Tuesday, August 31, 2010
The Media Loses Readers and Viewers to its Own Radicalism
Whether it's Newsweek being sold to the husband of a Democratic congresswoman for a dollar, or ABC deciding to turn This Week into a BBC program by turning over to Christiane Amanpour, last week the dying media itself provided us with two examples of why it's dying. By choosing radicalism over readers, the media continues narrowing its own readership and viewership, pursuing ideological purity, not only over integrity, but even over its own profits and future viability. Take ABC's news division, which has always been notorious for its political radicalism and distaste for the average American viewer. Whether it was Peter Jennings comparing American voters to "a nation two-year olds" throwing a tantrum for voting in a Republican congress in 1994 (expect this metaphor to make a comeback after these midterm elections) or Ted Koppel turning the names of dead servicemen into an anti-war statement (Koppel was the alternative candidate to take over This Week), this has been the ABC way. But turning over This Week to Christiane Amanpour is part of the growing blend of ABC News and the BBC.
The question though is who is Christiane Amanpour meant to appeal to? To viewers who wanted another foreign talking head snootily reading the news at them, not to them. Who were desperately longing for an ABC News on air personality sympathetic to Islamic terrorists? And why would those people even bother with ABC News, when they already have the BBC.
The problem with the American media is that it doesn't speak to Americans. That's why FOX News is successful, and CNN is in the basement. Network news exists underwritten by medication and mutual fund commercials, and even so it's losing money. ABC News is making severe cutbacks even while cutting Amanpour a 2 million dollar paycheck for a show hardly anyone watches anymore. And despite investing in a splashy media rollout for the Amanpour branded This Week, she finished a distant third, well behind Meet the Press. While viewers normally tune in to see a new host, the addition of Amanpour couldn't even compete with CBS or NBC's own similarly decaying programs on the day of her own debut.
The left is furiously blasting Washington Post TV Critic Tom Shales for stating what was obvious to everyone, that Amanpour is out of place, completely clueless about US politics and insists on internationalizing domestic issues. But shooting the messenger won't save Amanpour. Her hiring is only the latest manifestation of a media that is too radicalized to save itself. Bringing in a personality from the sinking ship that is CNN was obviously a bad idea on commercial grounds alone. Amanpour left CNN, for the same reason that Campbell Brown did. And ABC News taking Amanpour in, demonstrates that they share CNN's bad judgment.
Unlike ABC producers, Americans are not interested in an "outsider's perspective" on American politics. They can get that from the White House. Threatening to stab Tom Shales with a knife won't change that either. Amanpour's promise to "open a window on the world" for what she imagines are parochial American viewers is condescending even to those who agree with her. It's grating to those who don't. Because Amanpour's window is the parochial European left-wing window from which you can see Brussels, but not Iowa, a stifling world that is upper class in its arrogance, and low class in its empathy for terrorists. ABC News producers may be determined to bring that tiny dollhouse of a world to Americans, but who exactly is supposed to underwrite this project? The BBC and its outrageous salaries are funded by taxpayers. ABC has to pay its own way.
And that is why the media is doomed. By putting politics over profitability, the media left alienated viewers and readers exactly during the critical transition period when it needed them most. And the worse its fortunes grow, the more radical its politics have become.
Ruling out NewsMax as a buyer, while selling Newsweek to the husband of a Democratic congresswoman for a dollar (still more than it's worth) will allow it to keep grinding along for a time as a source of lifestyle tips and left wing rants. It is however only a matter of delaying the inevitable. The media cannot survive as a pity project. Not while it is alienating its remaining viewers and readers. And even a government bailout cannot sustain a financially unsustainable industry. And finally there are only so many jobs available at PBS and NPR.
When the left turned magazines, newspapers and TV news into its own bully pulpit, they helped drive away consumers, while locking up those same publications and broadcasts into a liberal ghetto, that was still not liberal enough for them. As print publications increasingly turn their websites into masses of blogs, it becomes hard to tell the difference between Time Magazine, Foreign Policy and the New York Times-- and the Huffington Post and Daily Kos. All of them have angry left wing bloggers denouncing Republicans, America and Israel. The difference is that the official media outlets have more prominent names like Joe Klein or Robert Mackey blogging for them.
The Journalist scandal is the tip of the iceberg that shows just how thin the line between the press and the policies that they advocate really is. But that's not news to anyone. The liberal media is not some right wing talking point, poll after poll shows most of people who read newspapers and watch the news have come to that conclusion on their own. Because while the media elite may sneer at them, the public knows quite well what they stand for. And the more the media goes left, the less the public trusts it. Not just Republicans, but Democrats too. Because bias is bias, even when it does lean your way, it reduces the credibility of its purveyors as an information source. And the more they lose their audience, because the right tunes out and the left gets bored agreeing all the time, and heads to MSNBC in search of some red tofu.
Lenin called on Communists to seize the telegraph offices, telephone stations and post offices in order to control the means of communication. The American left has seized the means of cultural communication, hijacking the media, the educational system and entertainment, and turning them into vehicles for their brand of political indoctrination. And they've managed to badly devalue all three. The American educational system is a shell of what it used to be, the media is imploding and the entertainment industry keeps hitting new lows. Just as in the USSR and Venezuela and everywhere else, what the radical left controls, it also destroys.
The left's hijacking of American culture has turned institutions into rags and rubble, and it will only get worse. Because the left does not know when to stop. Does not understand that it should stop. That is why left wing revolutions that do succeed, eventually culminate in multiple levels of purges that exterminate many of the original revolutionaries, or send them off to fight and die somewhere else, turning them into convenient martyrs who look good on blood-red T-shirts.
Obama's vision of the media was as purveyors of his talking points. To that end he kept it at arms length, even while using it non-stop to promote himself. By turning the media into his publicists, he helped accelerate a rapid slide that had already been under way, ending any real distinction between news and celebrity news, between opinion and reporting, and between the liberal media and the liberal government. And when Ezra Klein tried to occasionally draw a line between themselves and the politicians they cover, it was a line that was no longer there anymore, because the media had found its mission in the advocacy of liberal domestic and international policies, of convincing the public that their political way was best. How many lines could be crossed in the name of that advocacy was by this point a subjective matter, a question of what individual members of the press were comfortable with. while still retaining the illusion of their independence.
When it came to a showdown between the principles of journalism and the principles of liberalism-- journalism never stood a chance. And all that was left was shrill political advocacy, propaganda if you will. Numerous stories praising their politicians and their cultural figures. Numerous other stories damning opposition politicians and elements of culture that displeased them. And the costs to the nation were high. The same media that did everything possible to destroy McCain and Palin, also portrayed Obama as a visionary leader, even though he had barely nailed down 100 days in the Senate before running for President.
The tripled deficit, the economic and political disasters, the greed, corruption and misrule can all be laid at the media's door. And plenty of people are doing just that. The media fervently championed an unqualified candidate, lied about him and his opponents, and then went on lying about his policies and their consequences. They sold the public a bill of goods, and that same public will also hold them responsible. When the media tore up any distance between themselves and the story, they became the story. Jornolist was the story of how the story was made, of how the lies were told and the talking points developed. And there will be more like it.
The disconnect between those who set the agenda and those who cash the checks, makes it so that the owners of media corporations will suffer for the actions of employees who care more about pushing their point of view, than about the survival of their medium. And the readers and viewers have more incentive than ever to go elsewhere, because the media monopoly is only over.
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