From one ‘current thing’ to the next

I think the ‘liberal media’ vs ‘conservative media’ dichotomy is incomplete or lacking. Sure, it’s a more accurate heuristic than not, and explains how CNN and Fox differ in coverage of major events, such as Covid or the 2020 Black Lives Matters protests, which fell along predictable party lines. CNN tended to downplay the protests and up-sell Covid, whereas with Fox News it was the opposite.

But major media publications which are ostensibly left-wing reporting on shortages or crisis and having it trend on social media, isn’t doing any favors for the Biden administration, but is good for pageviews and other engagement metrics by having said articles go viral. Same for almost daily headlines in about inflation and weakness in the stock market by the putatively left-wing NYTs.

For example, from the NYTs on October 13, 2022: Inflation Is Unrelenting, Bad News for the Fed and White House. Fox News could have written that exact same headline. Or from NPR on July 13, 2021: Inflation Is The Highest Its Been In Nearly 13 Years.

My belief is that the liberal media, save for maybe MSNBC, is not going to sacrifice profitably and virality to go down with a sinking and increasingly unpopular administration that has lost control of the narrative. The media knows its role is that of the follower, finding trends and latching on to them as they become popular, like support for the Iraq War in 2003, and quietly walking away when the wind changes, such as the Iraq War becoming less popular around 2005.

This also shows the power of the media to create ‘current things’ by simultaneously reporting on something. A couple weeks ago no one was talking about eggs, now all of a sudden there is a massive shortage. Who knew. What happened to the infant formula shortage? Or the diaper shortage? It just shows how people keep falling for these media-manufactured crisis and re-tweeting them as fact because it agrees with their preconceived political beliefs. If Trump were in office, would the same people be tweeting these stories about shortages (and when Trump was in power, ‘blue check’ accounts were tweeting about all the bad things that were going on under Trump, as if he was causally to blame).

You cannot just rebuke the media for groupthink about Ukraine or fears over Russia starting ‘WW3’, but then uncritically and suddenly be sold on an egg (or whatever) shortage as truth by that same media. I am skeptical about anything that the media calls a crisis, whether or not it helps or hurts whoever is sitting in the Oval Office.

Below, according to Google Trends, you can see the life cycle the infant formula shortage, which captivated the nation for a few weeks in May 2022, until the media and everyone moved on:

Prices for consumer goods are not uniform but can fluctuate locally depending on many factors. If a certain area has a shortage, this context or detail is lost in the reporting, and a regional shortage can quickly become a national shortage as people stockpile in panic, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of higher prices until enough new production goes online to restore the old supply vs. demand equilibrium.

Whether it’s egg shortages or Biden’s careless possession of top secret documents, the goal is to keep the American public in a 24-7 state of heightened outrage or fear as we go from one crisis or ‘current thing’ to the next. It’s not exactly a new playbook…who still remembers the Summer of the Shark or Fox News’ dispatches from the frontlines of the War on Christmas? We’re supposed to be scared of shortages and outraged that classified documents were misplaced, and even if these things are true, the seriousness is largely manufactured and exaggerated, and tends to make things worse or Americans even more divided.

Also, 15 years ago, even with the seriousness of the Iraq War, the media seemed to have a silly or ephemeral quality to it, but now the stakes seem to be higher and more partisan, because everything now has a culture war framing to it: whose side you’re on is more important now than ever before, instead of just being an impartial bystander of the media and political circus. It’s not like during the OJ trial, which in 1995 also held the nation in rapt attention, was there any ‘side’, whereas the ‘woke wars’ are inherently polarizing. Even democrats and liberals, before they became known as ‘the left’, could poke some fun at the absurdity of the Lewinsky scandal. Maybe it’s time to turn it off. In a few weeks eggs will become abundant again and it will be on to the next shortage, whatever that is.

1 comment

  1. Of course there are fashionable media flare-ups. But there are also long-term trends that have been going on for decades, and even centuries. In order to get the big picture you should study cultural phenomena and of course follow the money.

    For example, the % of blacks in mass media has steadily increased in the past 40 years. I just happened upon a copy of a Time magazine from 1981. The only blacks in the entire edition were TWO featured in a short comedy movie review. Women, all white, were used as sexual lures in ads mostly. Actually submissive and attractive.

    If you compare that Time to today’s you would see that there have been huge changes in our culture. One has to wonder, with more than a little trepidation if you are a white man, what sort of future you are entering into by seeing the trajectory of where you came from, culturally. You need to extrapolate a bit. You will hopefully understand the great psychic change that has occurred and how this affects wealth and power.

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