President-Elect Donald Trump’s first news conference since the November election vividly displayed how he has turned the media world upside down. His unprecedented campaign and transition points to an administration committed to solidifying a media revolution that began decades ago.
The media, especially the 95 percent within the media who are liberals, are in free fall in audience and credibility. A recent Associated Press survey reported that 96 percent of Americans no longer trust the “mainstream media.” The media elite are still in denial that their world of unaccountable privilege and bias has vanished.
How the media elite respond will determine whether anyone listens to them ever again. The latest Buzzfeed/CNN promotion of false Trump trash is further evidence that the elite are on a different planet from the real world.
The American news media was “middle of the road” and patriotic until the mid-1960s. At that time the older generation of media moguls retired or died, ushering in activist liberals. Media liberalism became radical with the Vietnam War and Watergate.
Accuracy in Media (AIM) was founded in 1969 by Reed Irvine to expose this new liberal media bias. AIM’s documentation remained within conservative circles until Vice President Spiro Agnew used its research in boldly partisan speeches during the 1970 elections.
Americans were also held captive by three broadcast networks and Public Broadcasting until CSPAN cable television entered the scene in 1979. Conservative Members in the House of Representatives used CSPAN to conduct guerrilla theater. Using large photos, graphs and models of Soviet airplanes, House conservatives began to directly educate the public about big government and the Soviet threat. It was the first breech of the liberal media filters.
In April 1980, two senior news editors, Arnaud De Borchgrave and Robert Moss, published The Spike, a novel exposing communist influence within the American media. As importantly, they exposed how liberal media moguls pervert reality as much by what they don’t cover as what they do – “spiking” stories.
The real media revolution really began in 1987 when the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) eliminated the “Fairness Doctrine.” For the first time since 1949, radio stations could feature editorial content in their normal programming. On August 1, 1988, Rush Limbaugh launched his radio show. Now all Americans finally had access to non-liberal perspectives.
The liberal media fought back. Talk radio hosts and news reporters were denied press credentials to cover Congress until the Republicans took over the House in January 1995. Even though credentialed, talk radio was still shunned. The liberal media elite branded it unprofessional and said it trafficked in conspiracy theories.
Starting in May 1995 with Netscape, the Internet devastated the liberal media citadels. Website news began to supplant broadcast and print media. Social media, along with internet access on mobile devices in 2004, ignited an historic information revolution.
Conservative voices were unleashed by these upheavals. Liberal media elites could no longer “spike” stories or present their bias unchallenged. Even their own audience favored getting their news from social media and shows on Comedy Central. The media establishment sped its own demise by succumbing to fake news from its reporters like Jayson Blair and Dan Rather, and trafficking in false news like “hands-up don’t shoot’ and “a video caused the Benghazi attack.”
All the elements of a liberal media cataclysm were in place. Trump’s blunt talk and his supporters’ contempt for the media brought the status quo crashing down.
Nore than any other politician today, Trump understands that he can render the media irrelevant. Pew Research and other studies show that 62 percent of Americans now get all or part of their news from social media. Facebook posts 510,000 comments and 136,000 photos per minute. Nearly 2.5 million emails are sent every second. Fifty percent of Millennials check out Facebook when they first wake-up.
Trump does not need to have his message filtered and interpreted by Democrat operatives posing as journalists. Chris Matthews and George Stephanopoulos were Democrat flacks long before they took on the trapping of journalists. Dozens of reporters and “on-air talent” are married to Obama Administration officials. Trump’s response is to go over and around them.
Even President-Elect Trump currently has over 50 million Facebook and Twitter followers. Millions of Trump supporters repost or retweet his quotes on countless social media pages. Some 128 million Americans posted or liked Trump content on Facebook during the campaign. No one has ever been so pervasive in communicating and mobilizing.
Mr. Trump is the master of this new media reality. He understands that 140 characters on Twitter or a pithy comment or compelling image on Facebook shapes the media cycle. This is all before he becomes President, with all its additional resources and reach.
Liberal media in the Trump era is fast becoming as credible and relevant as horoscopes.
Scot Faulkner advises global corporations on leadership and strategic change. He served as the first Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives.