Media reform needs to be a national priority. Read the entire article here.
by Neal Gabler
The media had a lot to do with enabling the rise of Donald Trump. Just not how most people think.
To enable Trump, what the media did is fulfill what almost seemed to be a longtime mission: to create the first “pseudo-campaign” with the first “pseudo-candidate.” And now they are having buyer’s remorse.
CBS head Les Moonves gave away the game earlier this week when he admitted,
“It may not be good for America,” meaning the Trump-dominated campaign, “but it is damn good for CBS,” meaning the ratings. And then he kept doubling down: “The money’s rolling in and this is fun.” “I’ve never seen anything like this, and this is going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”
“Donald’s place in this election is a good thing” – presumably for CBS stockholders. To which I can only say that the networks were granted licenses to the public airwaves, our airwaves, by promising to provide a public service. Moonves just blew that pretense all to hell.
The far more grievous crime is what the media have been doing to our politics for decades now – something for which Trump just happens to be the chief beneficiary. Nearly 60 years ago, the historian Daniel Boorstin in his seminal book The Image described a society in which things were increasingly staged expressly for the media without any intrinsic merit of their own – things like photo ops, press conferences, award ceremonies. He labeled these “pseudo-events” because they only looked like real events, while being hollow inside. And Boorstin defined pseudo-people too – people whose activities, as he put it, had no intrinsic value either. He called them “celebrities,” and he defined them as people who were known for being well-known.
Another way to think about it is that a pseudo-campaign is all about itself and not about the presidency. Just look at the horse race aspect, which has long consumed 95 percent of our election coverage. Trump is the horse-race candidate, expatiating on little else besides his lead in the race. But let’s be clear: Donald Trump did not create this situation. He is its heir..
And let’s be clear about something else: we only tolerate this state of affairs because the media have changed our expectations of a campaign. Having given us nothing in election after election but a show, we expect nothing but a show.
While celebrity may not be much of a recommendation for the presidency, it is a hell of a recommendation for a presidential aspirant performing before a media that is far more interested in creating a reality show than presenting a process for selecting a leader.