June 19, 2016

EVERYTHING SEEMINGLY IS SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL: Nothing gets past the AP — in their Drudge-linked column, “DIVIDED AMERICA: Constructing our own intellectual ghettos,” columnist David Bauder suddenly notices that Americans like having choices where to consume their news and opinion:

In a simpler time, Albrecht and Dearth might have gathered at a common television hearth to watch Walter Cronkite deliver the evening news.

But the growth in partisan media over the past two decades has enabled Americans to retreat into tribes of like-minded people who get news filtered through particular world views. Fox News Channel and Talking Points Memo thrive, with audiences that rarely intersect. What’s big news in one world is ignored in another. Conspiracy theories sprout, anger abounds and the truth becomes ever more elusive.

I’m not sure if Cronkite is your go-to guy for a callback to a purer, better age, considering that at various times during his lengthy career as anchor at CBS, he claimed that Barry Goldwater was a crypto-Nazi, America had lost the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and that a new ice age was on the way. After he stepped down as anchorman, he yammered about one-world government and told Larry King on CNN in late October of 2004 that George Bush had Osama bin Laden on ice in order for him to dial-up speeches near the end of the election cycle, perhaps kept in the basement of the Ministry of Defense next to Austin Powers, Evel Knievel, and Vanilla Ice.

The month before Cronkite’s on-air meltdown with Larry King, his successor Dan Rather famously self-immolated over George Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service. But Rather also did his best at the start of his presidency to make it seem illegitimate:

“Florida’s Republican Secretary of State is about to announce the winner — as she sees it and she decrees it — of the state’s potentially decisive 25 electoral votes.”
“The believed certification — as the Republican Secretary of State sees it.”
“She will certify — as she sees it — who gets Florida’s 25 electoral votes.”
“The certification — as the Florida Secretary of State sees it and decrees it — is being signed.”

All the while claiming: media bias — who me?!

Fortunately, technology began increasingly to allow for alternatives. Alvin Toffler was writing about the “demassification” of mass media and how it might impact our culture during the very early days of cable TV in his 1980 book, The Third Wave. In 2006, I wrote an article for the New Individualist titled Atlas Mugged on how the Blogosphere was born due to bipartisan loathing of how newspapers and network TV news report the news.

As I wrote, neither side of the political aisle was happy with an “objective” media, which was a necessary fiction for radio and television to maintain for the first three quarters of the 20th century. This was a time when the first radio, and later TV networks were a massively expensive proposition, hence only three over-the-air national commercial networks. However, as a byproduct of their dramatic cultural influence, most cities were gradually reduced after WWII to only being served by a couple of newspapers. By the 1970s, the amount of news services producing content was remarkably small, despite an era that had no shortage of crises to report.

The arrival of first Rush and then in rapid succession Fox, Drudge, and the Blogosphere were a necessary and long overdue counterbalance to a left-leaning media posing as “objective.” Speaking of which, note that the AP still holds itself out as being objective, despite a howler such as this in Bauder’s column:

By 2002, Fox had raced past CNN to become the top-rated news network.

This was the beginning of a golden age of partisan media, though Rush Limbaugh had started a boom of conservative talk radio in the early 1990s.

There wasn’t anything to compare on the left, at least until summer 2006 when MSNBC host Keith Olbermann read about a speech where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld equated Iraq War opponents to pre-World War II appeasers. The next night, Olbermann angrily denounced Rumsfeld. Olbermann half-expected his boss to fire him, but management instead saw viewers had responded.

“The next day he came into my office and said, ‘could you do one of those every night, buddy?'” Olbermann recalled.

His show became home for disaffected liberals in the Bush administration’s final years. MSNBC hired Maddow and eventually made the entire network left-leaning. It didn’t really stick: Low ratings forced a turn to straight news in daytime the last two years, but vestiges of partisanship remain.

“There wasn’t anything to compare on the left” – other than NBCABCPBSCBSCNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and NPR. Not to mention, by 2006 a host of leftwing magazines, Websites, blogs and Internet forums. Plus Air America, which ran from 2004 to 2010 and served as MSNBC’s farm team.

But wait, there’s more:

Liberals like Jeff Cohen, communications professor at Ithaca College, believe that conservatives will always dominate mass media because of corporate ownership.

“Conservatives…dominate mass media,” despite the fact that journalists have been a reliably monolithic Democrat voter block since at least 1964.

And speaking of posing as objective when you’re really a group of Democrat activists with bylines, note the headline on this post, which is also a favorite leitmotif of James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal’s “Best of the Web” column. It was an AP headline in June of 2008, Democrat propaganda pretending to be news. Perhaps if AP had truly been worried about  readers departing to “intellectual ghettos,” they wouldn’t have worked so hard to drive them away in the first place.

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