Back in 2016 while commenting on all the free airtime his and other networks were giving Trump, Les Moonves said something to the effect that “it might not be good for the country” but it was, “Sure as hell good for CBS.” He wasn’t the only one who felt that way or even was willing to make such comments. I don’t know if anyone added up the dollar value of all the free airtime Trump got but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was a billion dollars’ worth or even more if he’d had to pay for it. The MAGA goobers of course at it up, comedians like my beloved Jon Stewart lapped it up for the satirical content it provided and tons of people tuned it at times too. There exists in all too many people a sick desire to stare at car accidents including and especially when they are really bad and people have likely been injured or killed. 2016 wasn’t the first time such “rubbernecking” took place with a political campaign but for the first time in a very long time (Goldwater?) a Presidential campaign was the car wreck that fascinated people.
Moonves was correct in both parts of his assessment. It was good for his network (higher ratings means higher ad revenue) and every other network. More importantly, it was bad for the country. In fact, as bad as most of us feared it would be it has turned out to be even worse than we feared. It has been, even before the current health crisis deadly. Deadly to people, deadly to good government and sane policy, and deadly to the web of international alliances that have kept the world somewhat protected from another WWII.
There are many who say the media has learned nothing from 2016. We thought, and it turns out foolishly so that networks had learned an important lesson when they stopped carrying Trump’s “rallies” live. Hell, even Fox stopped airing them from start to finish! Now he can’t hold them and addicted as he is to adulation he’s an addict who was cut off cold turkey from his drug. What he realized he COULD do however is get the cameras on him for an extended period of time every day with his daily campaign rallies masquerading as press briefings.
It’s my contention that the networks with perhaps the exception of CNN learned a lesson from 2016 they intend to apply this year. Trump gets them ratings which means they will make more money than they would be engaging in responsible journalism.
They want their f@#%king money from ratings and don’t care about the damage to the country, the economy or even the mass deaths that didn’t have to happen any more than Trump does.
The combination of people trying to glean information from the experts they can trust mixed with the same fascination with the “Trump Train Wreck” has eyeballs glued to TV sets. Higher ratings means more ad revenues and in the end that’s all the honchos at the networks really care about. All the damage Trump has wrought hasn’t cost them a goddamned thing. THEY are better off than they were four years ago and if Trump wins again because they have been giving him so much free airtime again they will be better off this time four years from now. They might not all be conservatives/Republicans but they clearly have the “I got mine so go f#@k off loser!” mentality of your average GOP person of wealth and power.
I get that Trump has got actual experts who know actual important stuff up there with him so the media has to at least show up to be able to report actual facts and try to get useful information out to the public. Trump of course craps all over them, and has put a couple of formerly highly respected professionals with sterling reputations built over decades of service in an impossible position. Fauci and Brix continually contradict Trump’s lies and bullshit with the truth, but each has been forced to do some ass kissing to avoid being fired.
That is all Trump, Fox News and the right wing media (i.e. Sinclair, talk radio etc.) needs to provide sound bites for the upcoming campaign. Zuckerberg’s FaceBook is surely coordinating with Brad Parsquale on careful targeting of ads and memes to the Trump faithful with skillful but misleading (if not outright lying) propaganda with selective editing of Trump’s statements mixed with those of Fauci, Brix and others to “prove” how “great” Trump has handled this crisis. The goobers will eat it up.
The other thing they can eat up is being reminded of all those hours of TV coverage the media gave to Trump and his team every freaking day! Sure, he’s been complaining about CNN no longer covering them live from start to finish (good for them – something I never thought I’d say again!) but there’s plenty of chatter in the country about them. People who aren’t political junkies, or who are overwhelmed trying to make it through each day and don’t have either the time or inclination to watch are susceptible to manipulation this fall when they actually start to pay attention whether to network news or social media.
There is no reason, NONE why every network can’t just record these “press briefings” and edit them down into thirty minute show each evening that covers the actual useful, ACCURATE information provided by the experts and the highlights or perhaps more accurately lowlights of Trump’s verbal diarrhea with some commentary from their own in-house experts.
However, as I’ve said the honchos want the ratings and the increased ad revenue they can charge. So the bottom line is that people who have thought media honchos didn’t learn the lessons of 2016 are flat-out wrong. They learned a lesson alright. It’s just the wrong one for the good of the country and the world.