Sunday, January 7, 2018
How Trump Really Beat the Media: By letting the media beat itself
The following article appeared in Frontpage Magazine on January 3rd
President Trump’s end year remarks to the New York Times acerbically summed up his relationship with the media. “I’m going to win another four years… because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there.” The answering outburst of rage and contempt from the media burned all the hotter because the statement was not only intentionally provocative; it was also true.
The media has never been able to quit Trump. Its conviction that it can destroy him through coverage has repeatedly proven false. But that hasn’t stopped the media from throwing more coverage at him. And its motive for the non-stop coverage has always been the selfish pursuit of ratings, clicks and sales.
The New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN are all busy playing Trump-slayers when what they really want is four more years of rising subscriptions, ad sales and profits. Few politicians understand that conflict of interest better than Trump who has spent most of his adult life playing the media.
These days the media needs Trump more than ever. Its old purpose, reporting the news, is as dead as the telegraph. Reporting is expensive. It requires infrastructure and personnel. And it isn’t very profitable. In the age of the internet, few people will sit around and watch the pointless reporting from the scene of an event that was once the staple of local news and cable news.
And repurposing viral videos and stories can only fill so much of that hole. But the media doesn’t really report news either. Mostly it repurposes it to create narratives that it can then milk for days or months. Whether it’s a missing airliner, #MeToo or Russian collusion, the best narratives are part mystery, scandal and thriller. The news isn’t just fake: It’s metafictional. It turns real life into fodder for fiction.
The media has crossed the mirror’s edge where reality television, recreations of crimes and movies based on true stories once lived. It lives and dies by turning the news into a fictional narrative. And narratives are cheap. Every news network can run video of Mueller slowly walking down a hallway while a panel of experts discusses what the latest leak really means for President Trump. For the cost of a green room, a limo and a little promotion, CNN can have its very own House of Cards drama.
Trump is the media’s star. Without him, CNN would have to go back to chasing missing airliners. And he has an innate understanding of the media’s business model from the days when he was playing New York City tabloids against each other. The tabloidization of the national media is a development that has left the GOP’s Beltway establishment bewildered and confused. But Trump has always understood the media as a tabloid operation that specialized in the same heroes and heels as professional wrestling.
And he knows that he doesn’t have to beat the media. He just has to let it beat itself.
The combination of political anger and personal greed that drives the media is destroying its credibility. The media was most effective when it was playing the detached narrator and the impartial referee. Trump’s greatest trick was forcing it to get in the ring with him. That’s always been his trick for defeating his opponents. And the media has eagerly cast away its restraints and given in to its worst instincts.
(Article continues HERE)