Sunday, March 6, 2016
Everyone knows that the 2016 presidential campaign, particularly on the Republican side, is a media-driven circus. Schoolyard insults and scurrilous language rule the day in this presidential race; issues hardly matter.
And there is no greater beneficiary than the mainstream media (which I also refer to as the corporate media, since six corporations control 90 percent of the daily newspapers, television, radio and Internet news outlets in the United States; one of them, Time Warner, is a major donor to Hillary Clinton).
When he was approached by Republican Party members in 2013 about the idea of running for governor of New York, Trump said he had his eyes on a much bigger prize: the American presidency. "I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off of me," he said. As Politico reported, Trump believed that "the networks would spend all their time fumbling over his ascendancy, which would in turn help promote his candidacy."
How does the media give credence to reactionary views by criticizing them? Simple. By constantly giving daily publicity to inflammatory and bigoted views, the media gives voice to them and provides an air of legitimacy.
Linguist and cognitive scientist George Lakoff wrote in his March 2 blog that "the more Trump's views are discussed in the media, the more they are activated and the stronger they get, both in the minds of hardcore conservatives and in the minds of moderate progressives...it doesn't matter if you are promoting Trump or attacking Trump, you are helping Trump."
The corporate media are helping Trump even with negative stories, because the controversy is good for their business. In the past, the mainstream media had some obligation and responsibility for educating voters about the issues, but today's reporters are more concerned with providing entertainment and getting the audience's attention--and nothing fits the bill more than a reality show celebrity for President.
CBS CEO Leslie Moonves bluntly told a Morgan Stanley gathering recently that Trump "may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS." Trump's ascendancy mirrors the merging of the reality show with politics, creating entertainment for the masses who soak it in. "Most of the ads are not about the issues," Moonves added, "They're sort of like the debates. Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now?...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."
The money will keep rolling in if the conflict escalates and Trump faces the quintessential opponent in the general election: Hillary Clinton.
There is one thing the mainstream media love more than celebrities and entertainment, however: controversy. The current news cycle depends on it. If there is one politician who embodies controversy, it is Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Just do a Google search for Hillary Clinton--two of the top searches will come up as "emails" and "Benghazi." But these are just two of the major scandals that has dogged Clinton over the past decade. She seems to attract controversy like a moth to a flame. A few of the other recent political controversies include:
1. Actions to help foreign firms as Secretary of State: For example, as Secretary of State she helped UBS, Switzerland's largest bank, avoid IRS prosecution. After her intervention, the bank funneled millions to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Foundation and paid her enormous speaking fees.
2. The Clinton Foundation: Much of the Foundation's funding comes from large corporate donors, some that were granted favors by the State Department when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. Previously classified emails show that foreign governments in the Middle East have contributed money to the Foundation which may have been made in exchange for federal contracts.
3. Conflict of Interest at Foggy Bottom: In June 2012, the State Department allowed Hillary Clinton's Chief of Staff Huma Abedin to also work for Teneo, a consulting firm run by Bill Clinton's former right-hand man. She also earned money from the Clinton Foundation and was paid directly by Hillary Clinton.
4. Speaking Fees: It's not just Goldman Sachs. Mrs. Clinton has been paid $1.8 million for at least eight speeches to big banks. Big banks and Wall Street firms are top contributors to her campaign for US Senate and for president. She claims the money doesn't influence her, but the Boston Globe reported during her eight years in the Senate, she failed to back bills to regulate the financial industry and she voted in favor of bailing out big banks after the 2008 recession.
4. Quid Pro Quo for Top Campaign Donors: One of Mrs. Clinton's campaign contributors, BlackRock, the world's largest asset management firm, is set to benefit from another Clinton presidency. The firm's founder, Larry Fink, openly said a Clinton victory could set him up to become the powerful treasury secretary. Time Warner, another big Clinton donor, could stand to benefit by resurrecting the Comcast merger and becoming an even larger media conglomerate.
Of course Trump has his own skeletons in his closet: Trump University, the hiring of illegal workers to build the Trump Tower, sexual harassment charges, etc. It's been also revealed that the billionaire businessman has given at least $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation and made multiple donations to Hillary Clinton's senatorial campaigns . As well he should -- since both Bill and Hillary were VP guests at Trump's wedding to his wife Melania back in 2005 and Melania herself gave money to Hillary Clinton for Senate in 2006 --more fodder for the tabloid media.
Controversy. Conflict. Power. Fame. Scandal. It's better than a reality TV show.
All of the above and more would guarantee a presidential race that has absolutely nothing to do with the issues that matter to the country, but one that would sell more newspapers and draw more ratings.
As the executive chairman of CBS said, "the money's rolling in and this is fun."