Of all the things Team Biden must accomplish pronto on January 20, 2021, atop the list must be setting the Department Of Justice back onto a course of justice and away from its role as a mob boss POTUS’ consigliere. Had our news media not normalized a thousand terrible Trumpian behaviors as “different” rather than “objectionable” or “illegal”, we might not be facing a Constitutional crisis on January 6. Too much of our news media still aspires to be the next Judith Miller — the New York Times’ access whore who sold her sole out so that Dick Cheney might whisper lies into her ear. Even more take it on faith alone that “both sides do it” and will willingly tie themselves in knots to avoid asking white conservatives the same impertinent questions they automatically burp at progressives.
Our news media assumes we’re as stupid, vacuous and intellectually incurious as they are. Boy, are they wrong. The rise of citizen journalism has saved professional journalism from itself. Now, let’s understand — as it destroyed every other business it touched, the internet is destroying the business model for journalism. Has destroyed it already, in fact. The pandemic then came along and demonstrated how anyone with a Zoom account is now just as much a TV talking head as the most experienced TV talking head.
Hell, in my other incarnation — as The Faitheism Project — I do a podcast every week now just like every other podcaster out there. I may not be much competition right now for the big players, but we’re still competing nonetheless. The internet levels all playing fields — for better and worse. The news audience — and I consider myself just another piece of it — is far more sophisticated and savvy than it was in the days when all we had was ABC, CBS and NBC. We sit down in front of our monitors or TV sets more conversant in the visual medium, it turns out, than the people we’re watching and listening to.
TV news media truly don’t understand the language of the medium they’re working in. Example — back when it was still kosher to put climate deniers on the air, the TV news networks would, as a matter of course, put climate scientist and climate denier into a “50-50” shot that splits the screen right down the middle. That’s great. It appears incredibly fair. And it IS being fair — to bullshit. It’s being incredibly unfair to the Truth however.
The problem is the climate scientist has mountains of hard data to back up what he’s saying. The climate denier has stuff he pulled (almost literally) from his ass. They are NOT the same thing. Yet there they both are, being presented in what’s called a “50-50” shot. Fifty percent of the screen to science and fifty percent of the screen to bullshit. See the problem? A truer, more accurate representation would give more like 99% of the screen to the climate scientist and maybe one percent to the climate denier. And the climate denier would be somewhere in the corner of a frame, virtually impossible to see.
A lot of us live in a constant state of war with the press — not on the press itself but on its utter failure of imagination and it’s stone cold refusal to see or acknowledge that failure of imagination. In fact, most of the press does not see itself as culpable in any way. They arrogantly hold themselves “above the fray”, never taking sides even when taking sides is demanded. One only worries about being seen to take sides if one hasn’t the courage of one’s convictions (or, more likely, no convictions to begin with).
I’m not alone in watching cable TV news not so much for the news as for the constant assurance that we’re just as screwed up today as we were yesterday — maybe a bit more screwed up in fact. Donald Trump has turned most of America into the world of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”. That’s not a good thing. Logic is that world’s kryptonite. If America’s journalists weren’t trying to convince themselves that Democrats and Republicans are all really the same person (which we absolutely are NOT!), they’d be banging away at some other story already.
America’s J-schools all need to take a break from producing journalists. They need to sit back and truly see what they’ve done to the rest of us: a party that feels compelled to explain everything and a party compelled to explain nothing. After a certain point, the trains will become physically incapable of being on time.
A few years back, the 21st Century Fox board of directors chose to end their relationship with Bill O’Reilly at a time when O’Reilly was their biggest draw, their cowiest cash cow. And yet — the 21st Century board of directors understood and agreed that O’Reilly had zero future at Fox News. The reason? Fox News’ advertisers were signaling from afar. The big advertisers were the first to grasp that, as women were more and more becoming the buying-decision decision makers in American households, it no longer behooved the big advertisers to ignore them. If America’s women — out of disgust — were likely to vote with their pocketbooks, then how and why they voted was going to become vitally important.
Fox News cannot survive without big companies advertising on it. Money drives every decision they make. Never mind what anyone on Fox ever says. Watch what they do. Their actions speak every dirty secret their words refuse to betray.