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Thursday, May 11, 2023

Caveat Emptor


"You furnish the pictures. I'll furnish the war."
-- William Randolph Hearst to Frederick Remington
    Spanish American War (possibly apocryphal)


In America, the media is driven by profit. 

Profit. 

Not a sense of duty. 

Not patriotism. 

And certainly not the truth. 

Profit.

Like everything else in this country. 

The bigger the controversy, the bigger the conspiracy, the bigger the car crash, the bigger the fire, the bigger the rage and hate and insanity, the bigger the boobs, the bigger the jaw, well, the bigger the profit. 

If it bleeds, it leads. 


That, right there, is Trump's only talent, being the biggest, loudest, bloodiest show. 


The rest of the media will follow CNN. 

They'll give Trump whatever he wants. 

And they'll do it knowing it will be the same as last night.

They'll do it knowing that if they push Trump on America, he'll burn the country down just as they and he did last time. 

They know it. 

Like any arsonist, they'll light the fire knowing they can't control the blaze. Knowing people will die. But, that's the whole attraction, that's the thrill, that's what brings out the crowd. 

And the crowd is the payoff. 

There's an old adage in transactional analysis that goes something like: bad strokes are better than no strokes. Now, I'm not going to spend any time regurgitating freshman psychology, but basically the idea is that people allegedly prefer good interactions with others to bad, but bad interactions are better than no interaction at all. And maybe from a personal mental health standpoint that's even true, however evidence would suggest that in this age of ubiquitous 24/7 news, talk shows, and social media, society as a whole prefers bad strokes. Bad strokes and as many as they can get. 

We seek it out, those bad exchanges.

We revel in them, no matter how destructive they are to our own mental health and thus to our society. We're addicted to the drama, the show, the fight, the rage, the hate, the endless argument. 

It's validating. 

It's entertaining. 

No one goes looking for news stories about making the world a better place. 

That's why the holy men never talk about their hippy prophet's messages of peace and love, but rather shout their god's threats of violence and damnation from the pulpit and the street corners and across social media. Don't believe me? Read those signs posted in front of all those churches, never once do you see quotes from Jesus to love your neighbor, feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the poor, do unto others, give up your wealth, reserve judgement for your deity. No, it's always hell and damnation and hate.

Peace and love doesn't put asses in pews or money in the plate. 

Rage does and bad stroke are not only better than no strokes, they're a lot more profitable

Rage, hate, insanity, conspiracy, hyperbole, these are the things that drive clicks and likes and thus profit

Essentially: If it bleeds, it leads. 

Because Americans, most of them anyway, aren't interested in a media -- or a religion -- that tells them The Truth. 

Americans by and large aren't capable of managing a four-way stop let alone critical thinking. 

They don't want to be challenged. 

They want their own viewpoint reinforced.

They want to be told they are right, that they are special, exceptional, superior, and that it's everyone else who is in the wrong.

Most of all, they want to be entertained. 

Bread and Circuses while the empire burns, same as it always was.

That's Trump. 

Trump is our Nero. 

He reinforces the very worst in us. 

He tells us it's okay to be an asshole. He tells us it's okay to hate, to rape, to bully, to be violent, to steal, to be greedy, to not give a damn about anyone else, to be crass and uncouth and to gleefully fart in the elevator, to be selfish, to be ignorant, to believe in a world of paranoia and conspiracy, to take the easy way out, and to value profit above all else. 

Trump is Gordon Gecko, greed is good the ends do in fact justify the means -- which is exactly the appeal of every rich man in America. When you're a star, they let you do it. 

He tells us it's okay to fiddle while Rome burns. 

Because he's the one who lit the place on fire for his own self-aggrandizement. 

We're outraged CNN gave Trump unfettered airtime last night, with only the feeblest of resistance and a live audience of handpicked MAGAs to cheer him on and whip him into his usual red-face sweaty frenzy. 

But it wasn't any more an accident than the Great Fire which consumed Rome in 64 AD.   

It wasn't any na├»ve idea that Trump would act like a rational human being and a normal political candidate. 

They did it on purpose and with malice aforethought, just as Nero did. They don't care about the lives destroyed by the fire, they only see the grand palace they intend to build in its place. 

Warner Brothers Discovery (CNN's parent company) and Chris Licht (CNN's new conservative CEO) knew exactly what would happen.

Licht knew Kaitlan Collins would immediately lose control of the situation. And she did. 

Now to be fair to Collins, it's unlikely given the conditions which were specifically tailored to Donald Trump's worst tendencies that anyone could have kept Trump from doing what Trump does. But, since we're being fair, my sympathy for Collins is about a flat zero, given her extensive personal history with Trump, there's no way she didn't know exactly what she was walking into and exactly what would happen. Also, this is where I remind you that Kaitlan Collins started her career peddling hysteria, hate, and conspiracy theories for The Daily Caller. So long as I'm being fair and all. 

No, everyone at CNN and its parent company knew exactly what would happen. 

They counted on it. 

Because that was the plan all along. 

And from a profit standpoint, it was brilliant. 

Just as Elon Musk offering Tucker Carlson a show on Twitter is brilliant and something that might actually make Twitter profitable again. Maybe not so much great for democracy or ultimately the Republic itself but Musk doesn't give any more of a shit about the future of America than CNN does. 

And not caring about any future beyond profit is what we're talking about here, isn't it?

CNN got exactly what it wanted. 

Fox can only drool in jealousy and you can bet they'll offer Trump airtime on his terms just as soon as they line up advertisers. Ditto CNN, MSNBC, et al.

Now, I'm not really telling you anything that you don't already know, am I? 

But the part that gets overlooked is this: News Media, whoever they are, left, right, their politics change direction at the whim of their drive-by CEOs. Their talking heads switch conviction and allegiance with a Gumby-like flexibility Mitt Romney can only boggle at. If Elon Musk suddenly discovers he can make back his billions from liberals, Tucker Carlson will be pushing vegan diets and solar panels next week without a single backward glance or an admission that he ever believed anything else. Just like that time Glenn Beck decided he hated Donald Trump and thought he could fleece liberals out of a few bucks, then switched back to full MAGA and pretended like it never happened. 

Just like Kaitlan Collins went from The Daily Caller to liberal CNN and is now the darling of the new MAGA CNN. 

There are no heroes. 

There is only profit.

And I don't expect any better from the Press than I do from Donald Trump. They are one and the same, made for each other like a snake eating its own tail. 

Depressing? 

Sure, but it's no different than it's always been. 

From the broadsheets of the British colonists to the yellow journalism of Hearst and Pulitzer to the content scraping blatant plagiarism of outfits like Occupy Democrats to this latest stunt by CNN, in America, the media has always been about profit first, second, and last.

(So have our politicians and our religions, but I digress)

Now, there are plenty of journalists with integrity and who hold their professionalism and convictions dear even if it costs them their livelihood -- and sometimes even their very lives. 

But the institution itself is about profit and always has been.

In America, the Press is supposed to be the watchdog of liberty, which is why it is the only private enterprise specifically given enumerated rights in the Constitution. And there are times when it is that, maybe less so now than in recent memory, but those periods of principle over profit are comparatively few and far between in the overall history of the business.

Expecting anything else is going to get you nothing but bitter disappointment. 

As always, the burden is on us. 

The Press, the politicians, the various gods and their prophets -- or profits, depending -- will not save the Republic or build a better future. 

They will not because they have no interest in any better future and never have. That better future is boring. It is war and chaos and hate and rage and hysteria that sells newspapers -- or clicks and likes and YouTube views in the modern currency. 

Or votes, for that matter.

No, that better future is on you, Citizen. 

Just as it has always been.

That's why the Constitution begins with "We the people..." not politicians, not political parties, not religion, not the Press, not corporations, but we the people

Because that's where the real power lies, if only we have the wit and the determination to use it wisely. 

If you want a better nation, be a better citizen. 


“Every time a newspaper dies, even a bad one, the country moves a little closer to authoritarianism…”
-- Richard Kluger, Pulitzer Prize winning American author.