Sunday, January 15, 2017

$5 billion worth of free media coverage will get you the White House

A few days ago, I learned something astonishing. Someone crunched some numbers and found that by March 2016, Trump had received $2 billion in free air time on TV. Well, according to this article, he "earned" it. The latest estimate I can find shows that Trump "earned" a total of $5 billion in free media by November, (twice as much as Hillary Clinton). Trump is a master at working with media and that explains why he piled up so much coverage. As a master media manipulator, he fits the definition of entertainer. Yes, he may be president in a few days, but he'll always be an entertainer to me. 

Let's not forget how the dummies at the DNC encouraged their allies in the mainstream media to cover Trump above all others on the Republican primaries. I think it's fair to say that their plan backfired.

So how did Trump thank the media for all that coverage, gratis? "You're fake news! Next question!" Translation: "Your fired!" That was a few days ago at his first press conference since the election, and you can catch it in this video:

Here we see Trump calling out a reporter from CNN as "fake news". I could hardly believe what I was seeing. The kicker is this: they will come back for more because that drives ratings through the roof. Anyone who saw that clip will be looking for more coverage of Trump and watching him dispatch anyone who he thinks is in the business of selling fake news. I can't help but recall how CNN chose to train a camera on a vacant podium at a Trump rally instead of showing us a Sanders rally, live.

This is a story about how the mainstream media tried to choose our president for us. I think someone at the top truly believed that voters would come to their senses and vote for Clinton while they were making money on Trump. Look at all the decisions they made up to the point of seeing the outcome of the election and we can see that they knew that they were not making the right choices for the country. They were in the business of making money and while they were doing that, they just forgot the part about serving the country and informing us of all of the candidates. They did not give equal time.

From the Hollywood Reporter, we learn that the CEO of CBS Leslie Moonves has very nice things to say about Trump like, "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS", and "I've never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going," And here is the money shot"Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now? ... The money's rolling in and this is fun." Who signs his checks?

90% of the media is own by 6 parent corporations. I'd say it's the CEO of one of those parent companies that signs Mr. Moonves' checks. CBS is not the only one. All of the major networks played this game for fun and profit. Clearly, the money clouded their judgment and we got Trumped. Ha ha. For the record, I'm not a Trump or Clinton supporter, I wanted Bernie Sanders and he got the least amount of coverage between the three of them.

I've lived for years without cable, without TV on a schedule. That broke the habit for me. I just don't watch live TV except for the weather report. I have lived with days at the park, bike rides around town, walks to the store to get something to eat and I'd like to keep it that way. Now I have a family and I spend time with them. There is just something that gnaws at me, reminding me that the TV doesn't love me, that the TV is a distraction to the life buzzing around me. I still watch some, but mostly on my own schedule, my own terms with no commercials. 

For me, the spell is broken, but I observe the people who still watch TV the old way, even with a DVR. I see how they vote and how they choose their products. My rule is this: if I see something advertised on TV, I make the immediate assumption that I don't need it. This holds to true to most political ads, too. I think what really got to me was a book I read when I was a kid: Subliminal Seduction. It seemed such a curiosity in the bookshelf and since then, I have known that there are hidden messages in adverts, so I avoid them. I don't like that kind of influence on my brain.

That power to advertise below the conscious level is dangerous. That is the power of the media. They seem to have created a Skinner Box to condition voters in such a way as to ensure that their favored candidates win. The Skinner Box is about insecurity and how to get relief from it.

If millions of working class people suffer from job insecurity, then the people with some of the best jobs probably feel the most insecure, not for lack of food or shelter, but for the lifestyle and the status they hold now. The business owners at the top are fine because they're signing the checks and have the option not to. But the people working for them are worried about the money, not the choices they should be making as journalists or editors. Inequality doesn't just affect our economy, it affects our media and the choices they make. If the goal is to drive up ratings irrespective of the message, what is the point of journalism?

Trump didn't have to win the money primary. He won the media primary and then went on to win the election through the media. According to this article, by October of last year, Trump's campaign raised $512 million compared to $1.1 billion for Hillary Clinton. And Clinton still managed to lose the election. She lost largely due to her incompetence as a candidate as her campaign funding was more than adequate. But there is no dispute that Trump owes much of his victory to overwhelming support from mainstream media, to the tune of $5 billion in free coverage.

The lesson here is that money can and does cloud our judgment. This election is just the tip of the iceberg as to how money clouds our judgment. The polar ice caps are melting. We live in an economy mostly driven by the use of oil, coal and gas as energy sources. Our oceans are filling up with plastic. Plastic comes from oil, yet another use for fossil fuels, yet another source of money. And we are continually mired in war over that oil. Those are just a few examples, but I think you get the idea. When it comes to money, humans have a hard time maintaining empathy for others and the environment. I'm not saying we can't, I just saying its difficult.

We could talk about the Fairness Doctrine and the Equal Time rule, both from the FCC. But ultimately, it comes down to us to check our sources and to make conscious decisions about what we choose to believe in the media. Then its up to us to make informed decisions based on that information. The moment we make a conscious decision to decide for ourselves how to vote, the spell is broken.
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