If you sell culture war all day, don’t be surprised by the real-world consequences
Your point about the Democratic Party-aligned media 'juicing' Trump stories is spot on. Coming from the left, for quite a while I'd take them at their word whenever they'd summarized something Trump said. Then one day I actually watched one of the referenced clips in full and found that he hadn't said any of the things they said at all, they'd somehow projected or imagined that he had said something worse and attributed it to him. Since then, I've made a point of actually watching important clips all the way through, and frequently they don't line up with the juiced narratives that are being pushed.
For example, the hullabaloo over him telling the Proud Boys to 'stand by'. In the full exchange (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZk6VzSLe4Y) he's clearly denouncing them, but people seized on his awkward phrasing to make it sound like he wanted them to attack or something. (Katy Halper even repeated this during a Useful Idiots episode!)
To be clear, i think Trump is a dimwit and don't agree with him on a million things, but pretending he's some Grand Dragon Machiavellian Puppetmaster totally misses the point. Trump blurted out plenty of things that were disqualifying and frightening, you don't need to invent stuff. There are many more examples of this. My trust in most media has absolutely plummeted this year.
I don't think we can come back from this division.
Come on Elon - buy CNN (it's for sale for $10b) ....and give Matt or Glen the Chief Editor's job.
As I've said before on these pages, Matt T and I agree on very little policies, but his argument, "We need a new media channel, the press version of a third party." is 100% what is needed to bring this terribly divided country to some kind of peace resolution.
I've been saying for many many years, the mainstream media (NYT, WaPo, NBC, CBS, ABC, NPR, Academia, Hollywood) causes more division than the political parties. I believed if they weren't so one sided, Fox would never have been financially successful.
Matt & Glenn Greenwald are my heroes because of their courage and desire for honesty.
Matt, I am new to all of this, 67 years of age and finally paying attention. I took my freedom of speech, politics, religion for granted and now I am afraid we have lost them.
I have close liberal friends who believe there is no evidence of fraud and that Trump is a maniacal dictator. I believe that the election was stolen and is an act of treason. You described the great divide perfectly. How did we get this way?
My friends watch MSN and CNN, their parents, who are really old watch FOX. I don't watch any mainstream media, they all seem like caricatures. I like Epoch Times and Roman Balmakov on youtube, FACTS MATTER. I read lots of everything, NYT, WSJ, Time, YOU.
I agree with you - the days of coming home after work and turning on Walter Cronkite are gone. I like your idea of a new media system but how does one go about making that happen?
I am big on making a plan and breaking it down into baby steps, Tony Robbins style. The closer you come to defining your target, the greater chance you have of hitting the bullseye.
Keep up the good work.
This is the article that convinced me to become a paid subscriber. Thank you!
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED !! Lets divide the masses , keep them occupied with identity politics , Portland is burning down , Antifa terrorists , MAGA terrorists , attempted Coup , BLM terrorists , No masks-I Want my freedom Covid spreading terrorists , Putin stole the vote , millions voted twice terrorists , a muslim behind every rock .........and the band played on . Now while you are preoccupied with all that stuff allow me to continue with the greatest transfer of wealth in human history . I could use another house in the Hamptons . RIP the middle class.
There are alternatives -- until the social media giants shut them down. Bret Weinstein this weekend on one of his podcasts spoke of how social media companies are ignoring centuries of debate about free speech. They act like the issue just arose and are working through Free Speech 101.
There are others, here at Substack or with podcasts, who aren't in the business of catering to "the left" or "the right," though they might be guilty of catering to "the intelligent" (which SHOULD be an identity group). But who knows how long they will be allowed to exist? Weinstein has already been deplatformed once.
[I'm more than a little surprised you spent so much time on Fox News in the wake of Amazon pulling the rug out from under Parler. This is a pretty huge moment. Can cable companies, local or national, now abruptly dump networks under the pretext of violence instigation or hate speech? (Remember the cable networks showing the man in Ferguson urging the crowd to "burn it down"?) The implications are far-ranging.]
Amen. The histrionic reaction to the riots on Jan 6 and the weird about-face embrace of police violence in response was so sickeningly hypocritical. There's a reason I subscribe to this website and not the NYTime, or National Review, or any other mainstream source. They're all hot garbage these days.
Someone (not me, no tech skills unfortunately) should launch a service called “Yesterday’s News” that literally takes the top stories from yesterday and then points out what is factual and what is opinion. You could also have one right and one left commentator give their view on the opinion side and then readers would have the facts and both sides presented in the same place so that could make their own independent determination.
In the mid 1980s after trekking around Europe, I got a job in Germany (West Germany at the time). I listened to an eclectic radio station that had five minutes of news at the top of every hour. The news always began with three slow deep gongs — then the reporting would start. Something about the sombre tone of that gong and the serious tone of the announcer's voice always made me think that whatever was being reported was important. Since my language skills were limited I couldn't really follow the stories but the announcer's voice implied: This is serious and factual. At the time, two words I could pick out were "Afghanistan" (Russia was fighting the Afghans) and "Chernobyl" (the nuclear plant had imploded in 1986). When those words were spoken I knew that war and radiation were being talked about and that they were very serious matters.
Today the news I watch on broadband and on cable often fail to present an appropriate tone. Reporters signal their opinion with subtle gestures, eye-rolls, sighs or snide remarks. And with the explosion of "pundits, analysts, commentators, and columnists," facts and opinions can get mixed up and leave us misinformed and poorly educated about what is really going on. I agree with Matt, we need a new system. One that returns us to the unbiased seriousness that is factual reporting.
What you say makes sense, but you gloss over the differences between the approaches of both sides. Fox is mostly straight up propaganda, saturated in lies. MSNBC is not. There's a liberal point of view, but it isn't a factory of lies, as Fox certainly is. The Democratic Party is a more or less normal political party, in the model of parties in western democracies, moderately corrupt, disorganized, sclerotic, and the Republican Party is not, it's the equivalent of the far-right parties in Europe, racist and rebarbative in nearly every respect, and utterly divorced from any attachment to empirical solutions to our problems. Republicans deny climate change, pretend that tax cuts for the rich will help everyone else, that the only racism is anti-white racism, and that all regulations on business are bad and job-killing. There's no equivalent in the Democratic Party. So totally accurate and honest reporting will have to reflect this.
Gotta be the ass that says I told you the media wasn't going to chill out after Trump lost. The media has gone mental and will not go back to being sane.
Matt, I enjoy your writing and am glad that journalists like you have found an outlet like Substack. If I may provide some objective criticism, however, it feels like your position on “original sin” is evolving to the left a bit. What I mean is that most of what I read from you several months ago was either pretty agnostic on the issue or didn’t even address it at all. Your most recent writings, today’s being the best example, go farther in laying the original sin at the feet of Fox News. It is my opinion that the most dangerous journalist is not the blatant ideologue but rather, the journalist with a strong bias who feigns objectivity. Nearly all traditional media post-Reagan had slid a good bit to the left (including CNN) by the middle 1990’s, but feigned objectivity - as they still do. Fox News was launched as a reaction to this trend, as Roger Ailes famously saw their market as 50% of the Country. So, it is my opinion that the original sin is the ideological slide of traditional media to the left, with Fox News being a counter and alternative to that evolution. Fox’s success lead to the reaction of the traditional media to more open bias, and the launch of dog-shit cable news sites like MSNBC, with Trump being the final excuse to letting their bias flow freely. Let’s suffice it to say that Fox News could never have been created if Walter Cronkite was what traditional media looked like in 1996. In my opinion, there is no way to understand what is needed to correct the current media bias problem if we do not correctly diagnose the original sin in how we got here.
It's important, I think, to add that like all the best con-men the top media people believe their own bullshit.
I have a relative who is a genuine New York media elite. Can't talk to her at all. Trump supporters to her are drooling racists, that's it! No discussion. I try a Taibbian argument (you guys made this cake by selling drama and "narratives" while acting as corporate satraps). Nope! Wrong! I completely screwed the pooch when I suggested that Harvey Weinstein would never get a fair trial, and that should worry self-described liberals like her. Bam, no good, bad, scare bath! I added that he was a bona fide asshole from everything I'd heard and probably guilty of some if not all the shit he was accused of. My point was that he wouldn't get a fair trial. It was an ACLU-sticking-up-for-the-Nazis kind of thing. Didn't matter. She was like "how DARE you!" Suddenly I was a Trumpist, a sexist pig and a right wing Republican -- even though my politics have always been well to the left of hers.
The problem with the center is that no one is buying it, monetarily or intellectually. People want their juicy Hannity burger with an OAN shake, or the Maddow Supreme Pizza with some Seder cola. No one wants the Politico spinach salad with low-fat dressing.
I was watching Alex Jones trying to talk the almost-rioters off the ledge the other day and all I could think was "my god, this guy is one wrong sentence away from being shouted down as a Soros shill". One of the most wingnut conspiracy theorists in the world, and if he says something they don't like we all know many of them would instantly write him off as a sellout and move on rather than question than own beliefs. It's that easy to lose relevance.
Vox Day, the white supremecist had to flee Gab because he questioned the methods of those even further right than him. A lefty like Rogan becomes suddenly "alt-right" person non grata in humanities departments across the country because he doesn't want to see a trans-woman beating the snot out of unknowing cis-women. Tulsi Gabbard is accused of being a Russian asset for trying to utilize diplomacy rather than demonization.
Purity tests are the real driver of division.