Election 2016 Analysis Part 2: THE MYTH OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA

Quietly released on a Friday Night


It’s All Your Fault! And why it isn’t

By Dean Heagle

In writing on the subject of the 2016 presidential election, I found that exploring any one topic, consistently shed light on more and more details. Gladly, the passage of time has helped solidify and expand these ideas. Thus, what was originally intended as a short article has become a four part series, replete with sidebars and additional analysis.

Drink Coke and Vote; Manchester, NH (Photo by Dean Heagle ©2016)

On the night of the 2016 presidential election, just listening to the talking heads was making me feel nauseous. I just had come back to my hotel room to get ready to go out to an election night party. But the news of a possible Trump win urged me to think carefully about my next move.
Should I get a drink or two at the election party, with a crowd whose candidate had just lost? Or would it be better to just stay in my hotel room? How should one should act in a group of people who are just getting past the point of denial? Do I play the clown and try to cheer people up? Do I become the compassionate counselor and offer some solace to people’s tears?

Surely, I thought, the crowd was already starting to get angry. And either personae I was considering would surely be hated. For, I had already been there and done that. And both the clown and counselor were hated once before. So, why would tonight be any different?

But a possible Trump win and whether to go out or stay in were not the only things that were making me feel uneasy. I also had to decide whether to keep listening to the election news or whether it would be better to just turn it off. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to know the details. Even though my team lost, I’ve heard bad news before and I can accept it. But what was really bothering me was listening to the talking heads going on and on and back and forth about how they had been so utterly clueless about a possible, now likely, Trump victory.

On election night, no matter the outcome, I usually love to pour over all of the little details until the wee hours. But that night, just listening to the talking heads was making me feel nauseous. They kept trying to rationalize the nature of their mistake and how only after the fact, they could now clearly see how they let the possibility of a Trump win get past them. And they felt it was their duty to once again show everyone how smart they really were and explain away what they had entirely missed before and why. And I found such prattle difficult to bear.

So why should I keep listening? From all of the possible angles they were now exploring, what they failed to do was to look in the mirror. For it seemed clear to me that without the mainstream media, a Trump presidency would have been impossible.
Trump was only able to rise as far as he did because the mainstream media gave him abundant air time for nearly his every action. His every outburst and lie was rewarded with coverage which amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars of air time that Trump didn’t even have to pay for. In fact, it’s estimated that Trump closed out the Presidential election with free coverage worth over $5.2 billion dollars. And with their near constant coverage of Trump it was the news media itself that was responsible for leveling the playing field much more than it should have ever been leveled.
There are many reasons why this occurred. For one, Trump himself was a great manipulator of the media and played them like a master. Secondly, the mainstream media often neglected details and nuisances like fact checking, in favor of focusing on the more sensationalistic aspects. And perhaps most importantly, the media behaved in their own corporate interests, to create an election that would keep the consumers tuning in and the advertisers happy. And the best scenario to ensure these two considerations was to turn the campaign into a horserace. And in turn they were able to make even Trump into a viable candidate. So the horserace was on.

By now, it should be clear that much of the media’s attention to Trump was misguided. Trump’s most outlandish statements were portrayed as him being not afraid of stepping on a few toes. His clearly out of control ego was spun as him believing in himself. And his poor judgement and bad behavior with women was brushed off as just being locker room talk and bragging like one of the boys. How could the talking heads not recognize the major role they played in creating this monster? Were they really that dumb?

But Trump’s election was not simply the fault of the mainstream media. He had help from a great many sources.
Trump labeled as “fake” news, any and all news stories that he found even slightly unflattering. It seems significant that Trump had the nerve to bring up the notion of fake news, since there was real “FAKE” news” heavily at play during this campaign. The real “FAKE” news was largely just made up allegations and innuendos most of which was simply fabricated by various alt-right authors. The real “FAKE” news was heavily anti-Clinton and pro-Trump. And it was this “FAKE” news which also conveniently landed in the news feeds of popular social networks which many voters later cited as highly influential in their decision to vote for Trump and 62% saying that social media was their main source of news.

And then add to this the hacking of campaign offices directed by the Russian government which resulted in choice bits being leaked about the Clinton camp while the Trump camp was left alone.
All of these factors collided during this campaign to the effect that there was a great deal of confusion about what was the truth and what were lies. This did become quite confusing so it’s harder to blame the Trump voters for making a bad choice, In the final analysis, it was the Trump voters along with the mainstream media who were the most manipulated.
Trump himself was shameless in broadcasting the concept of “FAKE” news. But to Trump “fake” news was any and all news that put him in the slightest unfavorable light. There is so much irony here that it would make a better novel than a real historic occurrence for at the same time, that Trump criticized any unfavorable coverage as “fake” news, he surrounded himself with ideologues who were the real creators of “FAKE” news and were expert at crafting sensationalist, hateful and incendiary rhetoric in his favor.

Let’s consider Steve Bannon who was one of candidate Trump’s campaign gurus and is now one of his key advisors. Bannon was formerly the Executive Chairman of Breitbart News, which is a popular favorite on the alt right. Breitbart’s previous claims to fame were that under the pretense of investigative journalism, they previously produced various “gotcha” videos that brought down A.C.O.R.N. and damaged Planned Parenthood.
Breitbart news is not just real “fake” news, it’s real “FAKE” news in all caps. The home page of Breitbart reads like the National Enquirer version of all things alt-right. Its readers include far right nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. A recent Breibart article titled Virgil: The Left Whips Up a Climate of Violence — the Prime Target Is Donald Trump reads just like a Trump campaign ad.
While right-wing talk radio has been stirring the pot for decades, Breitbart is the next evolution of this successful propaganda effort. And while right-wing talk radio has always appealed to people’s darker sides, Breitbart takes this up a notch and acts as a bona fide agent provocateur.
So how did we get to here? When did facts and words come to have so little meaning? When did the mission of the news become simply to work in the service of propaganda? When did our mainstream media as well as the general population lose the ability to discern the nature of different types of information?

Clearly the fourth estate has been failing us from all sides. On one side you have the mainstream media who helped Trump become a viable candidate. On the other side there is the real “FAKE” news, coming from who knows where, made up by people with an axe to grind, often so outrageous in its content that it actually gets more people to read it.
This was an election between an unqualified, immature egomaniac and someone who was highly qualified and had given most of her life to public service. But the constant news feed from the usual and not so usual sources made it seem that Hillary was disreputable, while even Trump’s most disgraceful actions tended to go uninvestigated or sometimes even lauded.

But, at the same time that the media has failed us, in many ways, it is we that have failed them. We have become too detached and indifferent, if not too lazy and complacent. We have come to expect information to come to us rather than seeking it out for ourselves and we have forgotten how to read with a critical eye. Advertisers now seem to prefer being fronted by the most bizarre stories of human decadence and depravity, because they know that we will click on them. Our valuation of human nature may have become so negative that we want to believe the worst in people and may even seek out such terrible stories. We know we shouldn’t look, but we can’t help ourselves.
In some ways this election was more in the hands of the media (both the “mainstream media” and the real “FAKE” news than it was in the hands of voters. These factors combine to allow Trump to sneak past the finish line.

So, Trump voters cannot be held entirely to blame, for they were the victims of a massive manipulation. The mainstream media should have known better, for without them Trump would not have had a chance. But in the end, they found themselves in the odd position of being both the manipulators and the manipulated.
While all of these factors were at play, we shouldn’t go so easy on ourselves. As members of a democracy we need to become more active, more evolved and more involved in civic matters. We need to make the effort to educate ourselves and find the time to dig deeper. For ultimately democracy is not in the hands of those who would manipulate us or a mainstream news media that’s just not up to the job. Instead it is we who must take control. For the future is truly in our hands.

JUMP TO SIDEBAR 3: MAY I MISQUOTE YOU ON THAT?====================================================

LINKS: (Part 2 of 4)
A Media Post-Mortem on the 2016 Presidential Election
I Ignored Trump News for a Week. Here’s What I Learned.
News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016
List of fake news websites
Steve Bannon: Who is Trump’s key adviser?
ACORN 2009 undercover videos controversy
Breitbart News
Breitbart Story: Virgil: The Left Whips Up a Climate of Violence — the Prime Target Is Donald Trump
Agent Provocateur: definition
NEXT: Election 2016 Analysis (Part 3 of 4)

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