Celebrate the Facts!
Corporate media may be aligned on one side of the fence or the other, but they all made money throwing snowballs at the ‘other side’ during the Trump debacle. Now the Trump regime is falling into the land of implausible conspiracy theory, Infotainment, also known as Hate, Inc. will be looking for content to keep the audience captive, and sell advertising to the precious age 25 to 54 age demographic.
What most people think of as 'the news' is Infotainment – culturally-aligned programming designed to pander to specific sects of the popular audience. Such masquerade reinforces and does not challenge, further distancing people from one another in political tribes, and obscuring discussion about the real issues pertinent to the welfare of the vast majority of Americans.
Before the 2016 election, Andrew Lack, then the head of NBC News, was concerned MSNBC’s revenue would take a 30 percent hit if Hillary Clinton was elected. But the reality TV show that was the Trump Presidency appeared and with it the fortunes of Infotainment soared. It has indeed been a profitable time for cable news, as well as a record-breaking year for political books.
Cable news ratings detonated in October 2020 as Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC all saw record numbers for the month. Fox News had the highest-rated month in cable news history, according to Nielsen Media Research. All three of the major cable news networks also saw substantial growth when compared to the same month last year. As discussed in a previous investigation, however, placing too much emphasis on Fox News success stories is mistaken, as CNN and MSNBC appeal to similar tribal audiences
Fox News was up 83 percent year-over-year in total viewers and 139 percent in the key 25-54 demographic that advertisers covet most in prime time. CNN saw a 98 percent increase in total viewers when compared to October 2019, and a 116 percent jump in the demographic, while MSNBC was up 38 percent in total viewers and 45 percent in the younger category.
The Trump Presidency will limp off as the biggest loser in election history with the resounding national repudiation of a 6-million vote deficit and so the Trump brand will be ever-tarnished. The current Donald Trump industrial complex efforts are best viewed as the monetization of resentment politics. The Trump contingent will likely spin away into entropic discussions on fringe media on limited platforms such as OAN and Newsmax. While the world of conspiracy theory will always exist, witness Holocaust Denial, such nonsense will at best be whispered discussion in polite society. The Trump following appears to be withdrawing to the aforementioned echo chambers but they will almost certainly remain isolated and without much voice or influence in the larger discussion.
Fox News, perhaps better viewed as the official White House network, will evolve from the smarmy call-ins by President Trump to an amen chorus of sycophantic fawning adoration and reinforcement. That is now gone. The new governance will be by traditional neo-liberal governance with a divided legislative branch stalling substantive social reform and be vanilla pudding after the past four years. Fox News will be hard-pressed to find villains enough to maintain an audience in what appears to be the most boring Presidency in the modern era, only rivaled historically by Calvin Coolidge.
Women of color such as the ‘Squad,’ Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and the hard-to-revile Kamala Harris are difficult to use as the necessary grist for hate media although they have some limited appeal. But where is the meat?
It is also hard to imagine much for Anderson Cooper to scold or Rachel Maddow to rail against. We may have arrived at the dawn of the Steve Kornacki era – the chart throb of the 2020 election – as a new Walter Cronkite or Dan Rather figure leading us in a daily, if mundane, read-through of the news.
And one cannot forget the master of hate media, Rush Limbaugh, a legendary disinformation source jacking up his millions of followers daily, finally going to the grave and taking his rictus of masturbatory right-wing propaganda with him. Sean Hannity and Mark Levin are out there in the wings but they seem unable to foster the same hateful connection with a fading white male audience as the liver-lipped Limbaugh. We can similarly expect the era of hate radio to fade with the long-promised demise of the master of the genre.
Stephen Colbert will find it difficult to stay relevant so audiences may move back to the sillier Jimmy Fallon, from politics back to entertainment. Bill Maher has an isolated audience on HBO and his snarky comments on society may continue to exist but without as much fuel without the indelicate excesses of the Trump circus. Seth Meyers will have to take a long look for things to take a closer look at.
Perhaps fabled stalking horses Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin or Nicholas Maduro can step in to provide some thrills and chills. We always have the prospect of genocide in Africa. The Middle East has been a source of great fun and adventure in the past and test driving some new weapon systems in another war of liberation is not out of the question.
So what will we do without the daily running sore of the Trump Administration?
Information about NBC’s concern about a Clinton Presidency was obtained at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/01/business/media/ben-smith-election.html. Data on cable news ratings were provided by https://thehill.com/homenews/media/523045-cable-news-october-ratings-explode-as-fox-news-hits-historic-highs.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.