The Media Fix

Back before Al Gore, peace be upon him, gave us the internet, I maintained quite a few magazine subscriptions. National Review, The New Republic and The Atlantic were on my list from the time I was a teenager. I would cycle in others like Harper’s, The New York Review of Books and even Granta and Ploughshares. I spent many a night drinking at the pub where the later was founded.

Now, I have exactly zero subscriptions. I take what I can get on-line and there’s so much on-line I see no reason to pay for it. The fact that I can, with a few clicks, catch up on the news in Borneo or check in on the doings of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and his fight against hooliganism is truly a miracle. Educated men of a century ago would be gobsmacked by the amount of detailed information I can include a single blog post.

There’s a downside to this wonderfulness. In the olden thymes, my subscription meant something to the people running those magazines. They needed it to pay their writers, so it was important to the writers as well. Today, these publications have no reason to care about me or my opinion of them. They just need to generate enough traffic to show their donors, who don’t care about me either.

In other words, as the financial relationship has changed, the intellectual relationship has changed. These publications are now on-line and they don’t have a direct financial link to their readers. Instead, they depend on wealthy donors and support from the massive nonprofit establishment. The result is an operation like National Review went from appealing to readers to lecturing them.

A similar thing has happened with TV news. In the olden thymes, the three networks were certainly preachy and biased, but they also had to get viewers and that meant keeping it between the ditches. The batshit insanity of a MSNBC would never be permitted. Those fruitcakes were relegated to local access and shortwave because no one could afford to indulge them.

That all changed with cable. MSNBC gets $0.70 per cable household per month, whether anyone watches or not and is overwhelmingly not. That means they collect $70 million per month even though no one watches. Fox, CNN, ESPN et al have similar or better deals. When you get a billion dollars for just showing up, you can indulge in just about any sort of reckless behavior you want, even letting mentally unstable lesbians host a primetime show.

The cable rackets have had another impact. They rely on writers and bloggers out of the Commentary Industrial Complex. Fox hires boys and girls from National Review and The Weekly Standard to be guest on shows. MSNBC hauls in people from progressive publications. PBS uses the NY Times and Washington Post as their farm system.

Put it all together and we now have a mass media that is not only unresponsive to its viewership and readership, but also openly hostile. The old periodicals that used to peddle ideas and culture to the public now lecture the public on behalf of the managerial class. The low-brow mass media of television can now indulge all of the excesses of progressive fanatics, making sport of anything and everything normal people find useful.

The worst part of this is that unplugging and dropping out has no impact. Until tens of millions of households unplug from cable TV, these media operations are immune to public discontent. Cord cutting will have some impact, but most people will never take that step. The massive nonprofit industry will keep on financing the news and opinion operations. Rich guys like Carlos Slim and Jeff Bezos will backstop big news sites.

The North Koreans are fond of installing loudspeakers in villages to blast propaganda to the masses. In America, they install them in your living room and your pocket. The communications revolution was supposed to threaten the media monopoly of the prior age. Instead, it has created a special force, shock troops, who man the megaphones on behalf of the managerial class.

I suspect that much of what’s going on in the Republican primary is due to a realization that the people on talk radio, Fox News and your favorite news site are not playing it straight. Not so long ago they were explaining why you had to hold your nose and support Romney, because winning was too important for principles. Today, they are saying principles are too important to vote Trump, even though he is looking like a winner.

One of the things I’ve noticed in my life is people seek to break free of the transactional life. Retail is looked down upon, I think, because people naturally hate the clarity of it. When you sell direct, you have to do so in a way that people like. Every lost sale is an indictment of you and your product. It’s why the toughest, smartest guys in most business are the sales guys. They have no illusions about themselves.

The media has sought to break free from the retail relationship. Selling ads based on circulation and viewership is a daily confirmation of your worth, or lack thereof. The result of this drive, on the one hand, has been the thoroughly corrupt cable TV market where content providers get a free shot at your wallet.

On the other hand, a massive, taxpayer subsidized nonprofit system has been created to fund writers, newspapers, journals and even academics. Look around a think tank and these people are calling each other “fellow” and “resident scholar” as honorifics. It’s no wonder C-level joke writers like Jonah Goldberg have developed massive egos. Everyone calls him “fellow” down at the institute!

Back in the 1990’s when newspaper circulations were collapsing, I read a story about a paper in Dayton Ohio. They hired a consultant to tell them why they were losing customers. The consultant pointed out that their food section was running stories on haute cuisine while their readers ate hamburger helper. In other words, the product sucked so people stopped buying it.

That’s much tougher in the current moment. The product certainly sucks, but people are not dropping TV in big numbers yet. Similarly, the tax-exempt rackets face no threat from Congress. There are plenty of billionaires willing to finance papers like the NYTimes and Washington Post. Maybe the only response is for voters to support the candidates the media hates the most.

Trump – Cruz 2016: They are as much fun as chemotherapy, but they are what you need to fight the tumor that is the media.

16 thoughts on “The Media Fix

  1. “I spent many a night drinking at the pub where the later was founded.”
    I myself have tipped a glass or three at the Plough. Although it’s been many years since I’ve been to the PRC. Can’t say I miss that town very much.

  2. I am, as a former newspaper worker, much amused how the electronic media strives to position itself as being ‘clean’ and ‘truthful’ by continually painting the printed word as fantasy and lies. Yet it escapes most people that the same journalists can work for both without changing a shred of their views. If you are in London and work for a left-wing opinion rag like The Guardian then the transition to working for Al-Beeb and peddling the same socialist untruths is merely question of different decor in the office, except now you get to pretend you are honest where your former employer was essentially liars. Better still, the hack can always switch back smoothly if the pay deal is better.

    Why would anyone go from lies to truth and back to lies? The answer is simply that it is the same clique, the same opinions, with the added bonus that most government is still far more afraid of the printed word than the spoken word. Working for the Graun instead of the BBC means brows area little more furrowed in the corridors power over the lefty lies, and every hack wants to be feared if only because the truth is a lot more difficult to find than airy opinions.

  3. I’m hardly the first guy to make this comparison, but the mass realization of just how bizarro-world the media really is looks a lot like the advent of the printing press. All of a sudden, the proles could see that a lot of the stuff “everybody knows” is in the Bible, isn’t; and a whole lot of other stuff nobody knew about, is. Eventually a critical mass of people start believing their own lying eyes.

    Which, given the way the Reformation went*, is cause for concern. 130 years of religious wars later, and the very foundations of European life are completely changed. Peasants’ Wars, Inquisitions, St. Bartholomew’s Days’ Massacres, 30 Years Wars…. nobody can predict exactly what will happen when an entire people realizes it has been lied to for generations, but history suggests it ain’t gonna be good.

    *In the political history sense only. No comment on anyone’s doctrines.

  4. “Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow…”

    Sorry. I know it’s rare I encounter this name anywhere, but whenever I do, my brain plays it back to me in Derb’s voice..

  5. Pingback: The Media Fix - Daily Pundit

  6. Yes, you are correct about the changing role of journalism, but certainly even Besos will tire of his rathole rag. Guaranteed.

    • I always wanted that, the pay-for-channel. That’s what I always told the minimum wage callers who used to get me to buy their cable packages. I guess some people have been dropping those bundles though, because a couple of months ago, I heard they were finally going to give pay-by-channel options in my area. This, that I’d been calling companies and communing with telemarketers about over decades, and and when it FINALLY happens, I don’t give a damn any more… I’m an internet fool now, and glad of it.
      My mate sent me this link because I was hoping mad at the NYT this morning, yelling about how they endorsed HRC just before Iowa caucus, and 20 to 1 NYT readers support Sanders, others saying they’ll vote Trump if that’s the only choice they have in the end. I was so P.O.d about the timing. Oh well, time to drop the Times, eh? It’s the only media I have ever paid money for, and Bernie might be able to use those bucks. I feel a bit freer already.

  7. Reminds me of El Rushbos rant about CBS hiring Colbert, hip > ratings:

    “Well, folks! I mean there you have it! This is the guy that hired Colbert. (summarized) “The ratings don’t matter. It’s not nearly the profit center for us it used. This is about bragging rights. This is about who appears the smart executive picking the best guy.” Do I know these people? Do I know this business or do I?

    He just admitted it. He said here: “It is not as economically profitable as it used to be. So they make a lot about the ratings, you know, and that really doesn’t affect the bottom line.” If the ratings don’t affect the bottom line, then what does?

    Media buzz. PR.

    If the ratings are not how you’re going to pitch advertisers… I mean, you still need advertisers, but if the ratings are not how you’re gonna pitch advertisers, what are you gonna pitch? You’re gonna pitch up “cool,” you’re gonna pitch “hip,” and how you gonna do that? You’re gonna go to other media and you’re gonna massage ’em and you’re gonna have PR campaigns.

    There are gonna be countless, endless stories about your talent, your host, and what a cool, hip, in-demand guy he is. And then you’re gonna make sure your host is as visible as possible in cool, hip things and places. Letterman, of course, doesn’t fit that bill anymore because he’s a recluse. He doesn’t go to hip places and do hip things. He never did. Ratings used to matter. Ratings, Lettermen hadn’t had any in I don’t know how long.

    Leno owned late night and they still got rid of him. Leno owned it, and they still got rid of him because he wasn’t perceived as cool and hip and young and all that anymore.”

    • Limbaugh is part of the problem. He was pitching the Bush Administration as the epitome of conservatism. He used to brag about doing overnight in the Lincoln bedroom. Now all of a sudden he’s Mr. Outsider again.

      • You must have listened to a different Rush than the one I used to hear. Don’t recall much braggadocio about how conservative Bush was, rather what I heard was just the opposite. Rush turned rather quickly on Bush when W started consorting with the likes of Teddy “The Swimmer” Kennedy on education.

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