Maybe Our News Media Shouldn’t Take Its Audience — US — For Granted…

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.

Fact: There Is No Conservative Solution To A Crisis Conservatism Caused

If I was to continue the alliteration, I’d say: Ka-ching!” That’s because it’s so on the money. We are in a crisis… no, we’re in a storm of crises. If only we had just one crisis to deal with this second, it’d be bad enough. But Donald Trump and the Republican Party have brought us to a place where we now face multiple crises on multiple fronts — and all because they are trying desperately to hold onto power that was never legitimately theirs.

Conservatives aren’t criminals and conservatism itself isn’t the “enemy”. Conservative greed is the enemy — as is everything that’s flowed from that greed like, say, their willingness to compromise themselves with Russia. Conservativism’s problem is it’s unsaleable to the majority of Americans. When more Americans vote, they vote for Democrats. That’s just a stone cold fact. Hell, even Donald Trump knows it. The whole point of voter suppression (up to and including hobbling the Post Office) is to stop more people from voting because of how most of them will vote.

Conservatives could have seen their diminishing place in our politics and done something respectable — like find a rock solid place in it. The truth is, progressives like me do need a counterweight if only to keep us honest. But that counterweight needs to be honest, too. And, right now, conservatism can’t claim a lick of honesty.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with capitalism. There’s everything wrong with crony capitalism. The Republican Party just proved that point for all eternity.

Crony capitalism is the conservative fix for everything. It doesn’t matter what the problem is — or whether it ever gets solved — so long as the right amount of money lands in their pocket along the way. The rich get richer while everyone else grows more impoverished, trapped and angrier. But the money that runs capitalism runs both ways.

An economy built on consumers and their confidence will die without them. More specifically, the giant corporations fattening themselves by selling products to American consumers rely on those consumers’ ability and willingness to buy. Problem 1: if those consumers are too broke to buy your products, you’re dead. Problem 2: if those consumers refuse to buy your products because they hate what you stand for, you’re deader than dead.

Here’s the tell: On April 19, 2017, Fox News canned Bill O’Reilly. At the time, O’Reilly’s “The O’Reilly Factor” was Fox News’ top-rated show and its biggest cash cow. O’Reilly wasn’t a “journalist” and didn’t have to play by “journalistic rules” (as if Fox ever has!) but his appearance on a news network gave the utter claptrap that was his stock in trade the “sheen” of news. O’Reilly allowed Fox News to have it both ways. And then, suddenly, that music stopped.

Women did it.

It’s simply a fact: women make the majority of buying decisions in American households. They do the majority of the grocery shopping. They buy the majority of the clothing for their households. They work, they run carpools, they buy cars and gasoline and because they’re now increasingly the principle earners in more and more American households, if they suddenly decide to cancel culture a product? That product will be cancelled, no going back.

All those big corporations whose products women regularly buy? They got the memo. Not wanting to be cancelled, they told the 21st Century Fox Board that they would no longer advertise their products on Bill O’Reilly’s show. They did not want their brands associated with Bill O’Reilly’s brand. For the Fox board, it wasn’t a hard decision. They fired Bill O’Reilly (for reasons they could have/should have fired him years before).

When the marketplace spoke loudly enough, the money reacted. And the marketplace reacted to the economic power of the women within it. Those women are now taking political power with two hands. I’m going to generalize here — male that I am: female biology dictates communal decision-making over unilateral decision-making. No woman would ever say “I alone can fix it” because (here I go generalizing again about women) she knows that no woman can bear and rear a child alone. It really does take at least one other person to help at some point or neither baby nor mama will survive. It really does take a village to raise a child. It takes a village to almost everything — especially in a democracy.

It’s just a stone cold fact: no one can do anything “alone”.

That’s the petard on which conservatism is now hanging itself. Their belief that they alone could “fix” it.

This absolutely a problem of conservatism’s making. Conservatism made it because they were greedy. The way out can’t possibly be more greed.

The way out isn’t some middle option either. Anything that doesn’t put the full weight and potential of the American government at the disposal of We The People has no business being in the discussion. We can smell it’s greed from here.

Even doing everything perfectly will not guarantee that we get a free ride of some kind that magically returns our lives to how they were pre-pandemic. But the results will be exponentially better than what we’re doing to ourselves now. We’re in the process of learning (playing the part of lab rats) how Universal Basic Income works — and how it bolsters and builds an economy rather than undermining it (as conservatives insist, their parsimony cranked up high). We’re learning the lesson that health insurance is not the same thing as health CARE and that literally everyone needs to be included in a universal health CARE system because (in a world where pandemics might now be regular occurrences) we can only ever be as healthy as the least healthy person among us.

Pandemics begin with one person and spread from there.

We’re learning that human decency is, in fact, more important than money. As all those corporations are learning quickly, decency must be part of everyone’s brand going forth. It’s not going to be an option.

The Black Death killed feudalism. It turned an oppressive economic system upside down — giving labor an upper hand it never had before. The result was the guilds, a growing middle class, the birth of capitalism and, finally, the industrial revolution.

We won’t know if this pandemic has the same century-long impacts. We’ll be long dead when those histories get written. But, I bet we get a taste. We’ve already gotten one.

History will judge some of us very harshly. Conservatism won’t be blamed for causing America to nearly collapse but it will be seen as being on the wrong side. I’m not sure, really, how conservatism will eventually get back on our “right” side. What will it take for us to trust their motives again? We’d be foolish to accept their claims of rehabilitation on faith.

I’m absolutely certain nothing conservatives say can help rescue America from what conservatives have done to America. I’m almost as certain conservatives can’t help rescue themselves from what they’ve done to themselves.

I hope they understand if some of us refuse to lend them a hand when they beg for one.

The “Republican Brand” Is Now As Toxic As Cancer

Cancer Salesmen insisting that cancer is good for us, good for America!

Imagine if cancer had a “brand”. You don’t have to — it’s the same as the GOP’s. Republicans suck at governing mostly because it’s their mission to prove that government doesn’t work. So, whenever they get into power, they turn government into a branch of their own corrupt enterprise.

Donald Trump IS the Republican Brand. So’s Mitch McConnell and Bill Barr and Mikes Flynn, Pompeo & Pence. Greed is the Republican Brand. And Corruption and conspiracy and — here’s the big one: TREASON. Yes, treason is absolutely part of what one should think of when one thinks “Republicans”.

Republicans MADE treason their brand when they took all that Russian money into their campaign coffers in 2016.

Republicans made treason their brand when they embraced Donald Trump — KNOWING that he was taking money from Russia.

Republicans made treason their brand when they did everything possible to obstruct every investigation into Russia’s involvement with Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Republicans made treason their brand when they refused to convict Trump for trying to pull the same treasonous bullshit with Ukraine in 2020 that they pulled with Russia in 2016.

Republicans make treason their brand each time they look away when Trump & Putin communicate sans notes, note-takers or anyone overseeing what exactly Trump is giving away.

It’s the treason that drives the rest of Republican corruption now. It has to. Once the GOP committed themselves to Trump, once they hitched their wagon to him — albeit reluctantly at first — the game was over. There couldn’t be any coming back — ever.

While the news media continues to scratch its head, unable to fathom why Republicans still only reluctantly disagree with Trump, the business world has already begun to separate themselves from Trump and the GOP because they care about their brands. The exodus didn’t just start however. Twenty-First Century Fox — the corporation that oversees Fox News — made a decision back in 2017 that reflected the reality that’s thudding hard into the Republican Party right now — they fired Bill O’Reilly.

O’Reilly, remember, was Fox’s cash cow before Tucker Carlson. The sexual misconduct accusations that ended O’Reilly’s tenure weren’t the first. And, in another time, the accusations might have been ignored as they always had been. But Twenty-First Century Fox’s board of directors saw red flag warnings ahead and chose to change course. The warnings came via their advertisers — who said they would no longer support O’Reilly with their ad dollars. And the advertisers were reacting to the most important fact in their universe: the majority of buying decisions in most American households were being made by women.

The advertisers needed women to like their brands so that they’d buy them. They knew however that women don’t care for men who sexually harass or abuse women. They won’t buy products from men like that — or companies that stand with abusers. Women, the advertisers understood, were the key. And, if women weren’t going to support Bill O’Reilly, neither would they.

That spelled the end of Bill O’Reilly at Fox. The toxicity of his brand did him in.

Branding can take years — decades even — to create yet moments to destroy. Guys like Kevin Spacey are terrific actors with remarkable bodies of work. But, in the public’s mind Kevin Spacey’s brand isn’t acting anymore. It’s sexual deviance. Yeah, Kevin beat the rap on one charge but that charge against Kevin didn’t happen in a vacuum.

No one wants to work with Kevin anymore. If Kevin signs on to a movie or TV project now, everyone else will bail on it. Welcome to Pariahhood, Kevin.

Give the GOP a few months — the day after election day — and they’ll know exactly how Kevin feels.

Even if the Republican Party cheats on an even more massive scale than they did in 2016 and comes away with a “win”? It won’t play like a win — not this time. This time, the cheating will have to be so staggeringly obvious that even our press will have to check their “both sides do it” heads at the door.

“Live with it” is how Republicans want to brand their coronavirus response. “Die because of it” will be the way the American public “brands” it however.

But then, what kind of branding did we expect from a death cult?