Donald Trump’s Allies: Our Craven Media (And Our Apathy)

Here are some damning statistics (reported by the Washington Post) from “the Tyndall Report, which tracks the airtime that the various flagship news programs on NBC, CBS and ABC dedicate to a variety of stories.”

Quick, depressing, highlights:

1. The Republican primary race received more than twice as much coverage as the Democratic contest. (The larger number of candidates perhaps necessitated this but undoubtedly their illiterate pronouncements made for better copy.)

2. Donald Trump has received more airtime (234 minutes) than the entire Democratic field (226 minutes).

3. Joe Biden, who is not running for president, got far more coverage (56 minutes) than Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (10 minutes), who is running.

4. As Nate Silver pointed out on Twitter: “There are (slightly) more Bernie supporters than Trump ones, but Trump has gotten 23X more network news coverage.”

(Donald Trump and the rest of the xenophobic, racist, nativist, Republican candidates have not just received ample, disproportionate prime-time coverage; rather, when they have gone on air, their fact-challenged assertions have gone unchallenged. )

Some twenty or so years ago, in the course of a conversation with a disgruntled academic whose career had been spun off into the backwaters–thanks to the usual depressing combination of overzealous gatekeepers, unimaginative senior academics, and unsympathetic university administration–I heard him blurt out in disgust, “Scum rises to the top.” Yes, well, it does, but it needs help too from forces that impel it upwards.

Fascists and demagogues don’t magically acquire power; they draw it from their environment. In his rise to the top, or his race to the bottom, depending on your perspective, Trump has been aided and abetted by a media corps that prefers sensation over substance. This is not a new complaint in the American political context, but it needs to be made and aired yet again just so that when the time for reckoning comes, when the smoke has cleared, and this nation will–hopefully–wake up from this nightmare, blame can be apportioned fairly. (Even if uselessly.)

The problem, of course, is the insanity created by the election ‘season,’ which with each passing year becomes lengthier, more expensive, and as such, ever more vapid and offensive. Television channels run twenty-four hours a day; they need content and ratings and sponsors; and political candidates supply it. A vicious feedback cycle is rapidly created: Trump says outrageous things; other candidates try to match the bid; supporters in the respective camps take the rhetoric to newer depths; and all of this then makes it back to the newsroom. (I’ve never been happier about my decision to have cancelled my cable subscription a few years ago.)

Over at Corey Robin‘s blog, he asks what is to be done, besides gnashing our teeth, were Trump to come to power.  This is an excellent question (even though Robin seemingly only directs it at the ‘professoriat’): after all, it is unclear whether Trump will provoke serious in-the-streets resistance were he to become President. This is a nation that let a presidential election get stolen in 2000, which does not punish mass murderers and war criminals like the Cheney-Bush-Rumsfeld troika, and whose population is narcotized by television and long working hours.

Long dark nights and all that.

6 thoughts on “Donald Trump’s Allies: Our Craven Media (And Our Apathy)

  1. I wish and hope that if it comes to brownshirts raging in the streets that they get mowed down by National Guard units. I don’t expect it. The reason police are shooting black people in the streets with no punishment is because white supremacists have joined the police departments by the thousands.

    Otherwise liberals and intellectuals need to be prepared to defend themselves, or get taken to the “FEMA camps” where they can’t interfere with the plans of real Americans like Don Black, Cliven Bundy, Ted Cruz, etc. The day people started rumours about FEMA camps was the day we learned that many Republicans dream of setting up camps where liberals can go to die.

    Always Projection!

    Although Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio may be surprised at the attitudes of real white supremacists, who won’t accept leadership from people named Cruz and Rubio. They may wind up in the other camps. Or reservations, maybe in Death Valley, which isn’t commercially valuable. Let nature to the dirty work?

  2. It is the normalization of the absurd and the terrifying. I have seen this happen gradually over my own life time – in the US and elsewhere. Just think back to the era of Reagan and Bush I when most Republicans felt they had to maintain a patina of decency on the public stage. Then came the likes of Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich and the Tea Party demagogues. Frustrated by eight years of the Clinton administration, they took a sharp turn to the barbarian right and the tone of public discourse changed for ever. I agree that the media is largely to blame for reporting all the outrageous rhetoric emanating from the fringes. That in turn frames our own mindset about what is newsworthy. Sometimes we do not even realize how pernicious this cycle of media fueled frenzy can be. Thoughtful expression of ideas has become outdated outside PBS and CSPAN. With all the noise and blather out in the there (social media included) those of us who believe we are doing our own thinking are also getting swept up in the circus like atmosphere of one new provocation after another.
    I live in Texas. I am startled to see how different my world view is from most of my neighbors, some of whom I actually like. It is maddening and it is also frustrating to realize that there is probably nothing I will do if the unthinkable does happen.

  3. Not depressing enough? Look at the trend in Europe! It is the failure of liberal democratic capitalism and needs to be openly addressed as such. Thomas Friedman, NPR, Siedentop, Fawcett and all the rest need to be taken to task for their roles in undermining the labor left, for promoting “consensus” and peace through Mc Donalds and all the other absurd blather.

    The project is over when the global population expresses nothing but abject fear; fear of modernity, fear of the archaic, fear in their neighbor hood and fear of their neighbors. Voting for Hillary will do nothing to slow this trend so lets just get it over with; heighten the contradiction. Mao was correct; “the situation is excellent.”

  4. I came here from Corey Robin’s Jacobin article. I had also been depressed about the wilfully complacent media treatment of the cynical Republican political activities. Ted Cruz was being interviewed on NPR the other day, and he began to sound increasingly demented, deranged, paranoid and psychotic, with whirling spirals for eyes, and I began to get a tingling in my gut in anticipation of the possibilities if the interviewer explored these ravings in more depth. Steve Inskeep pushed back a little bit, but didn’t go very far. Sad to think that Cruz was revealing how his mind actually worked, and that some people, in the media and the electorate, think he is a possible person who you would want in the presidency or anywhere near it. All a result of the dishonest strategies of the Republican party since their decision to court the fear- driven ethnic nationalist elements that should probably have remained marginalized. Didn’t someone say, in a Seinfeld- like manner, “Nothing good can come of this”? Do they really need to give Republicans air time at all? Don’t they have their Fox news? How about putting some distance between their reporting and all that Republican verbal output that is part of the problem, not part of the discussion.

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