This really was an excellent piece. I think the problem is more aggressively exacerbated by two facts: 1) both parties facilitate the interests of the oligarchy by different means, but at different points in history, for whatever reason, one party does so more effectively (and it goes in cycles) and 2) the eradication of the middle class and the associated economic problems enhances the polarization, and by extension, determines allegiances to particular media outlets and perspectives much more aggressively.

Regarding the first point, there is no longer a meaningful political party dedicated to working people, and both parties are contributing to the annihilation of meaningful economic opportunities for the working class. Generally speaking, the Democrats support globalization, immigration, and the growth of a captured regulatory state that has annihilated the value of labor throughout the country, and Republicans support taxing economic rents less than income derived by work and ridiculous and expensive foreign boondoggles (at least until Trump).

However, for whatever reason, the mantle of who is going to hammer the middle harder switches every decade or so. For example, there’s no question in my mind that George Bush’s Republican Party of 2000-2008 was the far greater evil of the two parties at that time. The Iraq War, bailouts for the super rich, etc did more meaningful harm to working people than the Democratic alternatives of the day (even though they also would have served the interests of the oligarchy if they came to power, but I can’t imagine Al Gore, John Kerry or Obama (first term) wrecking things as badly).

In contrast, today, the Democratic Party is more dangerous because what is really crippling the country is the diminished value of labor, and education isn’t the answer. There is no way for you to specialize out of the problem when everything is open to insourcing and outsourcing, and there are only so many jobs in finance and consulting. Obviously, the Republican tax policy is absurd, especially in light of the recent bailouts, but what are increased taxes going to do if Bezos is the only employer (exaggerating obviously, but you get the point). The tax dollars are going to fund a larger bureaucracy staffed by people that want to eventually work for the entities they regulate, and by extension, assist in the gutter concentration of wealth and power?

Of course, a cynical view is that there is no longer any meaningful choice and the two parties are just one apparatus, with puppet masters pulling the strings. (People laugh at conspiracy theorists, but the older I get, the more plausible this theory becomes). Nevertheless, even if this is true, even if there is no real substantive difference, when the population votes for the guy or gal at least paying lip service to their concerns at a particular time, it at least serves as a vehicle of expressing frustration or protest.

The cyclical nature of when the population feels the pain of the poor decisions of one of the two parties likely determines permanent allegiances. If you watched Sean Hannity lie through his teeth about the Iraq War and you experienced the financial devastation associated with (or at least catalyzed by) the Iraq War, you are likely going to be MSNBC for life. In contrast, if during the Obama years you began to really feel the accelerated impact of globalization and immigration on the labor market, whether you are an engineer for an American tech company or a blue collar worker, and the Democrats call you a racist because you are voicing a legitimate economic concern, well now you are a Tucker Carlson guy, and aren’t going to be interested in what MSNBC has to say.

This leads into my second point that the economic condition is leading to the polarization because both sides are contributing to it, but people feel differently depending on where they are on the economic ladder. Democratic trade and labor policy and Republican tax policy have jointly resulted in the end of opportunity in this country, and depending on which team you owe your allegiance to (which is largely determined by where you got hit big in the cycle) is going to result on what information exclusively reenforces your view on why the country is in the toilet. If you listen to MSNBC, you will focus on Republican tax policy. If you listen to Tucker Carlson, you’ll likely focus on trade and labor policy.

A penultimate point, I may be getting conned on my end or it may be where my bias falls because of how the cycle impacted me, but I feel as if there is genuine populist reform on the right and nothing of the sort on the left. Tucker Carlson has repeatedly stated it’s absurd that billionaires pay less taxes than working people, and there was even a spat between him and Hannity on the point (with Hannity having to back down on social media). He did a ten minute segment on how Republicans should primary seven Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham, because they support H1B1 visas as the pandemic rages on and workers are having a difficult time finding work as it stands. I see no acknowledgement of any kind by prominent leftist media people about these problems. If you are against illegal immigration or globalization, you are a racist. Period and end of story. There are people on the left in the media that discuss these issues with great nuance, but nothing in the main stream.

Finally, economic issues are more important than anything else in keeping a society united. The polarization of media tastes and the surrounding economic model related therewith is a symptom, not the disease. The elites of both parties made a really, really bad bet. They bet that globalization would force societies like China to become more open and democratic, but the opposite happened. Why? Because no one gives a shit about freedom, people care about prosperity. This is why China is unified and growing, and as the country grows stronger, it is imposing more draconian political repression. No one wants to come to the United States because of “freedom,” all peoples of different races, creeds and religions want (or wanted) to come here because this was the land of opportunity and it’s still running on that reputation (whether it still is, is another matter). As the economic conditions worsen, so will the polarization.

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The TV paradigm provided us with a canon that offered us a relatively balanced structure comprised of four non-submersible narrative voices: Ads, News, Arts Entertainment and Sports. Thus, we could inject any subject into that structure and be assured of a diverse perspective. For example, steroids:

Ads - you should buy steroids

News - This is what Steroids are, these are the pros and cons of steroids, here is a study.

Sports - Don't do steroids

Arts Entertainment - Here is a story about some guy who gets 'roid rage and punches people

When the Internet arrived, it dissolved those boundaries and raised television up to the status of being an art form for the first time in its history (with all the accompanying wide-screens, high definition and mega-films). Marshall McLuhan would have noted here that TV had suddenly evolved from being a low definition or "cool" medium into a HD "hot" medium. A hot medium is home to despots and shouters, so where Joe McCrathy quickly burnt out on TV in the 1960's, he would be very much at home with the Hitler types on todays television.

As a consequence, we can no longer use the TV canon or structure and hope to find any perspective. It's all theatre now. Adsportsnewsartsentertainment. The sports is ads and news, News anchors are entertainers and comedians are doing the news. And it's all riddled with the copywriters from Madison Avenue.

The WWF of the early 1980's was a herald of the future. This is Hulk Hogan's world now - just ask Peter Thiel.

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Well what do you want him to do? He is a journalist and getting his words out an it is to be hoped paid is his job, for Christ’s sake. Even though my family thinks I am a fascist, I am always glad to hear Matt’s opinion and news; he like Greewald is an honest person.

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Dan Rather 'objective, 'neutral'? Surely you jest.

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It's hard to have a consensus on anything like a national agenda after fifty years of virtually unrestricted immigration. So, as much as I'd like to blame the media for polarization, that's a little too pat. A "national agenda" today would be just as fraudulent as the heylookasquirrel we have now.

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Matt repeats this refrain, almost word-for-word, in the span of three paragraphs, but does not actually support the contention with any basis in fact. Certainly, some conservatives were looking for affirmation that there were such villains, but as one of the early Fox viewers - less than half the age of the "target" audience - I can tell you why I started watching. It was because I thought Bill Clinton was a scoundrel, and I liked hearing other people with the same opinion. I didn't care at all about Hillary - not at first - not until she started to lead the campaign to destroy the lives of anyone who dared to speak against the President. Good article, Matt, but you completely miss on this element.

Hate, Inc. is contaminated with this trope that somehow it was Fox that first started sorting viewers, as if that had not already been in process for decades but without right-leaning competition by the three broadcast networks. Brokaw, Jennings, and Rather were died-in-the-wool liberals thinly veiled as straight-shooting newscasters. The Reagan-right was hungry for alternative perspective. Fox merely satisfied and audience that already existed thanks to the liberally-biased media.

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I just want to get this out here, publicly: I’d never, ever watched MSNBC before. Never watched Fox. Never watched CNN. I had no idea who Rachel Maddow was and only knew who Hannity was because I watched Jon Stewart. But after the election, I started watching all three channels obsessively. Literally, the morning after the election, I turned on MSNBC. And I’d switch from MSNBC to Fox to CNN during commercial breaks. I did that for two-and-a-half years before I couldn’t take it anymore.

I don’t really know what my point is, except that Matt’s right. Trump is definitely good business for these “news” channels. He worked on me.

Also, I just wanted to admit that I watched that garbage for almost three years. I feel better having admitted this. Cleaner.

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WTH....I cant get to the full article but my account is current?

What am I missing?

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As always, thank you, Matt, this time for an historical perspective on the business model for news. What do you make of the fact that the Assange trial continues and one has to search to find those in the tiny, exclusive club of non-mainstream journalists and supporters who have at least video access to the trial? The prosecution is now arguing that possession or distribution of national security info (journalism) is a crime. Where are the MEDIA? Do they care? At all?

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I would like to respond to this segment in the piece: "It’s become difficult to have an argument in the traditional sense. People with differing opinions are often no longer even working from the same commonly-accepted set of facts."

Over 30 years ago, I received an insight from Thomas Gilbert ("Human Competence") that applies to this. He received it from observing an argument among six of his relatives on a Southern front porch many years prior regarding "Robert E. Lee." Being a very keen observer, he started to realize that an argument could be framed from at least six different levels: tactical, logistics, strategy, policy, culture and philosophy. Yes, "facts" apply to all the levels and often the reason why a fact at the strategic level doesn't get accepted is because of something that's hidden in the cultural or philosophical level.

I'll leave that there for now.

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Is there a search function on this site? I am unable to locate a post I made recently. Can anyone help?

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Random note: those of us who are hungry for good journalism are starving out here, Matt! Lay something on us!

I kid! (Mostly)

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I don’t get the resentment of the focus on the media when it, in lockstep with academe, provoked and cemented animosities that brought us to the present crack-up.

The media drilled down on existing animosities. Like Montaigne’s travelogue of 16th Century Europe – how different regions behaved, ate and slept, Travels with Charley is full of insights, astoundingly prescient premonitions and benchmarks regarding the U.S. circa 1960. Steinbeck was a Democrat, his sisters Republican: “We ended each session panting and spent with rage. On no point was there any compromise. No quarter was asked or given.” Long discussions with reporter friends, who felt that “guts” and “champions” were becoming hard to find in what America had become – you “can’t defend a country from a boardroom.”

Steinbeck left Sag Harbor on his 6-week drive across the country after a hurricane, in September.

When not re-educating, the media thrive on omission. Witness the inexcusable failure to describe what was going on in Seattle’s occupied zone until after the fact. Didn’t want to offend the new religious icons, armed and looting, or present in a poor light. Or describing as mostly “peaceful” protests that by any five-year-old’s lights are nightly putsches. Eight years ago, either fudge would have merited a firing and earned widespread opprobrium. Reporting standards are in the gutter. The awful little Brown Shirts invading restaurants, shouting in people’s faces and demanding raised fists elude the painfully obvious historical comparisions, They accost and shout in small crowds because they are cowards. If one happens to be arrested, pepper sprayed, or shoved back, the mob will make short and gleeful work of the assailed. We’re getting to some basic human instincts here, and it isn’t pretty

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I subscribed, received an email with a link to the article, but still can’t read the article. Clicked on the link and it took me to the same short version of the article with the subscribe link at the end.

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RBG dies, Covid reigns, cities are on fire and we get an advertisement for his latest book. Terrific.

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