This morning I listened to conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt repeatedly trip over himself trying to excuse and explain away the media’s bias. Caller after caller chimed in angry at the media, and Hewitt shot them down one after another insisting that the media are very nice people who are just partisan and wrong.
People like Hewitt who were here long before Trump and vehemently resisted his ascent still have zero appreciation for the damage that America’s legacy news media has done not only to themselves but also our nation more broadly.
But he’s not alone.
People on the right notoriously fail to recognize the gravity of the media’s power and threat. We’re all aware of it at this point, but we’ve failed to really respond to it in a useful way. At the grassroots level we proudly stop watching or subscribing, and we’ve helped build an entire industry around exposing and railing against media bias.
Heck…half of what we gripe about on any given day is how the media fails and lies to us!
But it’s not nearly enough because the media still decide what we talk about. They still dictate what conversations we have and they still characterize how those conversations are framed.
Think about that.
Think about the enormity of that power.
If the media want to start the day with a baseline of “Trump’s an evil person and anyone who supports him is also evil,” then that’s where the day starts. And it goes on from there with our side pushing back, the media defending their positions and claiming they’re driven by data not partisanship, the Democrats and left celebrating the media’s narrative, and then the next day comes and we move onto the media’s next preferred narrative.
And that’s what happens every. single. day.
Recently, incredibly, there have been a few cracks in the media’s control over our national conversation. And for those who pay close attention to this stuff it’s been remarkable to witness. The tragic passing of Justice Ginsberg upended the media’s plans for this election, as did President Trump contracting COVID-19. Both were major events one month before an election that the media couldn’t ignore, and both do more to help Trump than hurt him. It’s so rare to see the media derailed and takes so much power to make happen that it actually reinforces my belief that the Lord God Almighty Himself is using Donald Trump, an imperfect messenger to be sure, as a vessel to help put our country back on course for centuries more freedom and prosperity. That is how rare it is for the media to be derailed from their preferred narrative. It almost never happens and I literally believe it might be an act of God when it does.
But they do still control much of what we talk about. Today for example (Tuesday, October 6th, 2020) we’re all going to be talking about how Trump responded to his own bout with COVID-19, and how he treated the Secret Service people and others around him, and an array of analyses about his use of masks or lack thereof. It will all be characterized in a way that makes Trump look bad and that promotes those who oppose him. Many on our side will refute the media with facts. Others will respond more viscerally or emotionally. Some will point out the media’s hypocrisy on the subject. And within a few hours there will be a video montage or two showing the media all in lock-step either hilariously clutching their pearls or hilariously demanding you clutch yours. And we’ll laugh and we’ll feel like we’ve won and we’ll look forward to showing the media who’s boss in November…
…but we’ll still have spent the entire day focused 100% on the topic the media selected for us. We’ll have spent the entire day giving oxygen to the media’s baseline characterization: Trump is bad, those who oppose him are good, and every day he’s POTUS is fraught with chaos.
And that’s what we get to live with.
The media losing their power as Trump drains the swamp they’ve long relied on for survival. As their power fades, they’re filled with more rage and desperation. The people see this rage and desperation and reject the media, tuning them out and diluting their stranglehold on what we think and feel. This enrages the media even more and they begin narrating daily American life with contempt for all who live it. It’s a last gasp from a legacy news media that has earned its failure and the pain that goes with it. But they will hang around and drag us all down with them as long as we allow it: picking the stories we talk about, characterizing how those stories are framed, and then angrily narrating every detail in partisan terms meant to deflate the right and inspire the left.
We know it’s happening. We can predict it every step of the way and are never surprised when it plays out. All that’s left is for us to actually do something about it.
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