There’s a lot of blame going around the media right now as to who’s responsible for the rise of Donald Trump and who can fix it. Some say the GOP Establishment is at fault for ignoring the Trump phenomenon in 2015. Some say it’s dissatisfaction—anger—at our broken political system. Others suggest it’s a greater cultural failing, the decline of the fortunes of middle class whites (#WhiteLivesMatter?), falling wages, and disastrous trade policies (see Clinton, Bill—and the Republican Congress of the late 90’s) that have sent manufacturers fleeing overseas during the past several decades.
There’s certainly some truth to all of it, but there’s a much more obvious and important answer: the media–specifically, our news-media.
I don’t just mean recently, although that’s true as well. Quoth CBS Executive David Moonves about the “circus” of the GOP race with Trump: “it may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS, that’s all I got to say.” After that, he was carried away on a throne by four bronzed security guards while underage sex slaves fed him grapes–green ones.
Anyway, when it comes to knowing what’s actually going on in this country, many Americans don’t. And Trump knows it. He said it to his supporters’ faces after winning the Nevada caucuses: “I love the poorly educated!” People cheered for that statement. Dumb people. Hell, even Evangelicals are supporting Trump, because as we all know, nothing says “Jesus” like some good ole fashioned racism.
Of course, some of that has to be attributed to our anti-intellectual nature (Ah doan’ need no damn Muslim from Keenya ta’tell me gins’re dang’rous–so’re forks an butter knaves!); a lot of Americans simply don’t bother to follow the news—hell, a lot of Americans don’t bother to read (a fact I’m keenly aware of—sigh).
But that’s always been true, and it still fails to explain Trump’s success, because it doesn’t begin and end with people who are simply ignorant. Indeed, many—if not most—of Trump’s supporters believe they know exactly what’s going on, are mad as hell, and aren’t going to take it anymore. It’s time to start winning again, damnit!
And that’s where they’re wrong (for Trump, winning the GOP nomination in 2016 is like crawling into bed late at night with the last fat drunk at the bar: you’re going to get laid if you’ve got the courage to do it, but it’s nothing to brag about, and it’s not going to get you anywhere later on); Trump’s supporters don’t have a fucking clue—many Americans don’t—because the American news-media doesn’t tell people what the hell is actually going on. Instead, we get bland reporting that lacks insight and relevant analysis, anecdotal interviews with the nearest jackass wandering around nearby, cowardly interviews with politicians and the wealthy/well-connected (#RichPeopleMatter), scientific studies presented entirely out of context (haven’t you heard: if you eat bacon, you’ll get cancer), and trite colloquialisms (“that’s news to me, Diane”).
In other words, US news-media isn’t designed to deliver the information we need to make thoughtful political decisions in any sort of clear, concise, organized manner. Rather, the information we get is massaged into something palatable to the lowest common denominator (idiots), scrubbed for anything controversial (to anyone), and then repackaged to be as entertaining/alarming as possible (EBOLA! TERRORISTS! ZIKA!).
Consider the supposedly redoubtable NPR, a media operation that regularly omits the name of a political party when reporting what happens in Congress, saying only, “Congress passed this bill, blocked this bill, confirmed so and so, or can’t compromise.” But the name of the party—or faction (not short for “fart-action”, which is what Paul Ryan thinks)—is never stated; nor, frankly, are their motivations. Now obviously, if a vote or action is relatively bi-partisan that’s fine—but if the vast majority of votes came from one party or the other, or from a seemingly heterogeneous block of Congress who received campaign contributions from the same corporate donor, it’s critical we know about it.
And as alarming as it is that so much of our political news is reported in this vague, careless way, what’s worse is how much isn’t reported at all, because it too openly reveals how corrupt things have gotten in Washington.
For instance, How many Americans are aware that immediately after President Obama was elected, a select group of Republicans and lobbyists conspired to obstruct anything and everything he did in the hopes of making him a one-term President? How many Americans are aware of the staggering amount of money political candidates of both parties accept from wealthy donors, corporations, lobbyists, unions, etc.—and who those people are? How many Americans are aware of just how extreme wealth inequality is in this country? How many Americans are aware that the Republican Party has blocked bills to allow students to refinance their student loans or would strip tax breaks from corporations who move jobs overseas (and probably decided this while getting lap dances from Asian strippers trying to pay off their student loans)? How many Americans actually understand how taxes work?
Not many—certainly not enough, in any case. And that’s not the fault of the average American—it’s the fault of the media for not reporting the news.
Why? Money, same as always—the simple truth behind most of what’s wrong with our political system (and our society). See, the nightly news, the local paper, MSNBC, even NPR—they don’t really care about serving their purpose with journalistic integrity, their honor-bound duty as the fourth estate. They care, like everyone else privileged with wealth or power in 21st century America, about money. And it’s no conspiracy: Les Moonves came right out and said it–Donald Trump might be bad for America, but he’s great for CBS.
So how does that effect coverage?
- Everything is sanitized: every program, every story, every piece is stripped of anything that might be offensive to anybody. Seriously. It’s all about eyeballs and advertising, right? The more people watch or read or click, the more desirable it is to advertise on that medium, whether it’s television, newspapers, or the internet. So anything that causes viewers or advertisers to turn off is nixed, period. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or newsworthy or relevant—if it might upset more than a couple people, it’s gone.
- Example: How often do news outlets use the word “racist” to describe Trump or his supporters? It’s true, right?
- Politically then, the media compromises its journalistic ethics, ignores conventional morality, and performs massive mental gymnastics in order to portray every struggle in government as the product of two equally legitimate parties equally failing to get along and govern the country. So if Republicans pass a bill that’s appalling to the average American (which is what they do), NPR just replaces “Republicans” with “Congress.” In this way, they avoid appearing partisan and keep getting donations from conservative listeners, as well as wonderful corporations like Monsanto, Exxon Mobile, Chevron, Dow Chemical, Pfizer, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Merril Lynch, Bank of America, etc. But you know, I’m sure that getting a ton of money from oil companies, pharmaceuticals, big banks and Wall St. never affects their reporting, right?
- Example: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are equally extreme/ridiculous. Actually no, Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post, they’re not. One man is proposing to build a wall across our entire southern border AND get another country to pay for it, while the other is proposing single-payer healthcare, which is the least costly, most efficient way to deliver healthcare, something almost every other industrialized nation in the world is doing.
- But it’s not just NPR. IT’S EVERYONE. Nearly every major media operation does everything in its power to make as much money as possible. And it doesn’t help that 90% of everything we consume is controlled by six companies: GE, Newscorp, Disney, Viacom, CBS, and Time Warner. That’s down from 50 companies in 1983.
The end result is that the American populace is deeply misinformed. And it’s not hard to see. Watch the local news: more than half of it’s fluff stories, weather, and parenting tips. Even the supposedly serious political Sunday shows: Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and This Week, are all horserace politics. I sat and watched all three on Feb. 28th, just before Super Tuesday–it was all delegates and polls and partisan sniping. There was almost no coverage whatsoever of the issues facing the American people—you know, the problems we face that should be driving WHO we vote for and WHY.
So what are we to do? First, simply realizing it helps, because then we know what we’re dealing with; and second, thinking it through for ourselves, instead of letting a media narrative (a fancy word for story–which is precisely what it is) take hold. Like when every news-outlet points out that Democratic primary turnout is down in 2016 compared to 2008, while Republican turnout is up, you can write this rant on Facebook:
“NPR and other news outlets: comparing 2008 turnout to 2016 turnout in the primaries is so dumb. In 2008, George W Bush, the worst President in history was in the White House, and for the first time ever, a black man and a woman, both of whom could win, were running for the Democratic nomination. It was a historic moment.
Now, after 8 years of racist hate, slander, and libel against President Obama, Republicans have a real live racist running in Donald Trump.
I guess the point is that if a business promises a bunch of fat people free ice cream, you shouldn’t be surprised when a bunch of fat people show up to eat ice cream, nor should you conclude that the business is going to be successful.
It is astonishing how stupid our news media has become. As I’ve said many times, you can donate to NPR, or you can save yourself the trouble and just send money directly to the RNC.”
The other thing is to find reliable news outlets. Here are the guidelines:
- Newspapers are better than Television.
- Blogs and smaller publications (like The Hill, Mediaite, Politico, Salon) that mostly run stories on the internet are often better than Newspapers.
- Local radio–LIKE XRAY.FM!
- Chuckingrocks.com? (Yes, shameless self promotion)
In all seriousness though, the mission here at ChuckingRocks is to offer insightful political analysis and commentary, along with the occasional sports column or social humor piece. But I promise you this, dear reader: I will tell the truth. Always. Because at the heart of my political views is the idea that we ought to do what’s best for the largest number of people. I speak for the interests of ordinary Americans, because I am one myself.
But make no mistake: the media is responsible for Donald Trump, and they better be damned careful at what they’re playing at, because I’m pretty sure they don’t want to live in a country with an openly racist President. I sure as hell don’t.
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