The corporate media is in an abusive relationship with Donald Trump.
No matter how many times he attacks with claims of “fake news,” and calls journalists the “enemy of the people;” no matter how worked up networks get over how he treats them; no matter how many times it appears as though they are finally gaining the courage to stand up to their abuser, the mainstream networks just can’t get seem to muster up the courage to quit him.
Have they not learned anything from 2016?
In February 2016, former CBS executive chairman and CEO, Les Moonves, told the Hollywood Reporter:
“It [Trump’s candidacy] may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS…Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now?… The money’s rolling in and this is fun…I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”
Indeed, it was a terrible thing to say, if only because the truth hurts.
Moonves was merely articulating a heretofore unspoken axiom: it’s not about the issues; it’s about the ratings. It’s about the personality. It’s ultimately about the money.
And so, here we are again.
Here we have a true progressive with a stalwart reputation for attacking Wall Street banks’ greed and perfidy. She wants to “level the playing field,” as she has so often said, for average Americans who have been cut out of the neo-liberal landscape. These are people who have given up on the Democratic party due to a quarter century of DLC “Third-Way” capitulation to lobbyists and party power brokers, Republican compromise, and economic half-measures. These are people who yearn to return to the prosperity of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal we practiced from 1933 to the 1980s’ Reagan Revolution.
But is the corporate media focusing at all on Warren’s plan for universal health care? Is it providing any details about her college affordability plan? Is it concerned even one iota with her stance on the environment, infrastructure, campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform, or foreign policy?
Because she released DNA test results confirming there is “strong evidence” she has Native American blood in her.
So let’s instead manufacture an issue over the supposed outrage the Native American community is expressing over this use of the DNA test as a campaign prop.
Perhaps it is the media using it as a prop, as it is obsessed not with where she stands on what keeps Americans up at night, but her “likeability.”
As Chris Hedges writes in his Truthdig piece “The Election Circus Begins”:
“The fundamental question the press asks is not what do the candidates stand for but whom do the voters like. As for now, Warren—the only nationally known Democrat except Julian Castro to form an exploratory committee for a presidential bid—is not winning this popularity contest. A CNN/Des Moines Register Iowa poll—yes, polling in Iowa already has begun—puts her fourth, with only 8 percent of support among the Democrats surveyed, behind Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke.”
Then there is the right’s favorite new punching bag, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Predictably, CBS conspicuously did not give the new House Democrat an opportunity to talk about her support for the Green New Deal, HR 1, or the progressive Democratic platform in her 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper.
Instead, Cooper encouraged her to trash Trump, asking her (after making sure he got in the “Democratic Socialist” label) if she thinks the president is a racist.
We already know the answer. He got her to admit it on national television.
Do you hear that?
It’s the sound of corporate lucre hitting the pan.
But that isn’t enough. Not for the insatiable media appetite for clicks.
Anderson Cooper wanted AOC to admit her hypothetical 70% tax rate on the top earners is “radical.”
From the 1930s to the 1960s, the top marginal tax rate was 91% until President Lyndon Johnson lowered it to 74%.
It was Ronald Reagan who dropped it down to 50%, then to 28%.
CBS and Anderson Cooper just couldn’t resist towing the donor class’s line, though, could they?
So much for the “liberal” media.
And then there’s “president” Donald Trump’s address to the nation Tuesday night in which he scared the bejesus out of his most base base.
One of the reasons Trump is occupying 1600 Pennsylvania at all is due to what Les Mooves was referring to–airtime.
Lots of airtime.
Thousands of hours of it.
Despite the Trump circus’s assaults on the media the past two years, the same media outlets were willing to air the nine p.m. prevaricated racist, anti-immigrant screed about “border security.”
“Well, sure,” you say. “He is the president of the United States after all.”
Let’s put this into context, however.
In 2014, President Obama wished to address the nation about a series of executive actions on immigration after bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform negotiations failed.
As Politico reported at the time:
“There was agreement among the broadcast networks that this was overtly political. The White House has tried to make a comparison to a time that all the networks carried President Bush in prime time, also related to immigration . But that was a bipartisan announcement, and this is an overtly political move by the White House.”
That was “overtly political,” but President Bush’s wasn’t, and, apparently neither was Trump’s despite the fact that, hours before he went on the air, the Trump re-election campaign sent out the following email message to potential donors:
“Your safety is not a political game or negotiating tactic. Please make a special contribution of $5 by 9 PM EST to our Official Secure the Border Fund to have your name sent to me after my speech.”
As Matt Taibbi writes in his book Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus:
“They [right-wing and moderate media] are really just two different strategies of the same kind of nihilistic lizard-brain sensationalism. The ideal CNN story is a baby down a well, while the ideal Fox story is probably a baby thrown down a well by a Muslim terrorist or an ACORN activist. Both companies offer the same service, it’s just that the Fox version is a little kinkier.”
“Elections are about a lot of things, but at the highest level, they’re about money,” Taibbi writes. “The people who sponsor election campaigns, who pay hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the candidates’ charter jets and TV ads and 25-piece marching banks, those people have concrete needs. They want tax breaks, federal contracts, regulatory relief, cheap financing, free security for shipping lanes, anti-trust waivers and dozens of other things.”
Chris Hedges nails it when he states:
“The corporate media ignores issues and policies, since there is little genuine disagreement among the candidates, and presents the race as a beauty contest. The fundamental question the press asks is not what do the candidates stand for but whom do the voters like.”
Entertainment and capital have corrupted our media landscape ever since Ronald Reagan stopped enforcing the Fairness Doctrine in 1986.
Bill Clinton finally put it in its coffin ten years later when he signed the Telecommunications Act.
Unless the corporate media has an epiphany within the year, we are going to repeat the same embarrassing sideshow we saw in 2016.
I guess that means we are going to repeat the same embarrassing sideshow we saw in 2016.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons