to a ready roast beef dinner, a jug of martinis, knock the wife around a bit then off to bed. There was always a darker, more extreme side but they tended to hide behind white hoods and occasionally badges.
Then there was a change in the US media. Prior to 1984, the FCC regulated "public affairs" content for broadcasters. Often referred to as the 5-5-10 rule, broadcasters had to air a minimum of 5% local, 5% information and 10% non-entertainment content during the day.
With a mandated minimum NEWS content on every station, the public had the opportunity to stay informed about world events, should they choose to tune in.
The FCC dropped that regulation in 84 and the content of NEWS began to drop off in favor of content that would better sell advertising. Many may actually remember FOX as being one of the first networks to have no NEWS programming whatsoever.
But people like the NEWS and were still looking for it. What they started to receive, however, was less NEWS and more opinion and punditry dressed in a NEWS format. All you have to do is watch CNN for an afternoon to see how little actual NEWS is aired (and how many commercials)
Now, John Q Public, who used to have various information services upon which to base his opinions, has less information and more of other people's opinions on which to form an opinion. Now his view of the world is filtered though someone else's view of the world. He must accept the "facts" as they are presented by pundits and politicians. This is why, sadly, so many Americas were left after 9/11 wondering "who are these people and why do they hate us?".
Enter Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Riely, etc. All presenting their radically conservative ideologies in a "NEWS" format, out in the open, hoods off. It is now their eyes through which many conservatives see the world. They've gone so far as to try to paint the purveyors of just "plain old NEWS" as being the "liberal media". Not to mention their use of the descriptor, "liberal" as though it represents a distasteful class of person. Other, similarly used words spring to mind in this context.
So the modern neo-conservative is either a product of this media shift or, more likely, a victim.