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Media to Blame for Trump? Really? You Are

by John on 03/31/2016

Sure, you can blame the media for Trump. But it is not that simple.

Trump supporters will jump all over fast-paced questioner Chris Matthews for tripping up Trump, getting him to say he would prosecute women who get abortions which his campaign quickly walked back.

That will seem like supporters backing their guy no matter what – barring shooting someone on 5th Avenue, unless they deserved it for not being great.

Still, Trump supporters’ feelings about the media and the rest of the political elite make sense. Many of us laugh or recoil in horror at Trump and his supporters, but we shouldn’t. We should delve deep into why they are acting this way. In truth, Trump is the only one really talking to them about bringing back the America they were promised. Sadly, if they get Trump, they will be disappointed again.

But Trump detractors have good reasons too to blame the media. As I have mentioned before the symptoms make sense but we fail to look at the causes correctly.

On the surface, you can blame TV news, cable news, talk radio, and now the tabloids.

  • Trump gets constant airtime.
  • Trump’s airtime far exceeds any candidate – even when the GOP had 17 hopefuls running
  • Trump = ratings

But look deeper. Again, this is America looking at symptoms but failing to find real causes:

  • An Aging Society: we have more people taking in benefits than those who pay in.
  • Technology is so efficient, it is killing jobs for the people who have to support those entitlements

Fortunately, John Kasich has been mentioning some initiatives like constant training for workers – especially those with high school education. He has not said how he will do it or how we pay for it. But at least, he is beginning to listen to the angst among most Trump supporters.

The media has not been telling you this. Here’s why:

  • The media is no longer the news media. They are strictly The Media. That’s because they have dropped their news responsibility.
  • The media is an entertainment vehicle trying to attract audiences by either scaring them or making them feel good. It’s all about the emotions.
  • The media is a placeholder for advertising special interests that want that audience.
  • The media is mostly big business. These are conglomerates who have shareholders to reward. Sure, there are many outlets but only about 5 or 6 conglomerates that own most of them. Consolidation reduces supply so ad prices and profits rise.
  • The media, or the mainstream media, seems to be attracting an older audience. Look at the 3 cable outlets whose median age audience is well into their 60s. You won’t hear anything about reducing Medicare benefits there.

Sounds horrific, right? No.

This is what We the People wanted.

  • We didn’t want government involved in news decisions. So in 1987, the FCC dropped the Fairness Doctrine that would force news outlets to offer equal time for opposing points of view. Actually, this was a good thing. Why should government tell me what is a fair and equal point of view? That led to an explosion of right-wing talk radio and Fox News. Was that horrible? No, it filled a void. The mainstream news media back then had, what I call, an unconscious media bias that swung to the left. It was unknowingly pushed by the media elites in the northeast. Why can’t Middle America, Federalist-leaning, conservative folks have commentators that make them feel worthwhile?
  • We wanted more voices in the media. We made it easier for opinion makers to reach more people. That has flourished today on the airwaves,
    online, and even on our phones. You’re reading one of them right now. It made sense. As a nation, we want more voices and opinions. It would seem to be making us a better, more informed nation with a robust democracy.

But what went wrong?

We did.

As a people, we failed.

How? Let me be your mirror.

  • We didn’t demand standards of journalism. Those standards have gone out the window. Most news organizations are more concerned about pleasing the sponsors or the audience the sponsors want. As a result, news media outlets became big money makers for owners and shareholders using the same tricks of Wall Street over the norms of news gathering.
  • We became our own journalists. Many of us are the first line of news dispensing through social media. And yet, so many of us fail to adhere to sound, honest, and credible presentations of facts. Too often, we are only concerned with our own whims, profits, and bias. We failed to find out what other ideas exist and from whom. We became mouthpieces for ourselves and we failed to explore other thoughts and solutions.
  • We let what was the remnants of the news media dictate issues to us that made them wealthier. For instance, the Citizens United ruling was not something any media outlet – on the left or the right – would fight.
  • The economic boom of the 1990s got us fat and happy sitting in front of our TV sets. We seemed to revel in the cult personalities on the air rather than the issues.

As a result, we live in media confusion:

  • There is no real news media pushing back on our leaders to get nuanced answers. Instead, we get leaders who distort facts for their own outcomes. And those distorted facts, for many, remain reality.
  • We now hear so many voices and we have no idea who to believe or what is real fact. So we believe who we want to believe.
  • We think the news is created based on the economic needs of the media outlets so we have to spend more time, if we have it, to figure things out.

So before we make the Trump tie-in, let’s review what the so-called media has become:

  • The news media no longer stands up for all people to push back on our political leaders. In fact, they seem to be in concert with them.
  • The news media is a platform for special interests – namely special interests with money to spend to make even more money.
  • The news media, mainly the cable news outlets, cater to an older demographic.
  • The media now includes the everyday person with an opinion online.
  • The media is now including the tabloids. (Hey, National Enquirer broke one of the alleged Cruz political scandal stories.)

This wide range of media – with myopic interests – have worked in concert with the political parties and special interests. And together, they have forgotten one audience that, because of the new economy, is growing – the typical Trump supporter.

Polls show that the majority of Trump supporters are:

  • uneducated with a little more than a high school education;
  • blue collar workers who have lost their jobs and feel desperate about their way of life slipping away;
  • and people who identify strictly as Americans not as any ethnic group

George Packer’s great book, The Unwinding, probably chronicled many folks who became Trump supporters. Packer shows how American lifestyles, especially for the middle and lower classes, changed drastically after the Great Recession. In short, Packer says the unwritten American social contract was broken with many Americans. That contract said if you work hard and follow the law, then you will be guaranteed a job, a roof over your head, a TV, and some beer in the fridge.

However, ignoring the causes I mentioned above, that contract now no longer exists. Benefits for corporations, retirees, stockholders, and the wealthy did not trickle down after the recovery. So even a person with a college education has a difficult time while a person with only a high school education has no chance.

Trump understood the plight of these people. But Trump – with his entertainment skills – was able to reach them and get their embrace by taking over the unsuspecting, and in the minds of Trump supporters, the corrupted, media which only saw Trump as another willing election payday.

The days of the old style media – where the so-called liberal media tried to reach and represent everyone – are long gone. As a result, there is no one really asking questions for the now-Trump supporters. All they have are Trump tweets and other Trump supporters.

And sadly if Trump wins the Presidency, these folks will be let down again because he can’t deliver on any of these promises. And with their economic desperation that can be scary.

So go ahead and blame Trump. But he had a lot of help from the media, the political parties, and many of us.

We need to start paying attention to the real causes of our problems, so yes, even The Donald’s backers, whom many of us despise or ridicule, are taken care of also. After all, like it or not, they will have a say in the next President. More of the media needs to pay attention.

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